Sir, Come Down Before My Child Dies, John 4:43-54

This is what faith is and what it means for us too.

This passage in John’s Gospel has always fascinated me for it seems so recognizable, even in our own lives today. It involves suffering and the desperation of a father whose love for his child in the face of the existential threat of death has brought him to seek the help of someone he has only heard stories about.

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The story takes place in Jesus’ native Galilee, specifically in the town of Cana where he had performed his first miracle. We can imagine that turning water into wine would have been a topic of conversation far and wide in Galilee, as would many of the other stories concerning Jesus’ words and his miracles. As we are told, a royal official, probably of Herod’s court, came to Jesus and asked him to come down to Capernaum to heal his son.

Jesus responds in a way that at first seems strange, but really reveals a truth about us. “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” And this is the faith challenge that is directed to all of us, even today, especially as it relates to prayer and our desires for immediate answers. We want to see the results, and most often what we want to see are answers that are consistent with our own desires. We can hear the desperation in the royal official’s voice here when he says, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And Jesus responds, “You may go; your son will live.”

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Faith is not a kind of knowing in the material sense, rather, it is a matter of trust. It is trusting that God is God and we are not. The royal official simply accepted Jesus’ words and began his long journey back home. While on his way, he is met by some of his servants and is told that his son has recovered and will live. He asks at what time his recovery began and discovers that it coincided with the moment that Jesus spoke those words the day before. Jesus reveals two things to us here: God’s love is unconditional and infinite, and that it is God’s will to always respond, even to a little bit of faith. We are reminded here of another father’s desperate plea for his child’s welfare, who says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9: 24).

This royal official did not witness the healing, but believed without seeing. This is what faith is and what it means for us too. I will end here with a verse from a poem called The Miracle of Belief by Rita A. Simmonds:

“Jesus answers our prayers / the moment we ask. / We await their revelation / as we walk our journey’s road.”

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