The Ministry of the Messiah, 2:1-12:50
2. Jesus the source of life, 4:1-42
ii] The official's sonSynopsis
Jesus is traveling from Judea to Galilee and has just passed through Samaria. The ministry team again visits Cana in Galilee, and there Jesus is confronted by an official from Capernaum whose son is close to death. The official begs Jesus to heal his son and Jesus responds by telling him "Go", your son will live." Taking Jesus at his word, the official heads home and on the way discovers that the fever left his son at the very time when Jesus told him that his son would live.
Jesus is the source of life - faith in Jesus is all we need for life eternal.
i] Context: For Jesus the source of life, see 4:1-26.
ii] Background: If we assume that Jesus' public ministry lasted three years (baptism to crucifixion), then it seems that the first year was focused on Judea. Little is recorded of this year in both the synoptic gospels and John; it seems likely that it was anything but successful. Jesus' public ministry unfolds in Galilee during the second year, with the third year more orientated toward teaching the disciples.
iii] Structure: The Official's Son:
A superficial welcome from the Galileans, v43-45;
Unless you see wonders you will not believe, v48.
An official seeks Jesus' help for his ailing son, v46-49;
Faith and the release of Jesus' life-giving power, v50-52;
"The man took Jesus at his word."
The official and his household become followers, v53-54;
"He and his whole household believed."
The sign of the healing of the official's son illustrates the theme of chapter four - new life through faith in Jesus Christ. This passage leaves us with a brilliant exposition of faith.
In the first year of Jesus' ministry in Judea he experienced something of the human condition, namely that familiarity breeds contempt, or as Jesus put it, "a prophet has no honor in his own country." The best he could say of his fellow countryman was that their capacity to accept the reality of the coming kingdom depended on accompanying signs and wonders. Such faith has little substance to it, for without the wonders it wonders away. Inevitably Jesus put little weight on such faith, cf., 2:23. Now in Galilee, he is enthusiastically welcomed by those who had seen the signs and wonders he had performed in Jerusalem, but this welcome has little to do with saving faith. Yet, there was in Galilee a man who took Jesus at his word: he believed Jesus' promise; he trusted what Jesus said; he put his faith on / rested on Jesus' words, .........., and consequently his dying son lived. And so we learn something of saving faith - Jesus is the source of new life, a gift of grace appropriated through faith.
God works with families - mum, dad and the kids: "He and his whole household believed", v53, does not necessarily carry a promise for all families throughout the ages, but it is an example of a NT paradigm of belief which is family orientated. Of course, a household in the first century was an extended association, often including slaves, and certainly not the nuclear family of today. Obviously we have to leave aside the issue of whether all the slaves believed as well as the official's immediate family (were the slaves included in the salvation of the Philippian jailer's household, Acts 16:31? Cf., Acts 11:14, 16:15, 18:8). Belief can be nominal as well as heartfelt and so, as Barrett notes, the identification of a social unit as believers may just designate them as Christian. Yet, what we can say out of all this is that God works with families. God did actually invent this human institution and set it as the foundation of human society, so it is only natural that he would support the institution. So, the faith of one member somehow touches the other members, particularly where the believing member is the head of the household. This subject easily prompts arguments over believer's baptism verses family / infant baptism, let alone the notion of headship. What does Paul mean when he says a believing partner "sanctifies" an unbelieving partner, and that their children are "holy", 1Cor.7:14? I'm personally inclined to the view that a believing family member incorporates the other family members into God's family, unless those members choose to relinquish that membership, ie., openly reject Christ. Even the Reformers, when debating the status of a deceased infant, tended to hold that the child was covered by the faith of its parents. God's work of salvation in Christ is family orientated, but how that translates to the individual members remains unclear.
It goes without saying that the move by Western societies today to abandon marriage as the union of a man and woman under God for the procreation of children and thus the creation of a family (mum, dad and the kids), is disastrous.
It is worth noting that the rejection of Christ by some family members, when faced with the gospel (cf., Matt.10:21), does not annul the general principle that God's work of salvation is family orientated. Nor should we argue that Jesus' instruction "follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" is grounds for abandoning our family in order to follow Christ, cf., Matt.8:21-22. Clearly, God honors the family.
v] Synoptics: There is some alignment between John's account of Jesus' ministry and that of the synoptic gospels. John certainly ploughs his own field, but we always get the feeling that he does so with a full awareness of the synoptic account.
Similarities have been noted between this healing and that of the Centurion's servant, Matt.8:5-13 (paiV = "servant", or "child"), Lk.7:1-10 (douloV = "servant") - the story begins with an appeal, the healing is at a distance, the son/servant is healed that very hour, the dominant theme is faith. Given John's context, it would be appropriate for the basilikoV, "royal official, nobleman / civil administrator", to be a Gentile - the life-giving water flows from the temple / Israel, to the Samaritans and now to Gentiles. Jesus' own countrymen should have properly respond to him in faith, and this in Jerusalem, the center of Israel's religious life, yet it is away from Jerusalem where people respond in faith, and those who respond are Samaritans and Gentiles. None-the-less, it is possible that our basilikoV is an official in the court of Herod Antipas, even possibly a member of the royal family, so he may well be a Jew. Given the differences, it is unlikely that John used the synoptic tradition to shape this story, but he is surely aware of the synoptic parallel, and so it is likely that John views the official as a Gentile.
vi] Homiletics: The prayer of faith: David Cairns popular work The Reasonableness of the Christian Faith, 1920, argued that the miraculous healing of the official's son stemmed from "his own faith in God, and the Divine Spirit in answer to the appeal of his faith." It was an answer to his own prayer and that "if we could pray like him, we should see like issues."
Such an argument leaves us floundering when our own prayers are left unanswered. The only conclusion we are left with is that our faith is weak and not worthy of divine response. Yet, faith is not dependent on our power, but on God's power; it can be as small as a mustard seed because the mountain is moved by God. Faith is simply a reliance, a dependence on God's revealed will in Christ, rather than a dependance on what we might want, no matter how worthy that want. Life eternal is promised as a gift of grace through faith, and the story of the healing of the official's son simply illustrates this truth. Jesus is "the savior of the world" and he will save us if, like that official all those years ago, we take Jesus at his word.
Text - 4:43
The Official's son, 4:43-54: i] Jesus is given a warm, but superficial, welcome by the Galileans, v43-45. Jesus' mission is to Israel and so, after two days, he sets off from Sychar in Samaria to continue his journey from Judea to Galilee. Back with his own people, Jesus is received warmly, but unlike the Samaritans in Sychar, he is not received with believing faith. Jesus' own countrymen respond to him on the basis of signs and wonders, miracles witnessed by the Galilean pilgrims when they had visited Jerusalem for the Passover festival.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.
meta + acc. "after" - Temporal use of the preposition.
taV "the [two days]" - the [two days he went out from there into galilee]. The article here is anaphoric, ie., it refers back to the two days Jesus spent with the Samaritans, v40, duo hJmeraV, there anarthrous; "after these two days", Harris.
With a saying from Jesus, John reflect on the positive response Jesus received in Samaria, as compared with the limited response he received from his own people, Israel. As with Israel's prophets, Jesus is not honored by his own people - the people of Judea and Galilee, so Carson, or better, all Israel. Of course, other interpretations present themselves. Many commentators argue that Jesus / John is referring to Judea - Jesus had left Judea for Galilee because he was not received as messiah during his year of ministry there. Judea, and particularly Jerusalem, is where Jesus is predestined to work and die; he is the king of Israel and David's throne is in Jerusalem and so it is there where he should be honored. Barrett suggests Jerusalem as well as Judea. Lightfoot argues that the saying applies to all those communities that were apposed to Jesus. Beasley-Murray opts for a left-of-field approach when he suggests that Jesus is explaining why he has left for Galilee, namely, because he wants to work in an area where he will not stir up opposition from the Jewish authorities - Galilee provides the opportunity for a low profile, the opportunity for a prophet to work without honor. Brown solves the problem by suggesting that the verse is a gloss. We should note that the synoptic versions of this saying seem to apply to Galilee, (Luke specifies Nazareth, Jesus' home town).
gar "now" - for [jesus he = himself testified, bore witness, affirmed]. The conjunction here is probably transitional, as NIV, serving to introduce a parenthesis / cryptic comment. It may be left untranslated.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus has testified.
en + dat. "in [his own country]" - [a prophet does not have honor] in [his own homeland, country]. The preposition is local, expressing space.
"The Galileans welcomed him, but only because they were impressed with what he had done in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, not that they really had a clue about who he was or what he was up to", Peterson.
oun "-" - therefore. Here probably either inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so / consequentially / accordingly", or transitional, "now / and now". "After two days Jesus left for Galilee ......... and so consequently, when he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him because they had seen all that he had done ............"
oJte "when" - when [he came into galilee]. Temporal conjunction.
edexanto (decomai) aor. "[the Galileans] welcomed [him]" - [the galileans] received [him]. "Received" in the sense of "welcome", not lambanw, "receive", in the sense of "to receive the face of" = "accept the person." Both Carson and Kostenberger think we have here an example of Johannine irony.
eJwrakoteV (oJraw) perf. part. "they had seen" - having seen [all which he did in jerusalem]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "The Galileans welcomed him for they had seen all he had done", Cassirer. Although anarthrous (without an article) it is nominative and so stands in agreement with "Galileans", and therefore some translators treat it as adjectival, attributive; "he was welcomed by the Galileans who had seen ...", Moffatt.
en + dat. "at [the Passover Festival]" - in [the feast]. Here the preposition is adverbial, temporal; "during the Passover Festival."
gar "for" - for [they also (the kai, "and", is adjunctive here) went to the feast]. More reason than cause; explaining how it is that the Galileans had seen Jesus' signs and wonders; the reason being that many had attended the Passover Festival in Jerusalem; "for they too had gone to the festival", Barclay.
ii] An official seeks Jesus' help for his ailing son, v46-49. Usually taken to mean an official of the royal house of Herod Antipas, possibly even a relative. This doesn't mean he was necessarily a Jew because he may well have been a Roman army-officer in Herod's service, a position which would align with the synoptic record, ie., the King's man is a centurion in royal service. Technically Herod's title is not "king", but tetrarch of Galilee.
oun "-" - therefore [he came again to cana]. Inferential use of the conjunction, see v45. "So it was that Jesus came again to Cana in Galilee."
thV GalilaiaV (a) "[Cana] in Galilee" - The genitive is adjectival, technically partitive, but best viewed as idiomatic / local, "Cana which is located in Galilee."
oJpou "where" - where [he made]. Local use of the conjunction, as NIV.
oinon (oV) acc. "[water into] wine" - [water] wine. Accusative complement of the direct object "water" standing in a double accusative construction.
BasilikoV adj. "[a certain] royal official" - [there was there a certain] royal person. The adjective, with the pronoun tiV, "certain", serves as a substantive, so "a certain royal person."
en + dat. "in [Capernaum]" - [whose son was ill, sick] in [capernaum]. Local, expressing space. Note that the synoptic record of the healing of the of the Centurion's servant is also in Capernaum.
In the synoptic version of this story the centurion doesn't want Jesus to come to his house because he feels unworthy; his request is for Jesus to just say the word. Like Matthew, the official makes the request personally, but in Luke the request is made on his behalf by "elders of the Jews." Such differences reveal something of the particular interests of the gospel writer. John's interest is in a man who ignores geographical distance and takes Jesus at his word. "He set off to speak with Jesus, begging that he come to Capernaum and heal his son."
akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "when [this man] heard" - [this man] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "When he heard he had arrived in Galilee", Moffatt.
oJti"that" - that [Jesus comes]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the official had heard, namely, that Jesus had arrived in Galilee.
ek + gen. "from [Judea]" - out of [judea into galilee]. Expressing separation; "away from."
hrwta (erwtaw) imperf. "begged him" - [he departed = went to him and] was asking. The imperfect, being durative, probably gives the sense "begged / urged." Probably indicating that urgency is required, supported by the phrase "about to die." It also indicates the determination of the official, so Ridderbos.
iJna "-" - that [he come down and cure, heal, restore the son of him]. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the official asked Jesus to do, namely come down and cure his son. Note that the verb "to come down" fits with Jesus being in Cana in the highlands, and the son in Capernaum, a town situated by the lake.
gar "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why he wanted Jesus to heal his son, "because"; "for the son was at the point of death", Barclay.
apoqnhskein (apoqnskw) pres. inf. "[who was close] to death" - [he was about] to die. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be about to."
The NIV has made a point with "you people" to express the plural idhte, "you see." The lack of a singular "ye" in modern English can confuse. We could adopt the Southern American "you all" for the plural, but there is some resistance to this idea! The point is, Jesus' comment is not specifically to the official, but to the people in general, one of whom will now show by his actions that he is not like all Israel - the people of Jesus' "own country."
oun "-" - therefore [jesus said toward him]. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so", but possibly just transitional, as NIV.
ean mh "unless" - if not. Introducing a exceptive clause which establishes a contrast by designating an exception. "No amount of miracles will break through the barrier of obstinate rejection", Pfitzner.
shmeia kai terata "signs and wonders" - [you see] signs and wonders, marvels, portents. A common phrase used both in the Old and New Testaments for mighty acts of God. This once only use in John refers to Jesus' miracles. Jesus' miracles do not really serve as guarantees of his' messianic claims, but rather are visible, tangible, proclamations of the gospel. As such they announce the coming kingdom of God - "If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you", Lk.11:20.
ou mh + subj. "[you will] never [believe]" - no no [you may believe]. A subjunctive of emphatic negation. A faith based on signs is useless. "Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle you refuse to believe", Peterson.
The official repeats his plea; he recognizes his helplessness and Jesus' capacity to help.
prin + acc. + inf. "before [my child dies]" - [the official says toward him, come down lord] before [the child of me dies]. Here the conjunction prin with an accusative, "the child of me", and an infinitive, "to die", forms a temporal construction, antecedent time, "before my child dies". Note that the position of "child of me" is emphatic. Brown suggests that paidion, "child" is diminutive, "my little boy."
iii] Faith and the release of Jesus' life-giving power, v50-52. The punch line: "the man believed the bare word Jesus spoke and headed home." This man believes "before the intervention of any sign", Barrett, and so is "a forerunner of all who are called to live by faith and not by sight", Pfitzner. "This is the true kind of belief", Lindars.
autw/ dat. pro. "[Jesus replied]" - [jesus said] to him [go = return home]. Dative of indirect object. "'Get on your way', Jesus said to him, 'your son will live.'"
zh/ (zaw) pres. "will live" - [the son of you] lives. The present tense of the verb "to live" is usually treated as futuristic, "will live." Of course, the future tense implies a promise, but what we have here is a statement of fact, "your son lives." Is more than physical life implied by the use of this word here? There is an important futuristic use of the present zhn, "lives", in Numbers 21:8f where those who look to the bronze serpent "will live." It is probably overreach to suggest that new life in Christ is the possession of this child because of the faith of his father. Recovery from sickness is the most likely intent of the word here. "Will not now die at this time", Brown.
tw/ logw/ (oV) dat. "took [Jesus at his] word" - [the man believed] the word [which jesus said to him]. Dative of direct object after the verb to believe; "he believes that what Jesus has said is true", Barrett.
eporeueto (poreuomai) imperf. "[and] departed" - [and] he went. Harris suggests that the imperfect of the verb "to go" = "went", is inceptive; "set off on his way." The journey from Cana to Capernaum takes about a day, so given he sets off in the afternoon he will have to find somewhere to stay on the way and then resume his journey the next morning - traveling by night in the first century is not an option. "The man believed Jesus, and set off and returned home", CEV.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional; indicating a step in the narrative.
katabainontoV (katabainw) gen. pres. part. "while [he] was [still] on the way" - [he] going down. The genitive participle, along with the genitive pronoun autou, "he", forms a genitive absolute construction (although not technically absolute because it is tied to the rest of the sentence) serving to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV; "as he was going down", ESV.
hdh adv. "still" - already, now. Temporal adverb. Usually handled as NIV, although often ignored; "while he was on his way down ..", REB. The sense is "even before he reached home ....", Junkins.
autw/ dat. pro. "[his servants met] him" - [the servants / slaves of him met] him. Dative of direct object after the uJpo prefix verb "to meet with."
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "with the news" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to meet with." "Reported that ...."
oJti "that" - that [the child of him lives]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what his servants said. A variant sou, "your", rather than autou, "him", exists, giving direct speech, "Your son is going to live", Harris. The servants, in their report, use exactly the same word Jesus uses, zh/, "he lives."
Note the similarities, at this point, between John's account of this healing and that of the synoptic account of the healing of the Centurion's servant - the hour and the result, "the fever left him."
oun "-" - therefore. Here inferential, establishing a logical connection, "accordingly, consequently" - see v45; "So he asked them ...", ESV.
par (para) + gen. "-" - [he inquired the time] from [them]. Here the preposition expresses source / origin, "from"; "he asked them."
en + dat. "when [his son got better]" - in [which he had (= be = felt) better]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal. The aorist verb "to have" is probably ingressive, so "when he began to feel better"; "began to improve", Junkins. Not all commentators take the view that the comparative degree expressed in the adverb komyoteron, "better" (as in good / better / best) should be reproduced in the translation, nor that the verb "to have" is ingressive. This has prompted translations like "he became better", TNT, as compared with the NRSV, "he began to recover."
oun "-" - therefore. Probably again establishing a logical connection, "so", but possibly just transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue.
autw/ dat. pro. "[they said] to him" - Dative of indirect object.
oJti "-" - that. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of direct speech expressing what the servants said to the boy's father.
wJran eJbdomhn acc. "[Yesterday], at one in the afternoon" - [yesterday] the seventh hour [the fever left him]. Accusative of time. The seventh hour is 1pm. our time, calculated from the beginning of the day, 6am.
iv] The official and his household become followers of Christ, v53-54. John selects Jesus' signs to show that Jesus is the messiah / Christ / Son of God. In this particular sign we also learn what constitutes genuine faith, and how this faith is evident in some, but not in most (particularly Jesus' own countrymen).
oun "then" - Here transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, as NIV.
oJti "[realized] that" - [the father knew] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the father realized.
en + dat. "this was the exact time" - it was in [the same hour]. Here adverbial, temporal, although this variant was probably added, in which case the dative "the same hour" would be classified as adverbial, temporal; "the father realized that the fever left his son at the/that very time ...."
en + dat. "at [which]" - in [which jesus said to him 'the son of you lives']. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal; "when Jesus had said to him", Moffatt.
episteusen (pisteuw) aor. "believed" - [and] he believed [and the whole household of him]. The official "took Jesus at his word", ie., he put his trust / faith / belief in what Jesus said - he believed in Jesus when Jesus said "your son lives." So what is John saying when he says that the official, on arriving home, "believed", along with his "whole household"? Barrett suggests that it means they "became Christians", ie., they became formally followers of Christ. Carson is surely right when he says that the timing of his son's recovery "only served to strengthen the faith of the basilikos." See interpretation above for the NT paradigm "he and his whole household believed."
de "-" - but/and. Variant. It serves a transitional function introducing an editorial comment.
shmeion (on) acc. "[this was the second] sign" - [this was again a second] sign. Accusative complement of the direct object touto, "this", of the assumed verb to-be "it was", standing in a double accusative construction. As Harris notes, the adverb palin, "again", is pleonastic, given the adjective deuteron, "second"; "Jesus did this as his second sign", Harris - his second sign in Galilee, not necessarily his second sign. Jesus had already performed many miracles in Judea / Jerusalem.
elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "after coming [from Judea]" - [jesus did] having come [from judea]. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "when he had come from Judea to Galilee", ESV.
eiV + acc. "to [Galilee]" - into [galilee]. Spacial, expressing direction of action / arrival at.