The Gospel of John, Jesus' second sign, part 2
Nov 05, 2019
John 4:46 says,
46 Therefore he came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
The apostle reminds us that Jesus had turned the water into wine at Cana, because no doubt this was how the “certain royal official” had come to believe that Jesus could heal his son. We are told almost nothing about this official, but we may surmise that he was married and had at least one son.
His home was Capernaum, where he must also have been serving under Herod the Tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”), nicknamed Antipas. He was ruler of Galilee and Perea (on the east side of the Jordan) and had built the city of Tiberius as his capital on the west side of the sea of Galilee. It was south of Capernaum, which stood on the north shore.
Herod Antipas was also the one responsible for executing John the Baptist just a short time earlier. With Jesus’ ministry headquarters set up in Capernaum, there is little doubt that this official attended the synagogue there which also had accepted Jesus.
Chuza, Herod’s Steward
I wonder if this official was in fact Chuza, Herod’s steward, whose wife, Joanna, was one of Jesus’ supporters (Luke 8:3). Chuza himself worked full time for Herod, so he was not able to take much time off from his duties. Yet if this “certain royal official” was indeed Chuza, it is plain that his son’s illness was urgent enough for him to take off for two or three days to seek Jesus’ power of healing.
John 4:47 says,
47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.
No doubt he too had heard how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. It is likely that this news spread quickly through Herod’s palace and that this gave Herod a good laugh. It certainly did not cause him any ill will toward Jesus. In fact, when Jesus was about to be crucified, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, hoping to avoid having to sentence an innocent man. Herod showed no animosity toward Jesus but only sought to see for himself if Jesus could perform miracles (Luke 23:8). It was only when Jesus refused that Herod assumed that He was just another fraud and treated Him with contempt (Luke 23:11).
Dependence upon Signs
John 4:48 says,
48 So Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you people see signs [semeion] and wonders [teras], you simply will not believe.”
This rebuke was obviously addressed to the crowd that was watching rather than to the royal official specifically. After all, the father of the sick child had traveled fourteen miles, perhaps on horseback, not to follow after signs and wonders but from a sense of urgency to obtain healing for his son. The situation was dire and urgent.
So it is certain that Jesus was referring to the people in general, not to the official in particular. Apparently, many had gathered in hopes of witnessing a miraculous sign that might convince them that the Messiah had indeed arrived. Later, the apostle Paul too would mention this national characteristic, saying in 1 Corinthians 1:22, “indeed, Jews ask for signs.”
Signs serve as confirmations but are in themselves inadequate in producing faith. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), not by seeing signs. If one refuses to believe unless they see a miracle, he may be persuaded and may think that he has faith, but in actuality his faith is mere persuasion. Persuasion does not endure, for in the end, it is soulish and therefore mortal. This is why many people who followed Jesus during His ministry ultimately rejected Him at His crucifixion.
Owth and Mowpheth (Signs and Wonders)
The Hebrew word for “sign” is owth. It is spelled with an aleph and tav with a vav in the middle. The aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the tav is the last; and the vav is a connector (“nail or peg”) that joins two things. As a connector, it also means “and.”
So owth literally refers to “the beginning and the end.” In Greek terms, it refers to Christ as the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6). Such is the Hebrew concept of a sign (owth).
A “wonder” is from the Hebrew word mowpheth, which comes from a root word that means “conspicuous, bright, beautiful.” The implication is that a wonder is something that looks good.
So when Jesus said, “unless you people see signs and wonders,” He was implying that the people needed to know the entire truth (from beginning to end) in order to believe something, and that they would believe only if it looked good in their own eyes. The problem was that without hearing the word they were viewing signs and wonders through carnal eyes.
By contrast, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Faith comes by hearing; persuasion comes by seeing with carnal eyes.
The Israelites under Moses saw many signs and wonders (Deuteronomy 6:22), but yet they lacked the faith to enter the Promised Land. Their eyes saw only giants opposing them, and they believed their eyes, rather than the promise of God. Not even the parting of the Red Sea could instill faith in their hearts. Miracles are not the answer, even though they can certainly be useful in confirming the word.
The problem in Jesus’ day is the same as the problem today. Signs and wonders are useful in confirming the word that we hear from God, but when they are expected to instill faith, they may become detrimental to our spiritual growth.
This is part 2 of a series titled "Jesus' Second Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.