Tucked away at the end of John 4 is an amazing little vignette. Because it comes right after the story of the woman at the well, we often overlook the healing of the nobleman’s son (vv. 46-54). It’s a story about a very important man who had a very important conversation with Jesus. As a result, he received a most incredible miracle. What happened to his son was not due to luck or coincidence. His son was dying and Jesus healed him. And the wonder of the story is, Jesus never met the child and the child never met Jesus. It was a long-distance miracle recorded by the Apostle John for our benefit.
We do not know the precise details of his son’s sickness. We only know this. It broke the father’s heart and consumed all his energy. This man who could do so much had no power to help his son. He watched day by day as his beloved child grew weaker and the fever raged without breaking. When his son cried, “Daddy, help me,” there was nothing he could do. At night when his son could not see him, he wet his pillow with tears of anguish.
Little did he know that this heavy burden was a blessing in disguise. If his son had not been sick, he might never have met Jesus. God often uses trouble to focus our attention on him. Through this sickness, God now has his undivided attention. I love the words of A.W. Pink “It is well when trouble leads a man to God, instead of away from God. Affliction is one of God’s medicines.”
The best prayer is born of desperation. Only needy people pray. Those who aren’t needy don’t need to pray. And they don’t! That’s why people in hospitals call for pastors and chaplains. They don’t want to die with burdens on their soul. They want to be healed, and if they cannot be healed, they want to make sure they are ready to meet God. When hard times come, we cling to God like a drowning man clings to a rope. In this case desperation turned a powerful man into a beggar. The word “begged” in the original actually means to beg repeatedly. I do not doubt that this powerful official got on his knees and begged Jesus to come and heal his son. Even a skeptic will pray at a time like this. When all human props are taken away, we realize that only God can help us.
It appears that his request was very simple and very direct: “O Jesus, come and heal my son!” That’s all. No King James English, no long preliminaries, no formalities. He got right to the point.
*He knew what he wanted: Jesus to come with him.
*He knew what he needed: Healing for his son.
*He knew why he needed it: His son was near death.
When Jesus told him to go home because his son was healed, the nobleman obeyed. That must have taken great faith. On the way home, he met his servants who came with the news that his son had been healed–the very hour that Jesus had spoken to the father! As a result, he and his whole household believed. And he believed so fully that he swept his whole family and all his servants with him into the kingdom of God. He came and they came with him! Here is an important word for fathers. Let the father believe and the mother will believe too. Let father and mother believe and the children will believe too. Let the family believe and soon the relatives will believe. Thus does God’s grace spread from one person to another.
Behind everything else in this story is the sovereign hand of God. Though the father could not see it in advance, his son was brought to the point of death that the entire family might be brought to eternal life. When we are in the midst of desperate circumstances, we see only our problems and we come as children begging for help: “Lord Jesus, come quickly. We need you. The world is falling apart and only you can help us.” And Jesus quietly says, “Go your way. Be in peace. I will take care of your problems.” Will we have faith to go in peace, trusting him? When we do, we discover that Jesus is as good as his word. And very often we look back much later and say, “I didn’t see it then. In my sorrow and sadness I thought the Lord had forgotten me. I thought my prayers had been ignored. But now I see clearly that the Lord was there all the time. He answered in ways I did not expect. And if it had not been for the Lord, I would not have made it at all.” Many times we can see that a greater miracle has been wrought than the one we sought in the beginning. And so we learn again that his ways are not our ways. Give God enough time and all will be made right. He will be vindicated in all things and his Word will be proved true. Our part is to trust him and to obey the light we have. Once we bring our problems to him, we must then go our way and trust him to do what he knows is best. This is true faith.