He Is What He Says

By Jane Williams

A Reading from the Gospel of John 4:46-54

46 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. 47 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. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51 As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52 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.” 53 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. 54 Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.


Matthew (8:5ff) and Luke (7:1-10) have a healing miracle very similar to the one described in the gospel today. In Matthew and Luke, the distraught person begging for healing is a Centurion, a representative of the Roman rule and of the Gentile world. In John, the man is an official of the royal court, presumably serving the Herod family. There is some evidence from careful attention to the geographical routes of Jesus’ journeys that he generally avoided Herodian jurisdiction, where possible, which may explain his initially rather curt response to the man.

But the man displays both persistence and humility, simply continuing to ask for what he needs. Jesus then responds with wholehearted grace, giving the man not just his son’s life back, but also a demonstration into the power of the Word of God. Just as all things come into being through the Word in the beginning, so the Word made flesh in Jesus continues to be the source of life and hope. The man, we are told, believes the “word that Jesus spoke to him” (v. 50), without any further displays of signs and wonders; and his faith is confirmed: as Jesus spoke, the child was healed.

The man makes the vital connection between Jesus’ healing words and who Jesus is. He and his household believe in Jesus, not just as a miracle worker, but as the one to whom they entrust the whole of their lives. This is the deep theological connection that so many who encounter Jesus fail to make, and so miss the chance to know the Word Incarnate.

Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).

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Today we pray for:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The Diocese of Iran (Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East)


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