The Man Believed the Word (John 4:43-54)
I. “You Have to...”
Consider for a moment these internet headlines and their shared refrain:
“Clint Frazier of the Yankees makes a diving catch you have to see to believe.”
“15 Crime Documentaries on HBO Max That You Have to See to Believe.”
“Miss Universe 2021 Contestants Compete in Elaborate Costumes You Have to See to Believe.”
Do we? Do we... have to see to believe? Let's bring that question to God's word this morning as we return to the Gospel of John. Let's finish chapter 4 together by digging into verses 43 through 54 of this chapter.
II. The Passage: “The Hour When Jesus Had Said” (4:43-54)
You may recall that the last time we looked at John's Gospel together, Jesus had spent two days ministering to many from a Samaritan village called Sychar, including the woman with whom he first spoke when he arrived there. But look at how John moves us along in verse 43...
After the two days he departed for Galilee.  (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)  So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
Now, let me suggest to you that John's emphasis here is on...
1. Seeing Then Believing (vs. 43-45)
What exactly does that mean? Well, that's not completely clear just yet. But John wants to be clear about the context in which this next story takes place... yes, the context geographically; but more importantly, the context spiritually. Notice why Jesus departs for Galilee (as we read in verse 43): he is returning because (v. 44), “a prophet has no honor in his own hometown”. Now, it's not completely clear how verse 43 and verse 44 go together. But I think a reasonable idea is that Jesus is returning to Galilee in order to prove that saying true.
But if that's the case, verse 45 seems to demonstrate the opposite. Far from being shamed or shunned, Jesus is “welcomed” by the Galileans. But notice why he is welcomed: because they had “seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” That's a reference to John 2:23, where we read that when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
You may remember it was those signs that even prompted a Pharisee named Nicodemus to seek Jesus out. As Nicodemus expressed in John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” So the Galileans who welcome Jesus in 4:45 (or at least some of them) have seen Jesus perform miracles and apparently, have also believed that he is “from God” and that “God is with him.” But again, notice the order: seeing then believing.
But look at how the order changes in the account that John has teed up for us. Verse 46...
So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.  As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.  So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”  The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Okay. Did you see how John flipped the order there? Now, through this story, he's describing...
2. Believing Then Seeing (vs. 46-54)
This man, who is described as an “official”, probably worked for King Herod in some capacity. But he also may have been in Jerusalem for the Passover mentioned in chapter 2; or he had heard about Jesus from the Galileans who had gone, as John pointed out in verse 45. Either way, when he finds out Jesus has returned , and isn't far away (about 12 miles), he goes to him as quickly as he can. Why? So that he might (v. 47) “heal his son, for he was the point of death”.
But notice how Jesus responds to this request in verse 48. Using the plural “you” here, he states, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Now, that sounds a little harsh in response to a man whose son is about to die, doesn't it? So why this criticism of the crowd's mentality? Why now? Is that this man's mentality? And is this the same criticism we find in Matthew 12:39, where Jesus declares... "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign...”?
I don't think this is the same criticism. Given what we've already heard, and given the context here, I think Jesus' emphasis might have sounded like this, “Unless you SEE signs and wonders you will not believe.” Isn't this what excited the Galileans who were in Jerusalem? Isn't this what the man has requested: that Jesus would come with him, so that he might see Jesus do the one thing he desperately wants and his son desperately needs?
But the man is undeterred. The criticism doesn't phase him. He repeats the request, knowing that time is running out. And this is where Jesus, understanding the man's concern, understanding the son's need, understanding the timing, this is where Jesus 'flips the script'. This is where Jesus calls the man to believe then see. Listen again to verse 50: “Go [that is, you go]; your son will live.” (lit. “your son lives”). The man will not “see”, not yet. He will only hear about the miracle. And when he hears... (v. 50) he believes, doesn't he?
This man who had been pleading in the presence of Jesus demonstrated his faith by leaving the presence of Jesus. If he had not trusted in the word of Jesus, he would not have left. But he does. And as John recounts, on the return trip from Cana to Capernaum, the man's slaves intercepted him with good news: the boy was recovering well. And they confirmed the time of day when this miraculous turn around had taken place: 1:00pm; the exact time Jesus had announced the child's healing.
III. Take Him at His Word
So as we think about the reason John included this story, we can't miss the connections he makes here to chapter 2, verses 1 through 11. First of all, John makes it clear that when the royal official found Jesus, he was at “Cana in Galilee”, the very place where Jesus (maybe weeks, maybe months) earlier had turned water into wine.
But there's a second connection here to that account from chapter 2. In 2:11 we read this about that 'water-into-wine' miracle: This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. Now, notice the similar elements in 4:53 and 54... The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
So just as the disciples believed in Christ in a saving way because of that first sign, so too does this father (and those in household) because of this second sign. And that's the purpose of these signs, isn't it? As we've talked about, the seven signs that John records, that John highlights in his Gospel, were written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:31)
As I've summarized it for you, John wants to feed our faith with a sound and profound vision of Jesus.
That's not only critical for those who need to move from doubt to faith, but also for those who need to grow in their faith; go deeper in their faith. Isn't that what we see with the man here. He believes enough to leave Jesus, trusting that he will find his son well. But when the miracle is confirmed, John is sure to mention that “he himself believed”; that is, his faith moved from situational faith to saving faith; from faith for a miracle to faith in the miracle-worker.
All of us need that same encouragement, don't we? Yes, some of you need to move from doubt to faith, saving faith. But others of you need to grow in your faith; you need to mature; to go deeper; to grow stronger. If that's true (and it is), then think for a minute about what this second sign reveals about Jesus. The first sign confirmed that Jesus was indeed the incarnate Word (1:1), the Father's agent of creation, who still exercises transformative power over creation (water into wine). But what about this second sign?
This sign seems to complement the first, in that they both point us back to the Word described in those opening verses of chapter 1. Not only does this Word still exercise power of creation, but he still speaks life into creation. We can't forget what we heard in 1:3-4... All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. Jesus Christ can simply speak, and it is so. Jesus Christ simply speaks, and life overcomes death.
Do you believe that? Without a doubt, this passage is a call to faith; not only faith in the identity of Jesus, but also faith in what he has spoken. Just as this man came to him desperate and needy, we also need to bring our needs. What need or needs should drive or is driving you to Jesus this morning? Whatever it may be, I believe God is reminding us through this passage that we are to believe then see; that is, God is calling us to simply take Jesus at his word.
So the same Jesus who said to this man, “Go; your son will live”, still speaks to us today through his word and his Holy Spirit. Do you hear Him? If you do, what will it look like to simply take Him at his word? Come with your needs this morning and hear him say...
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (6:37) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (6:51) “...and I will raise him up on the last day.” (6:54) “...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself...” (14:3) “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”. (14:14) “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (14:18) “...the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (14:26) “...he will guide you into all the truth...” (16:13) “...you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (16:22)
Like the man's faith-filled response, will we go now, trusting that all this is so? That our reality is in fact transformed because Jesus has spoken it? And don't forget all the other words of Jesus. Don't forget all that God has told us about being in Christ. Will we go, believing... trusting that we will one day, whether in this life or the next, see the miracle with our own eyes? Or do we say, “I will trust you to provide, Father, but... I need you to provide a little first before I will trust you for the rest”? No. The sign call us to believe that we really can take Him at his word. As Jesus announced after his resurrection to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (20:29)
Now, in one sense, if we truly belong to Christ, we do see then believe. That is, with eyes of faith we see what God has already done through Jesus; this is what the Apostle Paul described as “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18). And when we 'see' what He has done, then we trust him for what he will do. But all of it is faith, isn't it?
And what has God already done through Jesus? If we kept reading John's Gospel this morning, we'd go on to read that Jesus not only declared life; he ultimately secured it by giving up his own. The One who spoke life to and about a son “at the point of death”, was himself the Son, the Son of God who passed the point of death in order to give us life. And then, wonderfully, He passed back in new life, in resurrected life, to secure new life for you and me. So the gospel reassures us that the words of Jesus are trustworthy, as it shows how God's promises for the Messiah proved trustworthy. And can't we see countless lives changed by that same gospel?
But just as the official's servants confirmed Christ's word, are we also reassured by God's confirmations in our lives? Surely, at some point, in some way, Jesus has spoken and called you to believe then see... and you have. Please don't forget those instances. Please cherish them. Please return to them often. As David declared, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1) “I will remember the deeds of the LORD...” (Psalm 77:11). May others recognize you as (v. 50), “the man [who] believed the word” or “the [woman who] believed the word”. Let's ask God for that kind of faith, then believe, then see his answer to our prayer.