In the Gospel According to John, we never read the word “miracle,” but rather, the author used the word “sign” to refer to Jesus’ supernatural activities. These signs were always designed to lead people to transforming faith. As the old Apostle drew his book to a close, he punctuated it, reminding the reader of his over-arching purpose. “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31).
Unlike the Synoptics, where miracles seemingly appear on every page, John is sparing, recording only seven signs prior to the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The first sign was conducted in Cana where Jesus transformed ordinary water into extraordinary wine. Following that episode John wrote, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).
The second sign occurred later, after Jesus had visited Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. While returning to Galilee, Jesus stopped in Samaria where He met the woman at the well, then “He went again to Cana of Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine” (John 4:46). “There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to him and pleaded with him to come down and heal his son, since he was about to die”(John 4:46-47). The “nobleman” (John 4:46, NKJV) left Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and travelled uphill to Cana, a distance of about eighteen miles, where he found Jesus, the miracle-working itenerate rabbi.
What would motivate a rich and powerful Roman official to seek an audience with a poor Jewish teacher? The nobleman’s son was sick, so sick that death seemed certain. The boy had lingered in bed, becoming weaker by the minute. Presumably, almost certainly, the nobleman had sought the best doctors available. They had spared no expense, providing every conceivable remedy. Nothing worked. The nobleman’s son was dying.
Begging, beseeching, he pleaded with Jesus to come immediately to Capernaum and lay his miraculous hands upon the sick child. The short conversation was completed abruptly. “ ‘Go,’ Jesus told him, ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed” (John 4:50). Jesus didn’t need to touch the sick child… He performed a long-distance miracle! Immediately, eighteen miles away, the child sat up and smiled!
The nobleman couldn’t whip out his cell phone to call home. So, believing Jesus, he rested, confident, assured. He didn’t run home, but trusting Jesus, he probably went to the Holiday Hotel and got some much-needed rest.
The following day, as he made the return trip to Capernaum, he encountered servants from his home. Confidently, the nobleman asked, “what time did my son get well?” “‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him,’ they answered. The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household”(John 4:53).
The boy was healed, and the nobleman and his family were transformed to the grace of God! They came to “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing they found life in his name!” (John 20:31).