Nobility in a Time of Crisis – John 4:43-54

According to the website “Worldometer.com” as of 7:10 this morning there are, or have been 311,656 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United states, with 1,225,035 world-wide. It also points out that there have been 8,454 deaths in this country for this disease. Most of us don’t have a natural immunity to this disease, so fighting it off is a life-and-death struggle. When people are diagnosed with the virus, there is cause for fear, especially for the weak and elderly. And for most of the severe and critical patients, of whom there are at 6,000 this morning, it basically requires a miracle for their recovery. But there have also been 14,828 Americans who have made it safely through their Corona Virus infection.
Some of those escapees have really had miraculous recoveries – pulled back by an unseen hand from death’s door. 90-year-old, Geneva Wood was a resident at the Life Care Center in Kirkland where 35 people died. Her family were told to say their good-byes, because the doctors had done everything they could. But miraculously, Geneva is now at home with her family, continuing to recover. 82-year-old, Sid Lovenbury is alive and well after his doctors had completely given up hope. And 102-year-old Italica Grondona, of Genoa, Italy was in the hospital for 20 days with the Coronoa Virus. Today she is back in her home well and as healthy as a centenarian can be. She was born in 1917, and it is possible she may have also escaped the Spanish Flu.
Bob Marcus and his wife were both confirmed Covid-19 patients and were placed in isolation in a hospital in Everett, Washington. Mrs. Marcus began responding to her care, but Bob didn’t. Several physical problems meant that he could only have certain limited kinds of treatment. The medical staff did all they could for the man. After several days, they told his family to prepare for the worst. Bob was on 100% oxygen assistance to his lungs, but his blood level oxygen was dangerously low. ARDS – Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome was causing his lungs to harden. He was on life support for 8 days. And then the Lord stepped in and did something miraculous. 6 days after that he was on 40% oxygen assistance, and the oxygen saturation in his blood was at 96%. He is still in the progress of healing, but he IS healing by the grace of God.
Most of the Marcus family are professing Christians, and they are saying that Bob’s recovery is a miracle. No matter what most other recoverees might say, for many it is hard NOT to point to the hand of God. For many of these people their doctors had given them up for dead. In the case of Bob Marcus and for many others prayer was being offered on behalf of these very sick people.
This morning let’s consider miracles from the perspective of the only authoritative source we have – the Bible. It is impossible to accurately ascertain whether it was a divine miracle which cured Bob Marcus. But when the Bible says that Lazarus was dead before Christ restored his life, then that is the truth. Let’s think about the miracle in this scripture, the man who was seeking it and the Saviour who provided it.
What do we know about miracles?
Have you noticed that most Biblical miracles are found in bunches? Elijah and Elisha, for example were channels for God’s miraculous blessings? Why were they so blessed? And there were plenty of miracles in the days of Moses. Then, of course, there were the miracles of Christ, and for a short time after that – the apostles. I admit there are a few other miraculous events scattered throughout the Bible, and I have no doubt that God has graciously blessed even in post-Biblical days.
But why the miraculous bunches? Clearly seen in the days of Moses and Christ, the Lord’s primary method of operation was changing. Israel had been in Egypt without divine guidance for 400 years until Moses came along carrying God’s law. The miracles of manna, quail, water from solid rock, lightning and thunder from cloudless skies got everyone’s attention. Everyone was looking at Moses as God’s man and messenger. We might say the same thing about the days of Elijah and Elisha but to a less spectacular degree. But then there was the commencement of Christianity and the miracles which authenticated the messages of Christ and the Apostles.
Are we beginning to see bunches and clusters of miracles today, or are these singular acts of God’s mercy? Are we on the edge of a momentous change in the way that God deals with His creation? Please don’t misquote me and say that Oldfield has declared that we are on the cusp of the Millennium just because some very sick people have arisen from their sick beds. I am not saying that the few miraculous recoveries from this virus is proof that we are on the porch of the Tribulation and just inside the door before us is the Millennial reign of Christ. But I will say we are very close to a major shift in God’s dealing with man, and perhaps the Lord will brighten us with His glorious presence soon.
Whether in bunches or singly, God dispenses His miracles to say, “Hey wake up everyone. I am still on my throne. And you people need to listen to my messengers.” When a terminally ill octogenarian climbs off her bed and goes home, her loved ones and neighbors need to learn to say, “Look at the hand of God !” As David said before his miraculous victory, “I am going to bring you down Goliath, ‘that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.’” The glory of the Lord is the ultimate purpose of every divine miracle.
Many of you can correctly answer this question: “Where and what was Christ’s first miracle?” John tells us that when Jesus turned water into wine “this beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” – John 2:11. Have you ever considered where Christ performed his second public miracle? I probably shouldn’t say “public” miracle, because I believe they were all public to some degree. I don’t believe the baby Jesus healed people from the privacy of His crib. There is no reason to believe that teenager Jesus miraculously cleaned Joseph’s workshop like some sorcerer’s apprentice. When Christ performed His second miracle, He was again in Cana – the same place as the first. “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine” – v. 46. “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee” – v. 54. Cana was about 20 miles west of Capernaum, where the nobleman’s house and sick son were to be found – up in the hills above the Sea of Galilee. It was also a few miles north and west of Nazareth where Jesus grew up, and where He performed no miracles, because “a prophet hath no honor in his own country.”
Here’s another test of your general knowledge of the Bible – “What took place immediately prior to our text?” After Jesus turned the water into wine in Cana of Galilee, He and His disciples went to Jerusalem “because the Passover was at hand” – John 2:13. While there He was approached by Nicodemus, who heard the words, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” After traveling around Judea for a while preaching repentance for sin, Christ “left Judea and departed again into Galilee. (But) he must need go through Samaria” – John 4:3-4. While stopping Jacob’s well, He introduced His gospel to a woman of Samaria and eventually to people of the city of Sychar. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman” – 4:39. “And many more believed because of (Jesus’) own word; and (they said) unto the woman, now we believe, not because of thy saying for we have heard him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ the Saviour of the world” – 4:42.
The people of Samaria were more noble than the nobleman of Capernaum, because they believed on Christ – without the blessing of a single miracle. They listened to the testimony of an awestruck woman, and then they listened to the One who struck her with that awe – the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We should not need the testimony of the miraculous to know the weakness of our flesh. We shouldn’t need miracles, bringing our loved ones back from death, to know we are all sinners deserving of that death. The words of Christ should be sufficient. But sadly because of the weakness of our flesh they are not. So many of us need to be smacked in our face with the power of God before we look into His face. Our world is in a sad condition today – partially because we must see miracles before we listen to God.
Now think about this nobleman with the great need.
His title indicates that he was a part of the court of Herod Antipas, but we aren’t told what position he held. I would assume that since his primary residence was in Galilee, he was a man of special talents. Keep in mind the antipathy that most higher-ranked Judeans had toward anyone from Galilee. That was the district on the other side of the tracks – on the other side of Samaria. I would assume that this man was somewhat special, at least in the realm of politics – and probably in business as well. He was rich and powerful. But one of the lessons here is that privilege doesn’t protect from certain kinds of problems. Disease can strike down the children or the grandparents of anyone. No amount of preparation and protection can guarantee good health.
The man came to Christ with some degree of commendable respect – “beseeching him that (the Lord) would come down and heal his son; for he was the point of death.” After the Lord’s reply, He said, “Sir, come down ere my child die.” The word “Sir,” in Greek is “kurios” – usually translated “lord” in one fashion or other. Our translators obviously didn’t think he pictured Christ as Jehovah or the Son of God, and I have to agree.
Our Lord’s response was to the first request was less than gracious. – “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” “Why does it take the virtual resurrection of granddad from his Corona death bed before you believe?” Notice that Jesus’ reply was in the plural – “Except ye …. ye will not believe.” The Lord wasn’t answering the man’s request as much as He was addressing a more universal virus which happened to infect this man’s heart along with so many others. The Lord’s omniscience was aware of a germ and plague which the man wasn’t. This is one reason we see the Lord replying to people with apparently similar problems differently – He always looks beyond the obvious. “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
Throughout Christ’s ministry there were three different kinds of people seeking His miracles. There were many who had no had absolutely no regard for Christ and His glory. They were only interested in the health of their child or the emptiness of their bellies. They didn’t care if Christ was magnified in the miraculous granting of their request. Basically they were like the atheists who have come to the end of all medical skill, and they begin to beseech anything they might call “god” for anything they might call a “miracle.” What they want can be characterized by the word “flesh.” And even the few Biblical examples when they were blessed they walked away only licking their lips and smiling at their good fortune. And when grandad does escape the disease, these people later point to his stubbornness or to the administration of an accidental combination of medicines – anything but an admission of God’s power. The Lord, knowing their hearts, usually gave these people nothing.
There were other miracle-seekers whose primary interest was the Lord, and once in a while the Lord blessed them with the miraculous in order to leave a message with others. These were the people Christ loved most strongly and blessed most abundantly in other ways.
Between these two there was another class who came to the Lord. These folk were drawn to Him because of deep needs – a sick child, a dead child, a sick servant. But when they were blessed and their prayers were answered, their hearts sprang to life and they began to look on the Lord as more than miracle-worker. They began to see Him as the Son of God, and they began to worship and serve Him. This nobleman was of this third class.
Let’s try to put the sequence of events together logically. His son was dying because of a terrible virus – or something, so this man traveled the 20 miles up to Cana up from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, because he heard that the Lord was there. “He besought him that he would come down and heal his son; for he was the point of death” – apparently the child had been near death for some time. When the Lord gave His rough reply it wasn’t really a refusal, or at least the father didn’t see it that way. “Sir, come down ere my son die.” Who doesn’t hear a groan and see tears in his eyes as he speaks? At that point, even if the nobleman had brought a couple of swift horses, by the time they returned, the child would likely have died. But the Lord Jesus then tells him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth,” meaning, “I have cured Him.” God doesn’t have to enter the ICU or insolation room to bring about His cure. The nobleman was mistaken in this way.
I’m going to stick my neck out and tell you, “the man believed the word of the Lord at least to some degree.” He stopped pleading. He stopped begging. He stopped beseeching Christ. He started on his way back down the road to the city by the lake, but apparently at a leisurely pace. The next day, before he got home, some of his servants meet him, sharing the good news, “thy son liveth.” The boy’s father asked about the time of his son’s recovery. I think he questioned them about the time, because he wanted to verify in his mind that it was the precise moment of Jesus’ words and promise. You can disagree if you like, but when verse 53 says he “himself believed, and his whole house,” I don’t think that at that point he finally believed that his son was going to live. I think that at that point he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. I think that at that point he became a nobleman of a different kind – the Acts 17:11 variety. The people of Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind….”
There is no proof, but many scholars believe that this nobleman was Chusa, manager of Herod’s household. I would like to believe that this man became a disciple of Christ – along with his wife and family. Luke 8:3 speaks of a woman named “Joanna, the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward,” who ministered to the Lord of her substance. In this case the miracle of Christ produced the best possible result – a family of believers and disciples.
We are left with one more point to consider this morning – the Person who healed the boy.
It goes without saying that it was the power of Christ which raised that boy from his death bed. The medical world had done its best with intubation, ventilators, anti-inflamatories, experimental medicines and anti-biotics. Or more likely in this case, they had finished with their herbal chest rubs, and perhaps leaches and bleeding. But there was no hope. The family was told to say good bye and to prepare a small casket. And then there was Jesus.
It might be argued that the effect of the miracle would have been greater if the child had died. If Christ, like Elijah, had laid His body over the corpse or breathed into its lungs, causing the child to sneeze a few times and to get out of bed, that would have been more spectacular. But I tell you that the Lord know what is best. It might have been more spectacular, but it was not needed as far as this nobleman was concerned. And I can also tell you – with nearly 100% assurance – that God is not going to bring your grandfather back to life – after dying – in the isolation ward of some hospital tomorrow. The time for the miracle is today, while there is still some life left. Obviously, the Lord can send lightning from heaven and ignite a fire where there had been nothing. But it is more God’s style today to fan the tiny flame of life back to bonfire size. Pray for the Lord’s blessing on that dying relative, but once he is gone don’t ruin your faith by asking for what the Lord doesn’t often give. Now it is time to await for the resurrection in God’s own time.
But in the process of your prayers, I urge you to look beyond Christ the miracle-worker. Look at Christ Jesus, the Saviour, who gave His life a ransom for many. I guarantee that the son of the Nobleman eventually followed his father into physical death. The cure didn’t give him eternal physical life. “It is appointed unto (boys, who often become) men, once to die.” I guarantee that if the Lord doesn’t interrupt things very soon that Italica Grondona, Geneva Wood, and Bob Marcus are all going to die. And so are you. You don’t need a physical, miraculous healing as much as you need to be born again with spiritual life from above.
The best part of this story from John 4 is not that the son again enjoyed the hugs of his loving parents. The best part is that they all put their trust in Christ Jesus, as their Lord and Saviour. And that is something any one of you might do. Don’t force God to bring you to your deathbed before you repent before Him and trust His grace. As you feel the conviction and direction of the Lord this morning, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as this family did.