Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What Made It Official For The Official

by Keith Brenton

After spending an unplanned two-day stop in Samaria, Jesus left for Galilee. He was headed home, yet He didn't seem to be enjoying the anticipation of it. He pointed out to his tag-along followers that a prophet has no honor in his own country. Yet, when He arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen everything He'd done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast. More than likely, they were anxious to see more.

Again, He visited Cana in Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine at a wedding party. A royal official, doubtless on leave from Herod's court, heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea and went to Him, begging Him to come and heal his son, who was close to death in Capernaum.

Maybe the way he phrased his plea didn't set well with Jesus. Maybe others around, anxious to see a miracle, were spoiling the opportunity. When He spoke, He seemed to be addressing more than just the royal official, though he spoke directly to him. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

Was He accusative? Or telling him the simple truth? Was He testy? Or just testing? Or both? Was Jesus dismissive to this desperate man; a man perhaps standing there with tears dripping down his cheeks?

The royal official was nothing if not persistent; he said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

On an occasion that Matthew and Luke record, a Roman centurion living in Capernaum approached Jesus and begged the same request, but about his servant. He was held in high regard by the locals, because he had financed their synagogue. And he was humble. He told Jesus that he wasn't worthy that He should come under his roof. He understood authority, saying that he commanded a number of soldiers who would live and die at his orders - implying that all Jesus had to do was give the word. Jesus healed his servant and bragged on his faith, calling it greater than any he had found in Israel.

But this seems to be a different occasion. This royal official was begging Him to interrupt His journey to come several hours' walk to his house and heal his son. The term "royal official" is more likely to refer to a highly-placed Jew in Herod's kingdom than a Roman commander. And this royal official seems to think that he should give the word.

Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live."

I wonder how long they spent, sizing each other up; wondering what the other would do next.

The man took Jesus at his word and started for home. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he asked them the time when his son got better, they told him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he believed and so did everyone in his household.

John says, "This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee."

I'm not sure why he only started counting the ones in Galilee. Maybe because in Samaria, people believed because of His words (John 4:41); in Galilee, people believed because of His miracles. Just like He had commented to his followers about a prophet and his own country.

But even if the royal official wasn't as noble as his centurion counterpart, you could say one thing for him - and John does: He took Jesus at His word.

Then he acted on it.

He didn't ask for fish and expect a scorpion. He didn't ask for bread and anticipate a stone.

He asked for mercy, and considered it given.

- from the account in John 4:43-54


Blogger David U said...

Believing.......something so simple but yet so difficult at times. The Centurion's faith surely humbles us.....and at the same time challenges us.

Thanks Keith!

3/30/2005 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Greg Taylor said...

What a great piece about the faith of the Centurian. Sometimes--well, many times--I fail to take Jesus at his word. Thank you for this important reminder.

3/30/2005 01:56:00 PM  

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