A Bare Word
He was used to giving orders (and obeying them). And in a situation as desperate as this, he knew he had to act decisively. And fast.
Capernaum and Cana were 30 km apart. A day’s journey. But he figured that it was worth the risk. You’ve got to give it to this man: he was prepared to leave his sick-unto-death son behind, make his way to meet Jesus (alone?), and persuade him to follow him back home to heal his son. If Jesus was not cut out to be all He had been reputed to be, or simply unwilling, his son might not live much longer. But he was desperate. And a desperate man knows that when left with no other alternative, one must resort to desperate means. At the very least, when others would be satisfied just to be onlookers, he believed enough about Jesus to take the risk.
Little did he know that Jesus would respond like that. The official came to request (or order?) Jesus to come. But Jesus turns the directing around and says:
“Go; your son will live.”
After that, we are merely told that the official believed the word, the bare word that Jesus spoke to him. It is no empty-shell belief, because obeying that order meant a return journey empty-handed, except for hope hung on a bare word. “What if my son dies by the time I get home?” How heart-wrenching for a father!
But he had an encounter with Jesus. And the bare word was enough for him.
As we read chapter 4 verse 51 and onwards, we can detect a sense that the man was captivated by Jesus and His bare word. His servants met him on the way to tell him that his son lived, but what the man wanted to know was when he got better, relative to the speaking of that bare word. He wondered if that was the hour. How could he forget that moment? He had encountered Jesus.
We are then told that he himself believed. And I wonder exactly what that man (and all his household) had then come to believe. What exactly did he realize about Jesus through his personal encounter? We must be driven to read more and ponder John’s gospel, for that is indeed its express purpose – that we may believe in Jesus, that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name (John 20:30). But above all, we need a personal encounter with Jesus, in His word. Because the real deal is the man Jesus Himself. The real stuff of our belief is a Person. And this Person’s word is still spoken today.
Since this episode, the official, like that Samaritan woman, became a witness to Jesus. A human signpost, if you will. For those who have encountered Jesus, through His word, by His Spirit, isn’t our calling likewise to be a good and faithful signpost – a witness?
So that others may also come to believe, and have life in his name.