Belief in a World of Unbelief

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Reading the Word

John 4:43–54 (ESV)

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-15

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus returns to Cana where he had performed his first miracle, the turning of water to wine. While he is there an official goes to Jesus to ask him to heal his son who was very ill. The Greek word used here indicates that this man was a royal official, probably of Herod’s court. He had most likely heard about Jesus’ earlier miracle and went to see Jesus concerning his son. Jesus’ initial response seems harsh as he replies, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The man asks Jesus to go to his son and Jesus tells him his son will live. The official believes Jesus and goes home to find his son healed.

Why did Jesus reply to the man so harshly at first? We must not overlook the beginning verses of this section for the answer. In verse 44, Jesus had testified that a prophet has no honor in his hometown. The people are welcoming him and accepting him, but only because of the miracles. They do not fully believe in him. So, when Jesus replies to the official he says, “Unless you see signs…” The “you” is in the second person plural. Jesus is not addressing the man in particular, but the mindset of all of the people. When Jesus tells the man his son would be healed, the text tells us that this official believed his words. When he receives report of his son being well, we are told that he believed and all of his household believed with him.

Here we find a reminder that even in the midst of great unbelief, there are those who will trust in Jesus. We may often feel like it is a hopeless thing to proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world, but this is not true. God is still calling people to himself through the message of the gospel. Unbelievers are still turning in faith to Jesus Christ. Let us not lose heart, but let us continue to proclaim that Jesus has come to give life to all who will believe.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

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