Text: John 4:43-54.
Purpose: To grow in faith by seeing this example of faith which grew. To see the development in John’s Gospel of faith among the Gentiles, and to understand the superiority of faith which does not depend on signs and wonders.
In a world which honors “first’s,” many noble “second’s” often go unnoticed. Students in history do not remember the second person who invented something; highest praise is reserved for the first breaker of athletic records, the first man to the moon, the first woman who achieves high office.
It is possible that a wonderful incident in John’s Gospel has similarly been overlooked – the story of Jesus’ second miracle. We remember His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast, but who recalls His second miracle, performed in the same village? That is our interest here.
Read or tell the story in its entirety, then observe the following important lessons.
I. This early incident prefigures the gradual inclusion of Gentiles in the concern of Jesus, in John’s Gospel.
A. The nobleman appears to have been a Gentile; he is certainly not a Judean “establishment” Jew.
B. Jesus soon encounters, convicts, and leads to faith the Samaritan woman at Sychar (chapter 4). Through her, He reaches and ministers to the Samaritan villagers.
C. As the Good Shepherd of prophecy (see Ezekiel 34:23-26; Zechariah 13:7), the Lord recognizes (“knows”) hearts of faith, and they recognize and acknowledge Him. Such faith He said He would find outside the fold of Israel and would unite with believing Jews in “one fold” (John 10:14-16).
D. Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus received Greeks at the feast in Jerusalem, again prefiguring His salvation which would flow out from Jerusalem to all nations (John 12:20-24, 32).
II. In this nobleman, we see a faith without signs and wonders, which is superior to one which depends on them. Although some Galileans had seen Jesus’ Judean miracles (verse 45), this man apparently had not (verse 47). Even when Jesus suggested that he would require signs and wonders to believe, the man responded instead with simple trust (verse 48, 49).
A. “Sign” faith may mislead, if it is superficial and is not grounded in a moral commitment to Jesus.
1. Many in Jerusalem had such faith, but Jesus, knowing their hearts, did not entrust Himself to them (2:23-25).
2. Later when Jesus had fed the multitude, many were impressed by the sign and wanted to make Him king, yet they failed to comprehend the basic meaning of the miracle or to commit themselves to His leading and purpose (6:14,15, 26-30).
3. Jesus’ public ministry ends with a statement that many who saw His miracles did not believe. John adds the explanation that their hearts were hardened, and that sufficient “signs” could not overcome a moral predisposition to reject Christ (12:37-43).
B. The context of this story leads to the same observation.
1. In Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the Temple of God (2:13ff) and works miracles (2:23), many responded with a shallow and superficial faith (2:24,25). Nicodemus shows evidence of greater perception, but he is named because he is the exception.
2. John the Baptist gives his testimony about Jesus, and comments that men in general had not received Jesus’ testimony from the Father (3:26-36; see verse 32).
3. Leaving Judea, the center of “religion,” Jesus goes through “apostate” Samaria. There He works no miracles, but He finds faith (chapter 4).
4. Now, at Cana of Galilee, He encounters the nobleman from Capernaum, who sees no signs, but also believes and has his wonderful request fulfilled (chapter 4).
C. The stated purpose of John’s Gospel includes this same truth (20:29-31).
D. God does not always find faith in the most obvious places, nor in response to the greatest evidence. It is given rather to those with humble and open hearts, and He who knows the hearts sees without error where the greatest response will lie. With trust in God’s power, we should unceasingly tell the Good News, confident that faith will come from the seed of the Word, and that our prior expectations may well be turned upside-down in the process.
III. Growth of faith is expected in a good heart.
A. This nobleman shows a progression of faith as he enjoys an acquaintance with Jesus and His mighty works.
1. First he believes at the word of Jesus (verse 50).
2. Later he is said to “believe” after his son is healed (verse 53).
3. This is a strengthening and deepening of his faith, based on personal knowledge of Christ and experience in walking by faith.
B. The Samaritans had also grown in faith in a similar manner.
1. First they believed through the woman’s testimony (4:29,30).
2. Later they grew in faith because of their own acquaintance with Christ (4:40-42).
C. The disciples also grew in faith, from original confession, through confusion and denial, to strong conviction (2:11, 22).
I. This second miracle is fruitful and faith-building. Review its lessons and meaning.
II. Has your faith grown? Is yours a superficial faith that responds only in word? Does it lead you to obey the Lord? Does it go beyond outward obedience to a solid inner conviction and assurance? Does it give you true joy and peace (Romans 15:13)? “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8.)