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 seen all that 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 realized 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’ return to Galilee is sandwiched between two visits to Jerusalem. But there is a world of difference between the two. During his first visit, for the Passover festival, the atmosphere is tense, he makes good his escape. Prophets after all, come to no good in Jerusalem. Yet after his stay in Galilee, he returns for another festival, with new confidence, vested with the authority and power of God. What has happened?
In Galilee he’s welcomed. The Galileans were impressed by what they had seen of him in Jerusalem; it seems they wanted a Messiah who would perform miracles to order. After all, had he not already changed water into wine In Cana? But this is not Jesus’ agenda. He is looking for something else – evidence that it was possible for a person to believe solely on the strength of his words as “Word made flesh.” He doesn’t have long to wait. A royal official has come from his dying son’s bedside in Capernaum. He begs Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus is abruptly dismissive; do you people have to see signs and wonders before you can believe? But the official appeals to him directly, addresses him as Lord. The urgency of the situation and his love for his little boy is only too clear. This is the language of belief. And Jesus responds simply – “go; your son will live.” And he goes. Jesus’ word is enough for him. The child is healed and God’s power to give life is confirmed. The boy lives and the official with his whole household become faithful followers of Jesus.
So what about us? We hear God’s word of life today. As we are faced with news of calamity, storms, floods, disease and death, are we too not called as followers of Jesus to go and be signs of God alive and at work in the world?
Dear God, from the barrenness of our own resources, we look to you In trust and hope, through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev’d Fleur Houston, a retired minister, is a member of Macclesfield and Bollington United Reformed Church.