2018 06 17 am A Faith ‘Upgrade’ John 4:43-54

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Would you agree that the word ‘miracle’ is overused today?  People talk about Sonny Bill Williams offloading a ‘miracle pass’ or that it was a ‘miracle’ that they survived the journey to work this morning.  Almost anything a bit unusual can be called a miracle.


Well, the Wikipedia definition of a miracle is “an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws.”  And my Dictionary of Religious Terms adds to this definition by describing a miracle as “an event in the external world, for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth of God, which has no other cause than the will of God.”  And the healing of this boy is a classic example of a miracle; he is not healed by medicine or any of the other usual causes of healing but purely by the will of God.


And it is probably the case for all of us that when we read about a miracle like this, we think, Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to see a miracle!  Have you thought that?  And surely a miracle like this would convince many to believe in Jesus, wouldn’t it?!


Well, John, the author of this Gospel, clearly believed that miracles were important for understanding Jesus, because a big part of His focus on the life of Jesus is the seven great miracle-signs that He performed.  The first was in ch. 2 where Jesus turned water into wine.  And as we see from v54, the healing of this royal official’s son is “the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed.”  So we want to see what this miracle adds to the first in terms of the person and work of the Lord Jesus that should lead us to believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God?


So our sermon theme this morning is simply this: The Second Miraculous Sign Reveals More about the Person and Work of Jesus.  And I want to begin with a few explanatory comments about some of the details of this episode.  Then we shall compare the first and second miraculous signs to see how this one reveals more about the person and work of Jesus.  Next we will consider how the faith of this royal official was transformed to see how this reveals more about the person and work of Jesus.  And finally, we shall conclude with a few thoughts about what all this means for us today.  So some comments, a comparison, a consideration, and a conclusion.


  1. So, let’s begin with a few explanatory comments about this episode.
    1. We read back in 4:1 that Jesus had left Jerusalem for Galilee. Jerusalem is in the South of Israel and Galilee was in the North.  On the way He passed through Samaria where He met the Samaritan woman and where she and many other Samaritans became believers.  But now He has arrived in Galilee.
    2. And Galilee is the region where Jesus grew up. Nazareth is in Galilee.  And in v44 we have this rather interesting piece of commentary where John tells us that Jesus “had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.”
      1. And there is a good chance that you have heard this saying in general conversation. We use it to describe how we are often more critical of people we grew up with than we are of those who we don’t know so well.  I remember one time when there were two men on a duo for elder.  One grew up in that church and the other had moved into the area fairly recently.  And I recall someone saying that they couldn’t vote for the local bloke because he was a bit of a troublemaker when he was in cadets, 35 years ago J  So that is true here in that general sense  If you know the Gospels, you will know that the locals found it hard to believe what Jesus was saying or doing because they knew Him and His family; He was just the carpenter from Nazareth!
      2. But this is more than just a general truth in relation to Jesus. Back in 1:11, we read, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”  In other words, Jesus was Jewish and He came to the Jews but the Jews refused to believe in Him.  So these words are a sad commentary on the fact that wherever in Israel Jesus went, His own countrymen generally rejected Him.
      3. But there are some exceptions. And we are about to meet one of them.  But before we do, just look at v45 where we are also told that “the Galileans welcomed Him.  They had seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the Feast, for they also had been there.”  And that takes us back to ch. 2 and the description of what Jesus did in Jerusalem.  We read there that He cleared the temple of the merchants and money-changers.  And we are also told at the end of ch. 2 that “while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name.”  But we learned then that this was not a full and saving faith but miraculous  The people believed that Jesus could perform miracles, but they did not yet see Jesus as the Son of God.  Well, this whole episode here in Galilee is about the contrast between miraculous faith and saving faith, as we shall see.


  1. So those are our explanatory comments. Let’s now Compare the first and second miraculous signs to see how this second miraculous sign reveals more about the person and work of Jesus.


  1. And we begin with the similarities:
    1. Notice from v46 that this miracle also happened in Cana, which is where Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding.
    2. Another similarity with these two miracles is that both contain an initial rebuke. You will remember with the wine that after Jesus’ mother told Him about the wine situation, Jesus rebuked her, saying that “My time has not yet come.”  And here He responds to the royal official’s request for help with the rebuke of v48 about not believing unless they see signs and wonders.  And we shall say more about this rebuke as we conclude, because it is quite important.
    3. But as we continue with the similarities, we see that both miracles were also word miracles. At the wedding, it was as Jesus told the servants what do with the water that it became wine and here He simply speaks and the boy is made well.  Jesus is not touching the water or the boy when the miracle happens; He is distant from them.  These are word miracles.  But do you remember how John’s Gospel begins?  Describing Jesus, John says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  So these are creation miracles.  Just as God spoke all of creation into existence, so Jesus speaks and water becomes wine and the boy becomes well.  Conclusion?  Jesus is God!
    4. But finally, in terms of the similarities, we are specifically told about a response of faith. After the water became wine, we read, “He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in him.”  And here, with the healing, from v53, “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”  So he and all his household”  In the religious definition of miracles that I gave you at the beginning of the sermon, we saw that miracles were “for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth of God.”  As you look through the Bible you will see that all miracles bring about a response of faith.  And it is the same here.  Jesus did this miracle so that this man and His household would believe.  And we shall look more at this response of faith in our third point.


  1. But let’s first of all note the major difference between these two miracles: And it is that one takes place at a wedding and the other takes place on a sickbed. And you can’t really get two more contrasting settings, can you.  A wedding is a place of joy and celebration and a sickbed is place of sorrow and the terrible shadow of death.
    1. But even in this there is a message about the Lord Jesus! In these two settings you really have the whole scope of human life.  Life does have moments of joy and celebration, like birthdays and weddings, but life also has moments of grief and sorrow, like illness and funerals.
    2. At one time Job said, “But evil does not spring from the soil, and trouble does not sprout from the earth. People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.”
    3. Would you agree that people are born for trouble? You young people, do you agree?  Or do you think maybe that sounds a bit negative?  Well, I suggest you find an older person and ask them about this and I am pretty sure they will tell you that Job was bang on.  Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble.”
    4. But congregation, the point here is not that we all get depressed but that we would consider Jesus! You see, back in v42, when the Samaritans came to faith, they described Jesus as the “Saviour of the world.”  He is a Saviour for Jews and for Non-Jews – He is a Saviour for all   But with these two miracles we are being told that Jesus is a Saviour in joy and in sorrowIn joy He is a Saviour to be thanked and in sorrow He is a Saviour to be trusted.  And that is why, when He said those words I told you of a moment ago, “In this world you will have trouble,” He also said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace … take heart!  I have overcome the world.”
    5. So already we have this benefit from comparing these two miracles. Jesus is a Saviour for all your circumstances.  If you turn to Him as Saviour and Lord in times of celebration and happiness, He will increase your joy.  And if you call on Him in times of sorrow and grief, He will bring comfort and peace and even a joy that this world cannot understand.  I know that some of you have endured for a long time or continue to endure physical or emotional trouble of one sort or another.  Is it right to pray for healing and relief?  Of course it is.  But will healing or relief always come?    And we have the example of the Apostle Paul, don’t we.  Three times, we are told in 2 Cor. 12, he prayed that his thorn in the flesh might be removed.  But the Lord Jesus replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Let us not think that we can only be joyful and serve God well if we are strong and happy.  We can serve God well when we are weak and troubled if we trust that His grace is sufficient.


  • But there is more we can learn from this miracle as next we zoom in and Consider how the faith of the Royal official was transformed and see how this reveals more about the person and work of Jesus.


  1. At this time, Herod the Great, who was Herod when Jesus was born, had died, and the area was divided into three and ruled by his three sons. And this region was under the rule of Herod Antipas.  So this royal official was probably a Jewish man who worked for Herod Antipas.  And from the introduction to this episode, it seems that he was one of the Galileans who had seen what Jesus did in Jerusalem.  So having heard that Jesus was in town, and having a son who was sick and “close to dying,” he came to Jesus because he wanted his son healed.  So let’s pay attention to how this account unfolds and reveals the transformation of faith that takes place in this man.
    1. In vv47-49 he is a man with miraculous faith or weak faith or incomplete faith. He believes that Jesus has power to heal his son.  Look at v47, “He begged [Jesus] to come and heal his son.”  So at this stage, the focus of this royal official is on Jesus’ power.
    2. But instead of going with the official, Jesus delivers the rather stinging rebuke of v48. He basically accuses the man and everyone else (for the “you” in Jesus’ rebuke is plural) of just wanting to see amazing miracles.  Do you see what Jesus is doing?  He is creating an opportunity for faith to grow.  This rebuke would surely have shut down those in the crowd who were just plain curious.  But it didn’t shut down the official.  He would not be put off; he truly believes that Jesus can heal his son.
    3. So this man, who is probably very used to ordering people around, no longer begs but commands! He says, “Sir, come before my child dies.”  He probably thought that Jesus would have to touch his son to heal him, so he commands Jesus to come.
    4. But Jesus responds to the man with a command of his own. In v50, Jesus literally says, “Go.  Your son will live.”  Do you see the question Jesus is now asking this man?  He is saying, I don’t need to go to your son.  I can heal him from here by my word.  I know you believe in my power, but will you now believe that my word alone is enough to heal your son?  He is, if you like, calling on the man to ‘upgrade’ his faith!
    5. In the OT, as we saw with Elijah, miracles were usually accompanied with prayer or some other testimony that pointed the subject of the miracle to God, not the person performing the miracle. But Jesus is pointing this man to Himself; he is calling on this man to trust in Him.
    6. And we see that this is exactly what the man did. We are told “that the man took Jesus at His word and departed.”  He now believes that Jesus does not need to be there; he can heal from a distance just by His word.  He is getting closer to saving faith, to true faith, to strong faith!
    7. But he is not quite there yet! He travels home, with hope in his heart, and meets his servants.  They could not wait for him to return but have started out to find him to tell him the wonderful news that his son is healed!  So they meet and they tell him, and he asks them what time his son got better, and they tell him the time and he realizes that that was the exact time at which Jesus had said, “Your son will live.”  And we read, “And he and all his household believed.”  Now the transformation of faith was complete!  Now, it was not just about Jesus’ power or Jesus’ word; now it was about Jesus!  This man and his household had come to believe in the person and work of Jesus!  And that, my friends, is saving faith, true faith, strong faith!


  1. And that brings us to our Conclusion.
    1. Brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, would you like to see a miracle? Do you think that seeing a miracle would help you and others believe in Jesus?
    2. Well, I read once about a young woman who was terminally ill. She and her family were church on Christmas and Easter type Christians.  Well, the Pastor visited her in hospital and she said, “If Jesus healed in the Bible, why can’t He heal me?  If He can’t, what use is He!”  So she and her Pastor and the family all began to pray for healing.  They didn’t even say, “If it be your will,” because they were convinced that it was God’s will for her to be healed.  And to the amazement of her doctors, she was healed and discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health.  It was a miracle!  And as you can imagine, the next Sunday the entire family was at church, on the front pew, and the young woman gave a powerful and moving testimony.  But four weeks later, it was just the woman and her husband at church.  And eventually, even their attendance was again just every now and then.  And before too long, even the woman rationalized what had happened to her.  She had experienced a miracle but pretty soon its power dimmed to nothing.  Why?  Because it was about the miracle and not about Jesus.  There was amazement but there was not relationship.  That is the problem with miracles.
    3. And Jesus spoke about this, didn’t He. He once told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Both died and Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man to hell.  And the rich man could see Lazarus and Abraham and he called out to Abraham, saying, “I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”  But Abraham’s reply was basically, “They have [the Bible]; let them [read it].”  So the Rich man said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”  And do you remember Abraham’s response?  It amounted to, “If they are not convinced by the Bible, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
    4. Jesus was elevating the Bible over miracles. Yes, miracles were common and helpful when there was not yet a complete Bible, but now we have the truth about Jesus, including all the miracles He performed, and the greatest miracle – His resurrection – written down in black and white.  The Bible is the written and objective and reliable testimony of many eye-witnesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God!  And that is far better than any miracle we might personally experience.
    5. The rebuke that Jesus gave this man and the people of that time was, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” And while it was a rebuke, it was also true of the people of that time because they did not have the Bible as we have it.  So Jesus was speaking of a time to come when it would not be see then believe, but believe without seeing.
    6. It’s right near the end of his Gospel that John says, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” And just before that, we read about the disciple Thomas.  The other disciples had seen Jesus after He rose from the dead and they told Thomas.  But Thomas said?  “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  Well, one week later, Jesus came to them again and Thomas was there.  And He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands … Stop doubting and believe.”  And Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”  And then Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed.”  That is the order of faith that Jesus was talking about with His rebuke here – see then believe.  But then Jesus continued, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  And that is the order of faith now.  You should not want or demand to see a miracle before you believe.  You have the Bible which reveals Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  You must put your faith in Him!  Is this your faith?  Do you trust in the person and work of Jesus?
    7. Is what we read in 1 Peter 1:8 true of you? “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” That is the lesson of this miracle.  May it be so for all of you.