6 Nov 2022
The Gospel. St. John iv. 46.
There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judæa into Galilee.
Why did the nobleman come to Jesus? What had he heard about Him that made him feel that this was the best way to heal his son? Undoubtedly, he had heard of Jesus’ other miracles and hoped he could convince Jesus to come to his home and work a miracle cure. Is this faith? It is a beginning.
But we know from other cases in the Gospels that those with a stronger faith, even a Roman centurion, realized that Jesus could perform a miracle from afar. (Luke 7:7) Not yet this nobleman. I think we know people like this today: they feel so alone that distance for them is unbridgeable--even for God. And like St. Thomas, their belief won’t come about until they see and feel the evidence for themselves. (John 20:25)
Jesus isn’t at first responsive to this plea for help. Perhaps the nobleman’s weakness of faith is apparent for He says, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Jesus is here speaking to the multitude, not just the nobleman. We remember Herod also asking Jesus for a miracle out of a sense of curiosity and a desire for the sensational more than anything else. (Luke 23:8) But such people are really indifferent to God’s power and are soon bored without the “magic” taking place. The people with false faith will learn nothing even with a direct confrontation with the Lord.
But the nobleman isn’t of such a weak mind. He is not ashamed to renew his plea to Jesus, “Sir, come down, ere my child die”. Jesus responds to this better show of faith with a promise, “Go thy way, thy son liveth”? The nobleman’s persistent faith has made it possible for his son to be saved.
We are all faced with this situation in our prayers to God. There are many who desperately need our prayers for health, safety, comfort, and renewed faith. When the news we receive back is full of despair of hopelessness, then we too are called upon to persevere in our prayers. When our Lord prayed that the cup pass from His lips, he added that this could only be true if it is first and foremost the will of His Father. And that is where we are: our humble, respectful prayers are answered if we too say—but first THY will be done—on earth as it is in heaven.
We with the nobleman can be truly assured that our prayers will be answered. Then, how like modern human beings is the nobleman’s careful questioning of the exact time of the cure! Even with this incredible, miraculous cure, he has to check the timing! We seem to be back to St. Thomas’s mode of thinking, but the nobleman is responding with faith. And when it is evident that the boy is well, he brings the message of joy and thanksgiving to his whole family! Faith has overcome doubt and anxiety. Perseverance in faith has made the difference.
For the nobleman and for us, we learn the valuable lesson that faith must grow and mature in us. If we are fortunate, the Lord has given us a good start in our lives. But we must learn perseverance, and we must learn obedience to the will of the Father. We must extend our love to God and all our neighbors, so that we too can confess with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Bishop Ed Tompkins