The Nobleman’s Son
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
John 4:46-54; compare Mark 5:21-43; Proverbs 3:5, 6
Once in a while (perhaps more often than we care to admit it) we encounter situations where we are praying, and it seems as though God is “not listening.” We are forced to either wait on His timing, in faith believing in His eternal wisdom and goodness, or fail to do so, and become frustrated and bitter.
Now, it is always possible that there is something amiss in our walk with God, and that he effectively really is not listening, as Psalm 66:18 warns that “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” But let’s assume for this conversation that there is no unconfessed sin. Is it OK for God to answer “No” or do we insist that the only thing qualifying as an “answer” is Him complying with our wishes? And what about “wait:” is that also not acceptable? Of course, God reserves the authority to answer within His own will. And we still need to learn that humility and faith, to accept His will as the BEST answer.
Please Heal My Son!
In the account, here in John 4:46-54, there is a touching story of a nobleman, humble enough to come to where Jesus was, and approach him as a supplicant: not ordering him, or claiming some authority or reason for special treatment. Jesus was a poor, itinerant preacher, at that point: all this nobleman knew was that others had been healed by Jesus. He came in faith and humility, begging for help. “46Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, …And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47When 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.”
There are several points to notice, here:
- The man was from Capernaum, but he approached Jesus at Cana. The distance is a little over 16 miles.
- The man was a “nobleman”…we are not told his rank or office, or position…just that he was a nobleman. That is not a normal part of our lives, so it is hard for us to appreciate what it meant to that culture. (They had a caste system: we don’t.)
- He had heard of Jesus, and knew that Jesus had already proven His ability to heal…and that now he was nearby… “only a 16 mile walk away!”
- He came personally, not sending a servant.
But Jesus tested him a little, saying “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Now, notice that it is plural: the KJV “ye” is the plural “you.” He wasn’t accusing that particular nobleman personally: He was making a general statement about the Jews at large, and possibly the entire human race. We have a long history of unbelief.
So, Jesus was effectively testing the motives of the father. But the man didn’t quibble about the apparent indictment of unbelief; he only repeated his plea: “Sir, come down ere my child die.”
Jesus could have “heaved a sigh, rolled his eyes,” and started the long walk back to the fellow’s house: But He didn’t. He gave what was simultaneously the answer the man needed and a chance for him to demonstrate the reality of faith.
50 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.
What? He just said, “Wow, thanks, Jesus,” and headed back down the road to home? That is exactly what he did! I think I might have begged Jesus to come with me. I would likely have balked at such a command, too! (“What?? I just walked sixteen miles to talk to you , and all you are going to do, now, is turn me around and tell me to go home?… that my son is already healed? Like, you don’t have time for me, or what? What kind of deal is this?”)
The key we need to see, here, is very simple:
- Jesus did answer! He said that “the man’s request was granted,” and then,
- The man believed Jesus! And,
And we can see the long-run result of the whole exchange. The man was hiking back down the long hills to get to Capernaum: it was sixteen miles, descending more than 1000 vertical feet. (Cana is at 330’ above sea level: Capernaum, at the Sea of Galilee, is about 690’ below sea level!) …which reveals that he had walked 16 miles uphill to find Jesus!)
And we read, in the following verses, 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.52 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.
53 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.
There was nothing more to say: He had all the “proof” he would ever need. He told his household, (his family, the servants, etc.) what had happened, and how Jesus, instantaneously, from miles away, and never having met (let alone touched) the sick son, had healed him. He could now testify that at the time Jesus said, “thy son liveth,” the son had begun to mend, and was healed. The result? The entire household believed in Jesus.
Now: did Jesus actually do what the man expected? No! Remember what the man asked: he asked, twice, that Jesus “Come down” and heal his son. But Jesus saw the man’s heart: he wasn’t looking for special treatment (“Come down so I can brag to my neighbors that I’ve got a celebrity in my home.”) Jesus saw that his only desire was to save his son. So, He granted the man’s real desire, and simply ignored the side-issue of “taking a hike with the guy.”
The real desire of the nobleman’s heart was granted. The means by which it was granted became irrelevant: He thought Jesus would “obviously” have to go to Capernaum to grant his petition. But Jesus demonstrated His true authority: He could command from any distance and accomplish His will!
Mark 5:21-43…The Woman with the “Issue of Blood.”
This story is a “story within a story.” A ruler of the synagogue ( named Jairus) had come to Jesus asking for healing for his little daughter, who was near death. As Jesus went to his house, a sick woman intersected his path, in the middle of the crowds following Him.
The woman had suffered a bleeding problem for 12 years, and had spent all her money on doctors, and only got worse. Her spiritual life was affected, as well as her health, since, with such a disease, she was ceremonially unclean, and could not go to the temple at all. But she somehow discerned in her own mind that “Jesus held healing for her,” and that, if she could just touch the hem of His garment, she would be healed! (How did she come up with that idea? We are not told, but personally, I believe God told her, prompting her to act in faith.)
So, she pushed her way through the crowd, and finally got close enough to touch him. She did not “grab onto Him,” or try to “cling to Him” in any way: She did exactly what she had planned…she touched the hem of His garment. The result was that she was instantly healed, and the bleeding stopped. She was able to feel the instant change: she knew she was healed; and she was “making her getaway,” when Jesus turned around, saying “Who touched me?” (It turned out that He had “felt it too!” He felt the power go out of Him to heal her and evidently wanted her to publicly bear testimony to that fact.)
But she evidently thought she was in trouble…she was afraid to speak up. Everyone else (including the disciples,) thought He was asking a ridiculous question: they said, “Everyone is touching you! We are packed in this crowd so tightly that everyone is jammed against you: How could you ask such a thing?” But Jesus kept looking around to see who it was.
Then the woman came and fell at his feet, scared to death, and confessed that she had touched Him and was healed. He not only did not scold her, but He congratulated her for her faith, and sent her home, happy, healthy, and blessed by Jesus!
But this raises the question…if everyone was touching Him, why were healings not just “leaking out in all directions?” The answer to this question is very similar to that of the question ,“Why was Judas not cleansed by the same words that cleansed the other disciples, in John 15:3?” In Judas’s case, it was very simple: he did not believe those words!
In the woman’s case it was a little more obscure: she had come to Him specifically for the healing she believed He offered, but was afraid to approach Him directly, so she tried to reach out by faith and just touch his robe. Sure, there were others touching Him: but everyone else was just “there:” They had conceived no such plan, and they only wanted to “be where the action was,” so to speak: “Hey, man! Jesus is gonna go heal the Rabbi’s daughter! Let’s go watch!” It was entertainment. It was exciting! They wanted to get close to the show! But this woman, having been healed, was only trying to get away. Jesus wanted to make sure she got the full effect of His blessing: He called her back so that He could verbally confirm her faith.
(And then, yes, He went and raised up the little girl who had evidently died in the interim. And the result was that his message was validated by His miraculous works and people were drawn to Him.)
What about Today?
God wants us to reach out by faith and “touch His robe,” so to speak: He does not guarantee physical healing, although evidently, He had prepared her heart for just such a thing, and she acted in faith. But He does offer us eternal life by an even simpler manner: “Look to Him for Salvation—believe His promise and receive eternal life!” You don’t have to “force your way through a crowd,” nor can you “sneak up on Jesus.” He has been “knocking at the door of your heart” from the day you were born, offering you spiritual healing and peace. He offers eternal Life as a gift, beginning the moment you believe His promise; and it will literally last for eternity. He has never rejected anyone who approached Him in that way: John 6:37 says, “…he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out!”
Does He promise “physical comfort and safety?” No, as a matter of fact, He doesn’t! He says, “These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have Peace: in the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”
Does He promise “a life free from suffering?” No; as a matter of fact, God promises almost the opposite: Philippians 1:29 says, “…unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake.” (“Come and suffer?” What kind of invitation is that?!)
Well, in fact, Hebrews 11:36-40 describes a group of people who believed God and died without having received the promise they were expecting; but it specifically stated that God had something better to offer…and that is what they got in place of the promise they had looked forward to. These people were tortured, they were stoned to death, and some were sawn in half…all their goods were confiscated, so that they were literally destitute of all their belongings including food and clothing. And God’s comment regarding these suffering saints is that “the world was not worthy” of them.
What about Us?
Last week we commented that “It is OK to pray and die!” These who suffered martyrdom are prime examples of that principle. It is also OK for God to answer “No, My Child!” when we beg for release from our pain and turmoil. However, He does offer His Peace in the midst of the trials and pressures of life.
I remember a young woman named Jeannie Nance, who had been engaged to be married in 1974 (as I recall.) She was physically present, and standing there watching, when her fiancée’s plane crashed, and he was killed.
Her immediate response was to praise God, just as Job did, knowing that God had made an irrevocable choice, and that she, in turn,could either rail against Him or accept His will, along with His Grace and Peace. She chose to believe God, and she was filled with His Peace, as a result: and she went on to serve God with her life.
I only met her after the fact, and only because she began Bible School at the same time I did, in 1975. But God had another man for her, named Dennis O’Keefe. Dennis and Jeannie served together as missionaries for 35 years in the Philippine Islands. Their lives will count for eternity, and they have no regrets, regardless of all the costs and trials of their service.
Can I always respond in faith? Perhaps a better question would be, “Do Ialways respond in faith?” And, the answer is, “No!” Sometimes I am fearful or even angry at God, and He has to re-teach me the same old lesson: (Proverbs 3:5, 6) “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding! In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.”
If you can learn to trust God, and to lean on His Grace, then, regardless of the circumstances, you can experience His Peace, and know His blessing.
Lord Jesus, draw us along to grow in our faith and to trust Your Grace in all things: whether life or death, whether Joy or Grief; whether in good times or bad. We know that You are the Master in all things. Teach us to live as Your disciples.