When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had all seen what he had done in Jerusalem at the Festival: for they too had gone to the Festival.
Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies”. Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live”. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon, the fever left him”. The father realised that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”. So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus was not a magician and he was not impressed by those people who thought he was some kind of religious conjuror. So don’t try that prayer: “God if you’ll just make our Gary really good today, I’ll come to church on Sunday”, because all it will do is give God a good laugh.
Last time Jesus was in Cana, the water had become wine, and everybody saw it. This time you don’t see the miracle happen. Jesus doesn’t even go to the sick child. The official trusts Jesus, because he recognizes in him someone who is in charge, someone who carries authority. He believes, and his life is changed for ever as a consequence, even though his common sense might tell him that there is no proof that his son is better; there is no guarantee that the miracle has happened and the sign been given. The world still looks the same when he looks around but now the nobleman understands who is in charge.
We can believe or reject. We can understand or remain ignorant. We can believe that this world is a series of nasty accidents, of which we were each individually but one, or we can see the plan of God’s love unfolding even in the direst darkness. Even when it seems our dearest love is lost to us. That is what the nobleman faced. Out of the prospect of his greatest sorrow came his greatest hope because he knew that this man was indeed in charge and bore the marks of a greater authority than the one to which his slaves answered.
Why should we believe this? Because as the story unfolds we find that this is how God comes to us. In the loss and the death of God’s beloved son we find the depths of God’s love. It is hard to believe in a hard world; and that is why many did not believe Jesus, and still don’t. They saw and were blind; they heard and were deaf, and things have not changed that much. Which is why we may find it hard, and cannot always see the rhyme and the reason or the sense in the things that happen to us and to others. But faith breeds hope and hope brings love. We cannot ask for more than that.
Loving Father, we would believe but constantly doubt. You see us when we are still a long way off. Loving Father, help our unbelief; bring us home. Grant to us the grace of faith, the courage to hope, and the confidence to love, as we have been loved before ever we met you. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod & a member of Kenton URC, Newcastle.