Have you ever had a child who was so sick you didn’t know if he’d live or die? I have not, although we almost lost one son when he tunneled into a steep, Michigan shoreline sand dune. The whole thing collapsed on top of him, and he was nearly suffocated before my husband could dig him out. That was terrifying! I was digging furiously too, but it was Alan who really saved his life. Our daughter almost drowned once at a park. Had it not been for the heroics of our oldest, she might not be here today! My oldest brother wrote me recently, “You haven’t lived until you stand on top of a properly loaded closed garbage can and have it explode, lifting you into the air.” Probably anybody who was a normally curious, crazy kid (or reared one), can identify with my appraisal of childhood: It’s a miracle that any child reaches adulthood in one piece!However, short-lived terrors are nothing compared to having a desperately ill child that you fear will die. This was the situation we read about in John 4. John makes a point of identifying this man as a nobleman. Rich and politically prominent, he would have had the means for accessing the best medical care available in Israel, but it was not enough. He realized that his son was on the verge of dying, and there was nothing he could do to keep him alive.
Have you ever been in that situation? (Well, forget being rich and famous, but what about a deathly ill child who seems to have no hope?) I had several sons who had intense asthma attacks that frightened me, but in each case, we were able to rush the child to the hospital and get medical intervention. We think our daughter had epiglottitis as a toddler (bacterial swelling that can cause suffocation in a matter of hours/minutes), although she recovered before she was intubated. But again, these were acute illnesses that (very thankfully) came and went in a matter of hours and could be cured by medical help. How would you feel if your child was dying of an unstoppable terminal illness, like cancer?
I have not experienced such a trauma, but I believe there’s probably no sorrow greater than that of a parent who cannot rescue their dying child, and I have friends who are going through that agonizing experience. You may be too.What can you do? Well, the nobleman did the only thing left to do: He took a chance. He ran straight to Jesus and asked him to come heal his son. This doubtless took a lot of faith, humility, and courage, because Jesus had no government position or church-sanctioned authority to do anything for anybody. Still, rumor had it that Jesus had been healing people, and the nobleman had heard the rumonr. Maybe Jesus could heal his son too. I’ve heard that when you’re falling or drowning, you’ll grab anything, almost as an instinctive reaction. Whether or not what you grasp actually saves you doesn’t depend on how certain your faith is; it depends on how able the object of your faith is. Jesus is completely able to save us!
Jesus’s response tested the man’s faith, though. Instead of going with him, Jesus accused the father of being unable to believe in miracles: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). The nobleman seemed to have no clue how to respond. (I don’t think I would have, either.) He didn’t have the insight of the centurion (who approached Jesus at a later time and knew Jesus didn’t have to be present in order to heal his servant). All this rich ruler knew was that he believed Jesus could help, and so he repeated his request: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” (Actually, this sounds like a “command,” doesn’t it?)Jesus didn’t do what the nobleman wanted him to do, but Jesus gave the nobleman what he wanted. In fact, they both got what they wanted! Jesus wanted to nobleman to believe in him and obey him. The nobleman wanted his child healed but was willing to believe Christ’s word and obey him without any physical proof that his prayers were answered.
I wonder, are we willing to humble ourselves and ask Jesus for what we perceive as the deepest need of our hearts? Are we able to commit our needs to Christ and then “go on our way,” in faith and obedience? It wasn’t until later that the nobleman had confirmation that his son was healed, and after that, not only the man but his entire household believed in Christ. The nobleman received healing, not only for his son, but for himself and everyone in his home, all because he was willing to humble himself and ask Christ for help. Is it possible that our own desperation could end in the salvation of our entire household if we’re willing to believe and “go on our way”?
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
Text for this meditation: “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.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.48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.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.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.54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee” (John 4:46-54).