The Gospel of John, Jesus' second sign, Final
Nov 06, 2019
John 4:49, 50 says,
49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my son dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off.
The royal official asked Jesus to go to Capernaum to heal his son before he died. But Jesus did not need to go to Capernaum, because He is the Lord of time and space. There are times when one should lay hands on the sick, but when this is not feasible, prayer from a distance is just as effective. The point is that the royal official “believed the word,” and began his journey home, as Jesus had instructed. He did not continue to plead with Jesus to come with him but manifested his faith by returning to Capernaum.
John 4:51-53 continues,
51 And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your sons lives”; and he himself believed, and his whole household.
The word of healing and life was spoken at the seventh hour, or about 1 pm. No doubt the official immediately began the 14-mile trip and camped for the night along the mountain road about half-way home. There his servants met him to tell the news of his son’s healing.
How did John know the end of the story? At the time, of course, he only witnessed the word that Jesus had spoken, and he saw the royal official leave Cana. But subsequently, Jesus went to Capernaum many times, as He had set up His ministry headquarters there. So John would have spoken to this official many times afterward and would have gotten to know his family very well. It is likely that the official’s house was large enough to accommodate Jesus and His disciples. Being deeply grateful to Jesus, and believing that He was indeed the Messiah, there is no doubt that their hospitality was superb.
Furthermore, the entire town would have heard the family’s testimony, and being a royal official from Herod’s palace along the same lake, the town would have felt a measure of security as well.
Important as this sign is to the Gospel of John, it is interesting that this story was not included in any of the other gospels.
John 4:54 concludes,
54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.
Both the first and second signs occurred in Cana of Galilee, the hometown of Nathanael (John 21:2). Roy Millar suggests also that Jesus had “attended the wedding as part of His mother’s family” (Come and See, p. 120). There is little doubt that Mary had long since moved away from Nazareth, especially after her husband, Joseph, had died. The hard-nosed, legalistic town would not have forgotten her early pregnancy. Then when Jesus taught unacceptable things in their synagogue (Luke 4:25, 26, 27, 28, 29), the townspeople would have seen this as confirmation that Jesus was not the Messiah, nor was Mary’s story true.
Cana was a logical place to live, as it was just a few miles north of Nazareth. But even if Jesus moved his mother to Cana, we know that Jesus Himself did not stay there long but moved to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13).
Galilee vs Judea
When John points out that the first two signs were performed “when He had come out of Judea into Galilee,” he implies that Galilee (in general) had accepted Jesus, while Judea had not. Perhaps the apostle was preparing us for his later statement in John 7:1,
1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee; for He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.
The contrast between the Galileans and the Jews stands out in the Gospel of John. However, the prophetic reason for this is given more fully in Matthew 4:12-16,
12 Now when he heard that John [the Baptist] had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.”
Isaiah 9:1 says that God “treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious.” These tribes formed the bulk of the territory later known as Galilee. Their proximity to Sidon and Damascus had caused them to fall into idolatry, and the original tribes had then been deported to Assyria, never to return.
Hence, the people of Galilee had been in “darkness… and shadow of death,” but the prophecy gave hope to the Galileans that the light of God’s glory would come to them. This was fulfilled when Jesus ministered in Galilee—especially when the first two signs in John’s gospel, manifesting His glory, occurred in Cana.
Jesus was that light, for John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This was the light that was to shine in the darkness in Galilee, as prophesied by Isaiah. The connection between life and light was especially important in the second sign that Jesus performed in Cana, because this light brought life to the son of the royal official.
Here is where we may find evidence that the royal official was indeed Chuza, “Herod’s steward” (Luke 8:3). Chuza’s name means “the seer.”
It is likely, then, that Chuza represented Galilee as a whole, which “saw a great light” (Matthew 4:16). We know that Chuza was a beneficiary of that light which was shining in the Galilean darkness. That light brought life to his son.
The Connection to the Seventh Sign
Recall that John’s Gospel is written as a chiasm, or parallelism. Just as the first sign correlates with the eighth sign, so also does the second sign correlate with the seventh.
The seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). In both cases Jesus manifested the glory of God through healing. The son was “at the point of death” (John 4:47), whereas Lazarus was actually dead (John 11:14).
The main difference is Jesus did not go to Capernaum to heal the son, while He merely delayed going to Bethany when word came that Lazarus was sick. Jesus could have spoken the word from afar, which would have healed Lazarus—as He had done earlier with the son in Capernaum—but Jesus was led to remain where He was for another two days in order to allow Lazarus to die.
The parallel between the two signs shows a progression, for they are not meant to be a mere circle but a spiral, as we have observed so often with prophetic events. In other words, the first event lays foundations for future events that are greater. Hence also, types and shadows lay foundations of understanding for greater manifestations of glory when the antitypes are fulfilled.
In both cases, Jesus spoke life. One was healed, the other raised from the dead—a greater healing. The ultimate healing, of course, has yet to take place, which is where the dead are raised to immortality. Even Lazarus died later in Marseilles, where he lived for many years after being exiled from Judea. He was raised to mortal life, but that miracle laid foundations of hope toward the day when we will be raised to immortal life. In that way the full glory of God will be seen in the living overcomers and ultimately to all mankind.
Another difference between the second and seventh signs is that the son of Herod’s official was from Capernaum in Galilee, whereas Lazarus was from Bethany in Judea. Likewise, the healing in Capernaum caused the Galileans to believe in Him, but when Jesus raised the dead in Bethany, it only motivated the Judeans to kill Him (John 11:53).
Both the similarities and contrasts show the parallels between the two stories. But we must reserve this for later when we discuss the seventh sign more fully.
The second sign in John, then, manifests the glory of God by bringing life and light into the darkness of the world. Its ultimate result is healing, resurrection to mortal life, and ultimately resurrection to immortality. In this manner, heaven comes to earth in order that the earth may bear witness to heaven in a divine marriage relationship.
This is part 3 of a series titled "Jesus' Second Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.