Read JOHN 4:43–54
43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.
46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
New International Version (NIV)
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“His (the royal official) own insistent and urgent cry for help is stilled by a word which shifts the center and takes the control out of his anxious hands into the hands of Jesus. And so he turns and goes home” (Lesslie Newbigin, 1909–1998). And Jesus can still do that today!
The royal official shows a remarkable three-stage development of faith in his interaction with Jesus. Initially, he has faith in Jesus as a miracle worker (47). John mentions that the Galilean people have welcomed Jesus because they had seen “all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival” (45). This probably refers to 2:23. The official has probably heard from these Galileans about Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and on this basis he approaches Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal his son, who is seriously ill.
Subsequently, Jesus challenges him to move beyond a belief that is merely based on miracles or requires his physical presence. The official’s requests in verses 47 and 49 show that he wants the physical presence of Jesus (perhaps because miracle workers usually interact directly with the ill person), but Jesus indicates that this is unnecessary (50). The official responds to the challenge by taking Jesus at his word. This is probably not a saving belief in the Johannine sense but at least shows that he trusts Jesus’ word.
Finally, on his way home (without Jesus), the man’s faith is honored or validated when his servants bring him the good news of the child’s recovery. After inquiring, the official realizes (literally, “knows”) that this happened at the exact time at which Jesus had said to him that his son would live (52,53a). His initial belief is thus justified and now becomes a saving belief in Jesus (53b). The royal official is an example of one who initially believes in Jesus on the basis of his signs but is able to progress towards a more secure basis for faith—dependent less on signs and more on Jesus’ life-giving word.
How has your faith developed over time? If you desire tangible confirmations to trust God, ask for help to grow. How can you help others to progress in their faith?