John Chapter 4: Woman at the Well, Healing of Nobleman’s SonJan 16th, 2010 | By admin | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
John Chapter 4: Woman at the Well, Healing of Nobleman’s Son
John 4:1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
John 4:2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
John 4:3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
Why did Jesus leave Judea when he realized that the Pharisees knew more were being baptized by his disciples than by John? Jesus did not want their envy or his fame to spread too quickly, for these had to culminate at the end of his ministry of 3 1/2 years. By leaving the scene at that time, Jesus eliminated a premature problem. He knew what was in man and thus acted accordingly.
John 4:4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
John 4:5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
John 4:6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
To go from Judea to Galilee, Jesus traveled through Samaria, which is Nablus today. He came to Sychar, Samaria, which was near a parcel of ground with a well that Jacob had purchased many years earlier (Gen. 33:19). When Jacob gave the land to Joseph in the deathbed prophecy, Joseph got a double portion, or inheritance, through his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:22). The blessing was pronounced orally, and the Holy Spirit switched Jacob’s hands.
Instead of the tribe of Joseph, there were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. No other son of Jacob got a double portion. Hence it was as if Joseph got the firstborn portion. He was Rachel’s firstborn but not Jacob’s, for Leah had Reuben first and other sons followed by her and the two handmaids before Joseph was born.
The “sixth hour” was Hebrew reckoning and hence noontime, the middle of the day. Jesus was weary and the disciples went to get food. Because the water pitchers were heavy, water was customarily drawn either early in the morning or near dusk when the temperatures were cooler. In this case, however, the time setting was at midday.
John 4:7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
John 4:8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
John 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Observing that he was Jewish, she was surprised and asked why he would have a woman of Samaria serve him. Her humility shows through in that she readily stated she was a Samaritan. Of course she did not know that Jesus could read her mind.
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
What profound wisdom Jesus had on the spur of the moment! Reprint No. 3495, “The Satisfying Water of Life,” is a good article. “Water” is the gift of God. One who literally thirsts finds that nothing will satisfy better than water. Water has real significance for those who live a Bedouin type of existence.
All those whom the Father draws to Jesus have a characteristic in common: naiveté. Consider even Nicodemus. Most in his position would have been too proud to come to Jesus and phrase the questions he asked. And Zacchaeus, a wealthy man in his own right, humbled himself to climb a tree to see Jesus. Here the Samaritan woman was likewise naive. She was puzzled by Jesus’ statement and asked him questions.
John 4:11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
John 4:12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
The Samaritan woman said, “You have no bucket and no rope, and this is a deep well. How can you suggest that I should ask you for water when you do not have the proper equipment? Are you better than Jacob?”
Her naive questions remind us of Nicodemus, who asked, “How can a man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” He was very puzzled, and so was the Samaritan woman.
He would have wondered how Jesus could set up his Kingdom when he had no army. The Samaritan woman wondered how he could dispense living water when he had no bucket.
John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Because of Jesus’ reply, she probably thought of him almost like a philosopher. She would certainly have puzzled over the words of this stranger. And he would have spoken with assurance, authority, and conviction.
John 4:15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
John 4:16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
John 4:17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
John 4:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman took Jesus literally. But in her puzzlement, she continued to draw him on, probably speaking almost mechanically (and thus foolishly) just to keep the conversation going in order to better grasp the concepts. She said, “I would like that water so that I do not have to daily come and draw water.” (Drawing water was an onerous task.)
Normally the Jews were too proud to ask the Samaritans for a favor under any circumstances. In fact, the Jews were so proud that very few were attracted, or drawn, to the truth. Especially in the beginning, one must recognize his lack, inquire further, and then be willing to receive instruction.
Comment: A Reprint article suggested that Jesus mentioned her five previous husbands, plus the current sinful arrangement, because one must recognize that he or she is a sinner before receiving any of the “living water.”
Jesus was making the truth more important than his natural thirst. He used the opportunity to enlighten her. When Jesus originally came to the well and was resting, and then noticed the woman approach, he sensed (as on numerous other occasions) that an unusual happening in his life was of God’s providence. Then he proceeded from that standpoint. No doubt he was tired and thirsty, but he used the opportunity to introduce the woman to the truth. In fact, we can be sure he recognized this experience as being of the Father, for by witnessing to the Samaritan woman, he was going contrary to his own instruction. This incident occurred early in his ministry, and he had said, “Go not into the way … of the Samaritans” (Matt. 10:5).
Jesus’ comments certainly whetted the woman’s appetite for truth, but then he changed the subject to her husbands to help her understand more about the living water. Jesus was speaking allegorically or spiritually, and she began to grasp the point that he was not referring to literal water.
In regard to Jesus’ talking to the Samaritan woman versus telling the apostles not to go to the Samaritans, there was a difference. Jesus did not go into the city; he did not go to the woman. Rather, the woman came to him. Hence there are rare occasions in life where a policy we might thoroughly endorse and advise others on would be contradicted because of an unusual or peculiar situation. Another exception was the Syrophoenician woman who begged for crumbs from the master’s table. Jesus was not ready to give her the truth, but she insisted. Thus there can be exceptions to the general rule. And Jesus had such close communion with his Father that he could discern the divine will. Moreover, his ministry was so short (only 3 1/2 years), and so much had to be accomplished, that he realized many events were shaped around him so that everything could be fulfilled. Hence he recognized her approach as something unusual.
When she said, “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet,” she would have spoken with AWE! Imagine a stranger telling her of her background! There would have been emotion in her words. “Oh, sir! … I perceive you are a prophet!” We must study the Bible in order to get the emotion, for it is intentionally written low-key so as not to attract the demonstrative and/or curiosity seekers.
Nevertheless, the emotion is there, and it is to be tapped and realized.
Now the Samaritan woman turned the conversation into a religious discussion. Also, she probably did not want Jesus to delve any further into her secret life. Perceiving that he was a seer or holy man, she switched the conversation to things pertaining to worship. However, even though the conversation was changing, she had been touched to the quick, and she was honest enough to admit the charges by saying, “I perceive that thou art a prophet.”
John 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
John 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The woman referred to the fact that the Samaritans reverenced Mount Gerazim, which was a quarter to a half mile from the well. To the Jew, Jerusalem was the center of worship. To the Samaritan, Mount Gerazim was the center of worship.
What “hour” was Jesus talking about in verse 21 “when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father”? This was a deep and far-reaching statement, for the “hour” is ongoing, reaching far into the future. It is progressive, starting at the First Advent (“the hour cometh, and now is”) and extending beyond the Millennial Age. In the ages of ages, Jerusalem will become of no consequence but not during the Kingdom, when at the Feast of Tabernacles, all nations will have to recognize Jerusalem as the center of God’s dealing with man lest rain be withheld. Beyond the Kingdom, there will still be a city of Jerusalem and a Temple, but they will not have the same significance. When all those living on into the ages of ages will have demonstrated their worthiness to receive everlasting life, they will no longer need education from Jerusalem in regard to the moral precepts of God and bringing their characters into harmony with them.
The “hour” began at the First Advent in Israel, and Jerusalem did become a center of attraction in the beginning of the Gospel Age. After AD 69, Jerusalem lost significance for the Christian, and the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth became paramount. In the Kingdom too, Jerusalem will be the center of worship, education, etc., but it will fade out in time.
The Samaritan woman must have been unusual to be the recipient of such a sermon, short as it was. And there were psychological factors as well. She ran back to tell the townspeople before Jesus could get away.
We can assume that she had a sinful past—five husbands could not have all died—yet her heart condition must have been right for her to be the recipient of such a profound lesson. Jesus honored her with a one-to-one conversation, whereas he often spoke to multitudes or to his disciples (plural). It is interesting that John recorded the few private conversations such as Nicodemus and this woman. Other Gospel writers were aware of the conversations, but John was impressed enough to record them.
John 4:25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
John 4:26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
The woman was a harlot—having had five husbands and now living with a sixth man. How unusual it was for Jesus to reveal his identity to her, early in his ministry, when Peter’s acknowledgment that he was the Christ came later! Jesus did not even talk like this with the apostles at this point in his ministry. To address such remarks to her privately was very significant. The woman wanted to share this experience with the townspeople, for she realized that the information was too valuable to keep to herself.
John 4:27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
John 4:30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
The disciples returned from town with food as Jesus concluded his conversation with the woman. She then left to get others. Had she delayed and satisfied herself, Jesus might have gone on his way. Instead she left her water pot (so as not to be encumbered) and ran to get the townspeople. (When she saw the disciples returning with food, she realized that they would stay for a while and that she had time to get others.) The townspeople, knowing the woman’s past, would have noticed the remarkable change in her and desired to see this stranger.
This incident created a seedbed that grew later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The apostles were to go first to Jerusalem, then to Judea, and next to the Samaritans. In fact, Philip the evangelist had headquarters in Samaria (Acts 8:5). When it was testified that Jesus was resurrected, the Samaritans already had some information, and this new fact kindled their faith.
Thus a providence underlay this whole incident, and Jesus realized it. This was no ordinary woman in spite of her past. She addressed him as “Sir” three times as a mark of respect and decorum (verses 11, 15, and 19).
In due time—whether in the Gospel Age or in the Millennial Age—all will be weaned away from Jerusalem, the natural aspect, to the spiritual, and will worship God in spirit and in truth.
Jerusalem will fade as the center of worship, and all will look to the center of the universe.
One lesson: The fact that Jesus called the well “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” is significant (verse 14). A well is a source of water, so the implication was really more than everlasting life. The Little Flock will have immortality, and thus be the source of life—they will impart life to others.
Although a well is a source, effort must be exerted in this age to get the water from the source. Even after we have truth, we must dig for the silver and the gold. If faithful, we will become a source of water to others.
Here, too, was a miraculous aspect. With Nicodemus, Jesus prophesied of being on the Cross.
This truth struck home with Nicodemus when the event actually occurred. Here the miraculous aspect was instantaneous—Jesus told the Samaritan woman of her past. His one-on-one dealings included miraculous statements. With Zacchaeus, who secretly climbed a tree to view Jesus, the Master called up, “Zacchaeus, I am having supper with you tonight.” Simon’s being given his future name—“Thou shalt be called Peter”—was a delayed bomb, as it were, that later energized him. Not only were the one-on-one dealings fraught with meaning and explanation, but there was a personal aspect as well. Each one realized something miraculous had entered his life—which is what we have to be assured of when we consecrate. We have to know that this is the real thing, that we have not been mesmerized into some strange teaching.
We must truly know that Jesus is the Messiah so that in later periods of life, when discouragement and loneliness set in, we can turn and look back and see various landmarks where we know God was dealing with us. Then, in the present strange experience, we will know that God is dealing with us because He did so step by step in the past. Past experiences, which are called Eben-ezers, are invaluable for faith (1 Sam. 7:12).
John 4:31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
John 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
John 4:33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him aught to eat?
John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Jesus’ disciples returned with food and beseeched him: “Eat.” He replied that he had meat to eat that they did not know about. If we put ourselves in the disciples’ position, we will understand their puzzlement. Evidently, they had walked a long time and were weary and famished, so they went into the city to get food. When they returned with the food, they knew Jesus should be hungry, as they were. Therefore, when they besought him to eat, his remark surprised them and they wondered if someone else had brought him food. Jesus’ words were not a rebuke, but he was showing the disciples that sometimes spiritual needs take precedence over physical needs, even if the physical needs are crying out for satisfaction.
We have the Gospels to study, but the disciples did not, and they were hearing these remarks for the first time. If we had been in their place, we would have been puzzled too—and would have reacted similarly. Another example is Jesus’ admonition, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6). Taking Jesus’ remark literally, the disciples could not understand what he was saying because no bread was present. Being natural men, not yet begotten of the Holy Spirit, they reacted in a normal or expected manner.
Jesus was training his disciples to realize that his “meat” was a commission to do the Father’s will. After saying he had meat to eat that they did not know about, he paused for a little time lapse, during which he let the apostles think about and discuss the remark. Then he explained that his “meat” was to do the Father’s will. Since his “meat,” or mission, would last only 3 ½ years, he had to cover the nation of Israel with his doctrine, as it were, before the Crucifixion, the climax of doing the Father’s will.
John 4:35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
John 4:36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
John 4:37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
John 4:38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
The fields were not literally white for harvest when Jesus spoke. At that time of year (the spring), the crop was only beginning. Hence the comparison was to be understood spiritually.
The spiritual harvest was white already, whereas the literal ingathering was four months hence.
The Jewish Age “harvest” was a period of time beginning then, whereas the Gospel Age “harvest” has been going on since 1874. More than 1,800 years separate the two. The Pastor estimated that one third of the Little Flock was developed in the Jewish harvest, one third of the Little Flock is developed in the current harvest, and one third of the Little Flock was developed in the interim of 1,800+ years.
Jesus was saying that the disciples could start to do a harvest work right then and there; that is, they did not have to wait four months for the spiritual harvest. John the Baptist had already done a preparatory sowing work, and some were ready to be harvested, or reaped. Those who had truly repented were ready to accept the white robe of Christ’s righteousness (the fields were “white”). “Four months” not only gave a practical lesson back there but also furnishes a time period at this end of the age (4 x 30 = 120 years).
He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal; both sower and reaper will rejoice together. We are reminded of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. At the end of the age, the emphasis changes to a reaping work.
The Apostle Paul described the ministry of Apollos, Peter, and himself. Each had a specific function. One sowed, another watered, and somebody else reaped, but God gave the increase, for in the final analysis, the development of the Little Flock is a miracle. Even though there are those who witness, labor, edify, etc., the increase is of God. “One soweth, and another reapeth” was a colloquial saying, a well-known proverb back there. Paul used sayings too—for example, “All men are liars”—and then developed a sermon around them.
Of the “other men” who labored (verse 38), John the Baptist and his disciples were the most recent. And previously, the Logos would have assisted in the sowing work of the Jewish Age, that is, with the earlier prophets. Here Jesus was referring to the sowing and preparing work all down the Jewish Age through Israel’s prophets, to be benefited through reaping a class at the First Advent. The principle is, “Light is sown for the righteous” (Psa. 97:11). There can be a long time lapse between putting the seed in the ground and seeing the crop grow to maturity.
Light was sown back in the Old Testament in all the types and prophecies. However, this “seed” light was not understood, even by those who did the sowing. Light is sown especially for the righteous class upon whom the ends of the age come. From this larger standpoint, Jesus did not include himself as doing a sowing work during his First Advent. He did primarily a reaping work at that time.
Q: Some brethren have felt that there is no longer a need to do witnessing work but that our mission is to instruct those who have already accepted the truth. Thus they feel we should do only a “reaping” work. How do we refute this imbalance?
A: Ecclesiastes 11:6 states, “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” In other words, it is always proper to do a sowing work. In a harvest period, the primary emphasis is on reaping, but that does not exclude the sowing. Nurturing those already in the truth may be a most important work, but it does not exclude the other.
Comment: Jesus said his meat was to do the will of the Father. Eliezer illustrated this same zeal when he went to seek a bride for Isaac. He refused to eat until his mission was performed and he had recounted the purpose for his coming. With Eliezer representing the Holy Spirit, his attitude should be characteristic of those who have the Holy Spirit.
John 4:39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
John 4:40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
John 4:41 And many more believed because of his own word;
John 4:42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
How remarkable that in such a short period of time, there was this great heart response! And these were Samaritans, not Jews but a mixed people through intermarriage. It would be interesting to know what Jesus said during the two days he abode with them.
It is also interesting that some tested further and had to hear with their own ears, while others accepted Jesus as Messiah based on the woman’s testimony (and obviously the radical change in her). And they recognized him as the Christ, the Savior of the world—how remarkable!
Similarly, there were cases when Gentiles showed unusual, extraordinary faith, which the Jews resented. Jesus’ own people rejected him. Had he gone to others, they would have been more responsive in some respects.
It is a strange thing how so often the ones closest to us, our own families, are reluctant to accept the truth, yet there are notable exceptions in Scripture where whole households accepted the truth and consecrated. Examples are Cornelius, Lydia, the jailer when Silas and Paul were saved by an earthquake, and the nobleman (Acts 10:24,44-48; 16:15,31,32; John 4:53).
The Samaritan Bible is one of the oldest in existence. Both the Samaritan and the Septuagint versions predate the oldest Hebrew manuscript in existence.
In review, Jesus first came to Samaria and sat down on Jacob’s well “about the sixth hour,” which was noon, Jewish reckoning. Jesus recognized the approach of the Samaritan woman as providential because to come in the heat of the day to get water was unusual. Jesus’ witness to her was probably short because of the question-and-reply format. In other words, Jesus did not give her a long sermon. And once her past was revealed, she departed almost immediately, leaving her water pot behind.
The water pot can be considered from two aspects, as follows. (1) Practical aspect. By leaving the water pot, the Samaritan woman manifested how absorbed she was in running back to the city to tell others about Jesus. (2) Spiritual aspect. Her own vessel was being filled with “water” (truth), and hence the natural water was secondary. She left the earthly, natural, literal vessel behind because her own earthly nature was filled with this new message.
Probably the townspeople, knowing the sinful background of this woman, were impressed when she ran to them so excitedly and obviously deeply affected and repentant. They wanted to see the one responsible for this change in her. The men had had some interest in her but along other lines. When she came back all excited about this new experience, they would have given some credence to her account. And probably all five of her previous husbands had not died, let alone the one who was not her husband.
If we contrast the woman’s attitude with that of the one who said he wanted to first bury his father, she did not procrastinate but relinquished her previous purpose for the truth (Matt. 8:20-22). The woman knew when the disciples returned with food that Jesus would be there a little while, but she had better get going as fast as possible so that others could see him before he left.
John 4:43 Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
John 4:44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
John 4:45 Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
After two days, Jesus left Shechem (Nablus/Sychar) and went north to Cana of Galilee, where he had performed his first miracle (verse 46). The time setting was now a half year or more into Jesus’ ministry. He had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover (verse 45), come back through Samaria, and was now going to Cana. John’s Gospel moves quickly through Jesus’ ministry, for he concentrated on the last week.
“A prophet hath no honour in his own country.” Jesus made this statement because many Samaritans believed on him in just two days. Coming from Samaria en route to Cana on the upland route, Jesus evidently did not stop at Nazareth but went on to Cana. The Galileans received Jesus because they had seen all the miracles he did in Jerusalem (John 2:23). The “feast” was the Passover.
John 4:46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
John 4:47 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.
John 4:48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
John 4:49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
John 4:50 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.
John 4:51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.
John 4:52 Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.
John 4:53 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.
Jesus arrived at Cana after a long journey from Jerusalem, where he had gone for the Passover. En route he stayed for two days at Sychar, Samaria. Coming from Sychar, Jesus intentionally bypassed Nazareth and traveled on to Cana of Galilee, where this incident occurred. The nobleman, whose son was dying, left his home in Capernaum at the north end of the Sea of Galilee and traveled to Cana (about 25 miles) to a considerably higher elevation halfway to Nazareth. It probably took him a whole day to thus go on foot uphill to specifically request that Jesus heal his son, who was so sick that “he was at the point of death.”
The nobleman’s initial words were not given, but Jesus said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” The son was dying, and the nobleman wanted Jesus to come down to Capernaum and heal him, yet Jesus gave a rather brusque reply—why? We recall how in the private conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus needled him to a certain extent. Jesus did not coddle Nicodemus but, as here, gave a curt remark that was intended to benefit the hearer.
John 3:10 records Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” Jesus used this technique in many experiences to sensitize the other party or parties to the quick before he rendered the balm of Gilead.
The very fact that the nobleman came to Jesus evidenced faith. With his son dying, the nobleman might have hesitated to leave home, wanting to be there when the son actually did die. It seemed risky to make that long journey, but having heard that Jesus had come north into Galilee, the nobleman planned to go and intercept him. And what did the nobleman expect Jesus to do? He wanted Jesus to accompany him as quickly as possible back to Capernaum and there cure his son, but such was not Jesus’ intention.
We are reminded of the centurion, who had even more faith. He said, “I am a man of authority. I tell my men what to do, and they do it. Since you are a man of authority, all you have to do is make the pronouncement, and the healing will be accomplished” (Matt. 8:5-13 paraphrase). We do not want to minimize the nobleman’s faith, however, for his son was dying, and the situation was desperate. And he did have faith to even make the journey, but there are different degrees of faith.
Jesus did eventually heal the nobleman’s son by remote control, as it were, and instantly. Since the son was cured “at the seventh hour,” or 1 p.m. Jewish reckoning, the nobleman’s approach to Jesus and the entire incident took place shortly after 12 noon.
Why did Jesus issue the little rebuke “except ye see signs and wonders”? The nobleman replied, “Sir, come down ere my child die.” Didn’t the nobleman hear Jesus’ rebuke? Yes, so what is the lesson? The nobleman’s faith was not yet whole, even though he “believed” (verse 50). Hence he inquired when his servants met him, “What time did my son begin to mend?”
When the time of healing was seen to be exactly the time of Jesus’ pronouncement, the nobleman’s faith was whole. In addition, Jesus’ words were (and are) instructive for all Christians subsequently.
How did the nobleman originally know about Jesus’ miracle-performing power? Verse 45 says that the Galileans who had gone to Judea for the Passover had seen Jesus do many miracles. They would have returned quickly to their homes after the Passover because of various responsibilities, whereas Jesus, having a public ministry, traveled more leisurely and stopped to witness to the Samaritan woman. When the Galileans got home, they spread the word that Jesus had performed many miracles at the Passover.
Jesus’ pronouncement “thy son liveth,” accompanied by the instant cure, was designed to help not only the faith of the nobleman but also our faith and the faith of others. It shows that Jesus does not have to be present in order to keep a person from dying. We are reminded of a similar case when Jesus was even rebuked a little, namely, when Lazarus died. Martha commented, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Jesus deliberately tarried until Lazarus died, and then he returned. Mary and Martha were a little disturbed that Jesus had not responded sooner. This incident shows that even the closest of Jesus’ disciples need instruction, as given in these two accounts, so that faith can be mature and whole.
By curing the nobleman’s son in this manner, Jesus was setting a precedent—that a miracle could be performed merely by his speaking the word. We should keep this precedent in our mental library so that it can be recalled when our own faith is at a low ebb with regard to our Master’s capabilities.
Verses 51-53a took place the next day, probably in the morning. We know this because the cure occurred “yesterday” at the seventh hour. The servants reported that at 1 p.m. the previous day, there was a definite improvement.
As a result of the cure, the nobleman and his whole house believed. Reading the Gospels direct gives power to the incidents. With Nicodemus, the private conversation led to his becoming a disciple. The incident with the Samaritan woman was the next private conversation with Jesus— and she responded and believed. When she returned to the city and told what had happened, the townspeople came to Jesus, and upon hearing him speak, they believed that he was the Messiah (a fact his own people, the Israelites, were slow to accept). The Syrophoenician woman and the centurion also believed. Thus outsiders responded with faith, while most of Israel hearkened not.
We can be very thankful that John wrote on the personal experiences he felt were needful to complete the Gospels. Otherwise, we would have missed some significant accounts. John narrated very few miracles compared to the other Gospel writers, but apparently, he recorded the personal experiences in order for us to see certain aspects of Jesus’ ministry.
Reprint No. 4132, “The Rewards of Faith,” suggests that the nobleman was Chuza, Herod’s steward, and that his wife was Joanna, the follower of Jesus who was present at both his crucifixion and his resurrection. To be Herod’s steward was a very high position. And there is a faint possibility that Cornelius, the first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit, was the individual who paid for synagogues in Galilee and that it was his servant who was healed.
John 4:54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
Healing the nobleman’s son was the second miracle Jesus performed in Cana, the first being the changing of water into wine. In between, many miracles were done in Jerusalem at the Passover. Generally speaking, faith had to be exercised for a miracle to be done, but there were exceptions.