I have spent the morning looking for something different to write about in regard to this passage. I have tried to focus in on the identity of the Royal Official so that I can write something about that. I have tried to think through the geography of it all and see if I can find something significant about where Jesus is moving to and from. I keep looking for something else; something different, but i cannot seem to get away from the main theme: faith.
In the twenty years since I became a disciple of Jesus, my best friend (and mentor in the journey) has always said the same thing to me:
“You are a man of great faith.”
He says that because he has watched my life in the last 20 years and has seen me take some steps that could only have been taken by faith, i.e. those decisions did not always make perfect sense at the time they were being taken. Now I don’t know if I am really a man of great faith or not, but I do know this: the royal official in this story IS a man of great faith.
The book of Hebrews perfectly defines faith for the reader:
“Now faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see” (Heb 11:1)
In this story, the royal official exercises such faith. He has heard about the things Jesus has been doing and makes the journey where Jesus is in order to ask Jesus to help his sick child. The official wanted Jesus to come back with him to his house and perform the healing there but Jesus was having none of that. In fact he seemed quite indignant when he responded by saying “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe.”
And perhaps he was.
Jesus had not simply come to entertain the masses with a ministry of miracles. Remember John’s opening statement in the prologue – this Jesus is the very word of God; the light – the true light who had come to the world to be the belligerent light beaming brightly in the darkness. Jesus had come to change the game and to announce God’s new work of grace and mercy available for all people. This new work would not always be accompanied by the signs and wonders that the masses loved to witness – finding this new way would be an exercise in faith and belief in the promise of God – the Word of God!
Jesus sent the man away stating that his son would be healed. The royal official had to turn and walk away from Jesus in blind faith. He had come all this way to invite this healer/miracle worker to come with him and make his son better, but the healer/miracle worker would not oblige. Instead the royal official now faced the long and uncertain walk home not knowing for sure if what Jesus had said would become a reality. He chose to believe what Jesus had said, turned, and headed for home. On the way, his servants come to meet him and they bring good news. The boy is healed and it turns out that the healing took place at around the same time Jesus had said that he would be well.
By telling this story John is reminding his readers that humans are to believe Jesus – take him at his word. People had been responding to the signs and wonders that Jesus was involved in – it was the signs and wonders that were becoming the centerpiece of the show and not Jesus, the very Word of God. This story reminds us that our core task in being followers of Jesus is to remember that he is the Word of God; that he is the true light of the world; that he is the chosen one of God. We are called to believe relentlessly in the fact that this new work of God, a work of grace and deep agape love, is taking place in and through Jesus.
Perhaps today is a good day for you and me to take a moment to stop whatever it is we are doing or being distracted by and pray the following prayer:
Light of the World;
Chosen one of God;
Word of God.
Forgive us if we too have become caught up in the side show of signs and wonders;
If we too have forgotten that you are the centerpiece of this wonderful work of God that you came to announce.
Turn our eyes back to you, the author and perfecter of the faith;
Be our beginning and our end – and everything else in between.
In this moment – enable with courage and grace to turn once again and follow you.
May we refuse to take our eyes of you as we journey on in faith.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
May it be so.