Seeing and believing. Studying John 4:43-48

A crisis 

John 4:43 begins right where the previous section left off where Jesus was among the Samaritan people. 

Verse 43 begins: After the two days he departed for Galilee. 

Jesus is making his way north. Galilee is the region where Jesus grew up. Nazareth was the town where he grew up, but Nazareth was in the region. So Jesus is journeying to Galilee and immediately John interrupts the flow of the story with a side note. 

Verse 44:
(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.

That’s an interesting comment to note. A prophet has no honor in his hometown, and yet Jesus is traveling to his home. 

Yet verse 45 tells us: 
 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. 

On its face, verses 44 and 45 can appear to be at odds. 

Verse 44 says a prophet has no honor in his hometown, however verse 45 says that the Galileans welcomed Jesus. 

How can these two things be? The answer to that question is important to making sense of this whole story. 

As verse 45 reports, Jesus is indeed welcomed by the people of Galilee. 

Jesus is welcomed by the people having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. 

This is referring to the Passover season in chapter 2 where Jesus is at the temple, turning over tables and calling out the religious elites. They have heard and seen Jesus, and they’re drawn to him. 

But the issue we see in this passage is that they’re coming to see Jesus, not because of who he is, or because of the kingdom of God that he is bringing into the world. We will learn in this passage that they’re drawn to the spectacle. 

Verse 46, Jesus comes to Cana in Galilee, the very same town where he had made the water wine.

John is reminding us that this had been the location of Jesus’ first sign back at the beginning of chapter 2. We talked about this at the time, but John’s gospel uses the word signs over miracles. Signs point us to who Jesus is as the divine son of God in the world. 

So Jesus is in Galilee. 

The story shifts us to a town about 20 miles away called Capernaum. 


 at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 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. 

The verse mentions that an official’s son had been ill. When John refers to an official, he’s talking about a man who was an official of the Roman government. It’s likely that this man was therefore not Jewish, although we can’t be absolutely positive. So this Roman official approaches Jesus and his son who is ill. 

The passage tells us that he’s at the point of death, so it’s very serious. 

Jesus has become known in the area and this man approaches Jesus to see if anything can be done. 

Verse 48:

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The “you” to whom Jesus is referring is plural. He’s not only speaking to the royal official, but also to the crowd. 

That brings us back a couple of verses where it talked of a prophet having no honor in his hometown and the crowd that had come out to see Jesus. That’s the larger audience to whom Jesus is speaking. 

Many are drawn to the things Jesus does, but not to Jesus himself. Jesus does not merely want to be followed for what he can do, but of greater significance is who he is. 

Jesus is the eternal God of creation who is all powerful. He’s the savior of the world. He is the one who forgives sins. And so what he desires are disciples and not spectators. People who are looking for a savior and not a genie. People who follow him because of who he is, not just what he does. 

Question: why do we worship? 

The character and glory of Christ is why he is to be worshiped. 

In sports, there’s a term for someone who’s a fair weather fan. That refers to someone who is only interested in a team when they are winning but when they’re not playing well, they pay less attention. 

We are not called to be fair weather Christians. It can be tempting to want to turn our backs on the Lord when things aren’t going how we want. 

But he is just as worthy of our worship and praise in the difficulties as he is in the victories. 

If things were always easy…

God does not always do what we want, give us what we want, even for things that are legitimate and good. 

The Roman official isn’t asking for something frivolous. He has a child who’s near dying and this man has come to advocate for his child. But no matter how worthy the request, it is not always granted. 

What is our response to Christ when things don’t turn out the way we wanted? No matter how worthy those requests were? That’s where the rubber meets the road. That is where the gospel becomes foolish in the eyes of the world. 

In the eyes of the world, a good God would always grant the life and death prayer request. To not do that would make the world’s vision of God not good but evil. 

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe

We need to understand the goodness, and glory, and sovereignty of God. God is worthy of worship and praise because of who he is not just because of what he does. Faith needs to be rooted in the character of God. 

If we make our worship and love for God hinge on getting our own way, then we are not worshiping God as God. We are not here to serve him, we are not subject to him, we make him subject to us and his goodness contingent upon how he satisfies us. 

People wanted the signs. They want to be dazzled. We want to see the incredible story, we want to hear the unbelievable testimony. 

Those things do happen. Praise God when they do. 

And I’m not saying that an incredible work of life can never be used to turn a person to God. It can and does. But our faith cannot exclusively be in the marvelous and incredible events. 

Because that’s not most days. And much of life and much of our walk with God is very ordinary. How do we respond in those times? 

Even today, there is a temptation in our world to be drawn to mystics and faith healers. Our world eats it up. People fill arenas. These people travel the globe promising the miraculous and to heal. 

“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

People who peddle a prosperity gospel revolving around how God wants to bless you and that get away from the gospel of sin and salvation and preach a message that revolves around man’s worthiness of blessing and that puts our focus on material blessings dominate the world of televangelism. 

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Paul says: 

when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

That must be the basis for our study of the Bible, our preaching and teaching in churches. And it needs to also be the basis for the preaching and teaching to which we expose ourselves.