Flashback Episode — Believing Before Seeing: John 4:46-54

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While Jesus had the reputation for being a great teacher, and as Someone who could heal pretty much anything, early on in Jesus’ ministry, before word had spread about this, we find a powerful event in John’s gospel that when we look at the details, this event might just be an example for us to follow.

For our episode today, we’ll be reading from the gospel of John, chapter 4, out of the New Century Version. Starting in verse 46, John tells us that:

46 Jesus went again to visit Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. One of the king’s important officers lived in the city of Capernaum, and his son was sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead. 48 Jesus said to him, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.”

49 The officer said, “Sir, come before my child dies.”

50 Jesus answered, “Go. Your son will live.”

The man believed what Jesus told him and went home. 51 On the way the man’s servants came and met him and told him, “Your son is alive.”

52 The man asked, “What time did my son begin to get well?”

They answered, “Yesterday at one o’clock the fever left him.”

53 The father knew that one o’clock was the exact time that Jesus had said, “Your son will live.” So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

54 That was the second miracle Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

I want to emphasize that last verse. This was only the second miracle Jesus had done after coming from Judea to Galilee. The first was turning water into wine – and though the water-wine miracle is impressive, it is nothing like healing someone who is about to die.

Perhaps Jesus had healed other people in Judea, and word had spread into Galilee about these healings and to the ears of this official. Regardless of the way news traveled, or even how this official knew to come to Jesus early on in Jesus’ ministry, the dialog between the official and Jesus is important for us to pay attention to.

John doesn’t tell us the official’s exact words, but his clear request in verse 47 was for Jesus to “come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead.” It is significant to note that this official came personally, instead of simply sending a servant or messenger with the request. This detail emphasizes that the official believed his request was too important to leave with a servant.

However, Jesus’ response is interesting. In verse 48, Jesus replies by saying, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.” This response in some ways is odd. The official is asking for help with a clearly urgent need, and Jesus responds with a statement about belief. However, the reason Jesus answered the way He did was because the request was for Jesus to go to the place where the child was.

We don’t know if the officer had doubts in his mind or if he wanted to witness a miracle though this event, but with the way Jesus responds, it is logical to conclude that this may have been the case – that is, unless Jesus said what He said not for the man’s benefit, but for the disciples and those present following Jesus. Perhaps this response was aimed at pushing the crowd following Jesus and not as much at the official himself.

But in the official’s second request we see persistence. Verse 49 tells us the official again asks Jesus, “Sir, come before my child dies.

This persistence might be wise for us to model in our own lives. If God hasn’t appeared to answer our requests the first time we ask them, perhaps we need to keep praying and pushing forward with our request moving forward.

Jesus’ second answer is powerful. He doesn’t comply with the official’s request, but He does challenge the official in a way that satisfies the official’s request. Up to this point in the requests and conversation, the emphasis has been on Jesus going personally to perform the miracle, but Jesus’ second response in verse 50 is simply, “Go. Your son will live.

This answer satisfies the official, even if it doesn’t comply with his request, and John tells us that “The man believed what Jesus told him and went home.

On the way, the official learns that his son has recovered, and that it happened at the exact time of his conversation with Jesus. This event concludes in verse 53 by saying, “So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

It is important to note that the official and everyone described in this last verse believed in Jesus, not because they had seen Jesus perform a miracle, but they believed in Jesus because of the promise Jesus had given the official. Someone skeptical of this event might dismiss this as a coincidence, but to everyone present in this event, Jesus’ promise about the official’s son, which the official believed at face value, resulted in the long-distance miracle.

In our own lives, I wonder if John included this miracle as a way of challenging those who would read about this miracle to take Jesus’ promises at face value and believe Jesus’ words regardless of whether we see any change immediately. This may also be included as a challenge to bring our miracle requests to Jesus in prayer and believe that He will answer them even if we don’t see Him actively move towards the situation.

This event includes a challenge for all of us about where our belief should be grounded. Jesus challenged those present on the idea that “seeing is believing”. Jesus and the official demonstrated a different approach: The official believed Jesus, and then afterwards, he saw the results of his belief. The official demonstrates a “believing before seeing” approach to faith.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

As you are living your life, choose to believe God’s promises and Jesus’ words before you experience them personally. In some cases, you may need to obey before you see, similar to how this official had to obey Jesus on faith and start his homeward journey without Jesus with him. Choose to trust God’s promises and expect to see an answer to your prayers when God’s timing is right. He knows much more than we do about the events in our lives and what the future holds, and it makes the most sense to trust Him with the timing of our prayer answers.

Also, as you read and study the Bible, look for examples of events that demonstrate a believing before seeing approach to faith. There are many more than this one event, and as a collection, we learn how to grow spiritually with God and the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us.

And, as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 6: Cam briefly looks at a long-distance miracle Jesus performed for an official, and we dig into the idea of what should be the foundation of our belief in Jesus.

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