The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son

Title: The Healing of the Nobleman's Son

Bible Book: John 4 : 46-54

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Healing; Miracle of Jesus



In the book, “The Apologetics of Jesus,” Norman Geisler and Patrick Zukeran note that…

Natural laws describe what occurs regularly by natural causes, but miracles are special acts of God that interrupt the normal course of events and confirm the Word of God through a messenger of God. Several words are used for miracle in the Gospels. … The Greek word most often used is semeion (usually translated “sign”). It appears seventy-seven times in the New Testament, primarily in the Gospels, where it is used forty-eight times. The basic meaning of semeion is a sign by which one recognizes a particular person or thing and which serves as an authenticating mark or token.

In the Gospel of John, there are several specific signs set forth for the purpose of authenticating Jesus’ ministry and identity. Notice the statement that John makes towards the end of his book…

(John 20:30-31) And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: {31} But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

In John 4:54, we are told that this is “the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.” But as Warren Wiersbe explains, this “does not state that this healing was the second miracle that Jesus ever performed, for that would contradict John 2:23 and 3:2. This was the second miracle He performed in Cana of Galilee (see John 2:1, 11).

In writing of this particular miracle, Rev. T. Dewitt Talmage described the situation in a most poignant way as he said…

News did not speed on lightning wings or whirring train in the days of Christ, but good report, in which all people were concerned, flew swiftly by aid of horse and camel and fleet foot and intercommunication. Capernaum was twenty miles away, but as if borne by whispering winds, the glad intelligence of Christ’s return to Cana quickly reached that place. Peter may have been the messenger, returning home after a nine months’ absence spent with Jesus; but if not Peter, then some other trustworthy person carried the happy news. And there was one person in Capernaum to whom the information was especially gladdening, though he may never have seen Jesus or regarded Him with great concern until the hour that affliction excited his hopes. … A nobleman’s son had been stricken with a fever and lay so ill that the air from the wings of death could almost be felt. On a rich couch, with sumptuous surroundings, lay the sufferer, whose hectic cheeks, quickened pulse, short respirations, parched tongue, and staring eyes, showed how tightly he was embraced by the hot arms of a deadly fever. Mother had spent the hours of night as well as of day bathing his temples, wetting his swollen lips, smoothing his dry forehead, speaking soothing words while her eyes were wet from weeping and her heart bursting with grief. Father, a nobleman of degree, almost princely of rank, but now an unstrung man, wrung by this great affliction, stood in the sick chamber with bated breath, his tongue almost as useless as that of his dying boy, and his eyes looking into vacancy. The doctors had probably told him how hopeless was the case, and leaving some narcotic … as a last prescription had turned away with the assurance that skill of earthly physician could do no more. Oh, what a sad hour was this to the rich man, whose wealth and position could only be a mockery now; which could only serve to emphasize … the weakness, the extreme helplessness of the most exalted when brought to answer the inexorable law of nature.

But in the moment of his most profound grief the nobleman learns of the presence of Jesus in Cana. Quick to his mind he recalled the many reports current of the miracles performed, of the sick healed, of all the splendid deeds of charity performed by Christ. Without hesitating to reason on the probability of the truth of these reports, without waiting to call Manaen, or Peter, the nobleman decides promptly, immediately, to call Jesus. Saddling up the swiftest horse, making the most hurried preparation, he sets out for Cana, nor stops for food or water until he comes into the Divine presence, about one o’clock in the afternoon. There may have been a crowd about Jesus, but being one in authority the nobleman would not hesitate to press his way through, and without scarcely preceding his request with a salutation, so urgent the occasion, he addressed the Lord with anxious speech and with evidence of intense grief, “Come down and heal my son.” Jesus, observing his anxiety, had great compassion for the nobleman, but embraced the opportunity of imparting a lesson in faith as well as to give proof of His Messiahship. So He answered, “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.” But the nobleman would not be brought into a discussion, time was too precious; therefore with tears of supplication, in which faith in Christ’s power was clearly exhibited, he again besought, “Sir, come down ere my child die.” For his faith he was rewarded with an assurance that must have made his heart leap with joy, which must have thrilled him with ecstasy greater than any he had ever felt before: “Go thy way; thy son liveth.”

That the nobleman was not puffed up with arrogance or doubted the power of Jesus, is proved by the fact that, upon receiving assurance that his son would recover, he departed so leisurely for Capernaum that it took him twenty-four hours to travel back over the distance which he had accomplished, in his eagerness to find Jesus, in less than six. As he was nearing Capernaum some of his servants went out to meet him, being anxious to bear the joyful news of his son’s recovery, and as they announced to him the glad tidings, he showed no more concern than a desire to verify what he already believed—so great was his faith—that the cure was coincident with the pronouncement of Jesus. And he found it to be so, “and himself believed, and his whole house.”

As we study this miracle that the Lord Jesus performed in this passage, we realize that…

I. His Power Is Not Constrained By The Past

(John 4:46)

A. There Is A Return In This Account

(John 4:46) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

again – Greek 3825. palin, pal'-in; prob. from the same as G3823 – pale: to vibrate or wrestle (through the idea of oscillatory [to swing between two points with a rhythmic motion] repetition); (adv.) anew, i.e. (of place) back, (of time) once more, or (conj.) furthermore or on the other hand:--again.

A few years ago, Brian Crowe, the AWANA missionary gave me a book by Jack Eggar, the president of AWANA, entitled “The Return Of A Mighty Church.” Here in this passage, we find the return of a mighty Christ! I’m glad He comes our way. But how thrilled I am when He comes again; when He passes by a second time!

Again, as Warren Wiersbe said…

This was the second miracle He performed in Cana of Galilee (see John 2:1, 11). He certainly gave those people special privileges.

B. There Is A Reminder In This Account

(John 4:46) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

Jesus was not a “one-shot wonder.”

A. T. Robertson wrote…

Again ‎palin‎. A second time.

Unto Cana ‎eis ‎‎teen ‎‎Kana‎. Note article, “the Cana of Galilee” already mentioned in John 2:1.

Where he made the water wine ‎hopou ‎‎epoieesen ‎‎to ‎‎hudoor ‎‎oinon‎. That outstanding first miracle would still be remembered in Cana and would indicate that Jesus had some friends there.

Just as He was able to transform substance, He would be able to transform sickness!

As One song says…

He’ll do it again for you, He’ll do it again

If you just take a look, at where you are now and where you have been

Hasn’t He always come through for you, He’s the same God as then

You may not know how, you may not when, but He’ll do it again

II. His Power Is Not Constrained By Position

(John 4:46–47)

A. This Man Had A Nobility

(John 4:46) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

Joseph Seiss said…

Even the noble have their trouble. No earthly dignity lifts above the reach of trouble. In the eye of God and in the operations of His laws all are alike. We need, therefore, never to expect to reach an estate free from trial.

(From The Biblical Illustrator)

Albert Barnes said…

[A certain nobleman] One who was of the royal family, connected by birth with Herod Antipas; or one of the officers of the court, whether by birth allied to him or not. It seems that his ordinary residence was at Capernaum. Capernaum was about a day’s journey from Cana, where Jesus then was.

Adam Clarke wrote…

[A certain nobleman] An officer of the king’s court for this is the meaning of the original word, ‎basilikos‎, which the Vulgate translates regulus, a little king. This officer belonged to Herod Antipas, who was then tetrarch of Galilee. Jerome calls him Palatinus, and says he was an officer of the king’s palace. Others think it was Chuza, mentioned Luke 8:3; and others think it was Manaen, spoken of Acts 13:1. One of these opinions may be true, but all solid proof is wanting. This officer, whoever he was, appears to have had his ordinary abode at Capernaum, and hearing that Christ was at Cana, he came express from Capernaum thither, to entreat him to heal his child.

B. This Man Had A Need

(John 4:46-47) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. {47} When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

went – Greek 565. aperchomai, ap-erkh'-om-ahee; from G575 and G2064; to go off (i.e. depart), aside (i.e. apart) or behind (i.e. follow), lit. or fig.:--come, depart, go (aside, away, back, out, . . . ways), pass away, be past.

besought – Greek 2065. erotao, er-o-tah'-o; appar. from G2046 [comp. G2045]; to interrogate; by impl. to request:--ask, beseech, desire, intreat, pray.

How moving it is to see this noble man, this man of means and influence, taking the two or three days off from his service to Herod Antipas to journey to Cana and ask the Nazarene; yea, to beg this carpenter to come back with him and do what the physicians and magicians and religious practitioners had been unable to do. His great need and desperation caused him to lay aside all of his dignity and pride and position and beg.

Philip Yancey, in the January 2006 issue of “Christianity Today,” said that…

Mike, who works with homeless people, tells me that those who have hit bottom don’t waste time building up an image or trying to conform. And they pray without pretense, a refreshing contrast to what is found in some churches. I asked for an example. He said, “My friend and I were playing guitars and singing ‘As the Deer Panteth for the Water’ when David, a homeless man, started weeping. ‘That’s what I want, man,’ he said. ‘I want that water. I’m an alcoholic, and I want to be healed.’ ” (1001 Illustrations That Connect [Logos] – Craig Brian Larson, Editor)

III. His Power Is Not Constrained By The Problem

(John 4:46–54)

A. Notice How The Particulars Of The Sickness Are Described

(John 4:46) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

sick – Greek 770. astheneo, as-then-eh'-o; from G772; to be feeble (in any sense):--be diseased, impotent folk (man), (be) sick, (be, be made) weak.

772. asthenes, as-then-ace'; from G1 (as a neg. particle) and the base of G4599; strengthless (in various applications, lit., fig. and mor.):--more feeble, impotent, sick, without strength, weak (-er, -ness, thing).

(John 4:52) Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.

fever – Greek 4446. puretos, poo-ret-os'; from G4445; inflamed, i.e. (by impl.) feverish (as noun, fever):--fever.

4445. puresso, poo-res'-so; from G4443; to be on fire, i.e. (spec.) to have a fever:--be sick of a fever.

B. Notice How The Prognosis Of The Sickness Was Death

(John 4:47) When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

(John 4:49) The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

A. T. Robertson explains the certainty of the statement in verse 47…

For he was at the point of death ‎eemellen ‎‎gar ‎‎apothneeskein‎. Reason ‎gar ‎for the urgency. Imperfect active of ‎melloo ‎with present active infinitive old and common verb for what is about to be and it is used with the infinitive present as here, the aorist infinitive (Revelation 13:16), or the future infinitive (Acts 11:28). The idiom is used of the impending death of Jesus (John 11:51; 12:33; 18:32).

It may seem like the situation is beyond hope and beyond help. The object of our burden may seem “too far gone.” But our definition of ‘too far gone’ is not the same as Christ’s!

IV. His Power Is Not Constrained By Perception

(John 4:47–48)

A. Faith Was A Limited Element Here

(John 4:47) When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

John MacArthur said that…

Urgent need compelled this man to journey to Christ. … Having heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him. Perhaps he had heard of the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding at Cana some months earlier (2:1-11). Or he may have witnessed the signs Jesus performed at Jerusalem during Passover, or heard about them from Galilean pilgrims who had been there (2:23-25). Finding Jesus, he began frantically imploring Him to come down to Capernaum and heal his son. The imperfect tense of the verb erōtaō (was imploring) indicates that he repeatedly begged Jesus to cure his son’s disease. Swallowing his pride, this respected member of Herod’s court begged for help from a carpenter’s son (cf. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).

At this point, the official’s faith was little more than a desperate hope that led him to ask for Jesus’ intervention. His anxiety was certainly understandable, since his son was at the point of death. But his belief in Jesus was not yet driven by a desire for salvation for his own soul, but by desperation for his son.

The feebleness of his faith in Jesus’ ability to heal is underscored by two erroneous assumptions that he made about Him. First, unlike the centurion (Luke 7:6-7) and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), he assumed Jesus had to be physically present to heal his son. Second, he hoped Jesus had the power to heal his son’s illness, but had no hope that He could raise him from the dead. Those two assumptions were behind his insistance that Jesus come at once before it was too late.

B. Faith Was A Lacking Element Here

(John 4:48) Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

Again, MacArthur says…

Faced with the royal official’s fearful, feeble, imperfect faith and the unbelief of the Galileans in general, Jesus issued a stern rebuke: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The NASB rightly adds the italicized word people, since the verb translated see is plural. Jesus’ rebuke encompassed the royal official and all of the Galileans whose flawed faith disregarded His message and mission of salvation and focused instead on the sensational miracles He performed on their behalf.

The royal official ignored Jesus’ assessment of him and his fellow Galileans. Single-mindedly, he poured out his heart, exclaiming, “Sir, come down to Capernaum before my child (a more endearing, affectionate term than “son” [vv. 46-47]) dies.” Despite His stem rebuke of the kind of faith before Him, the Lord graciously performed the miracle, consequently drawing the official’s faith to a higher level. By healing his son physically, the Great Physician moved to heal the father spiritually.

A. T. Robertson explained that…

‎Jesus is not discounting his “signs and wonders” ‎seemeia ‎‎kai ‎‎terata‎, both words together here only in John, though common in the New Testament, … though he does seem disappointed that he is in Galilee regarded as a mere miracle worker.

Ye will in no wise believe ‎ou ‎‎mee ‎‎pisteuseete‎. Strong double negative with aorist active subjunctive of ‎pisteuoo‎, picturing the stubborn refusal of people to believe in Christ without miracles.

V. His Power Is Not Constrained By The Place

(John 4:46–54)

A. It Didn’t Matter That The Need Was In A Despised Place

(John 4:46-47) So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. {47} When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

Andrew Robert Fausset in his Bible Dictionary said…

Galilee’s Gentile character caused the southern Jews of purer blood to despise it (John 1:46; 7:52); but its very darkness was the Lord’s reason for vouchsafing to it more of the light of His presence and ministry than to self-satisfied and privileged Judaea. There He first publicly preached, in Nazareth synagogue. From it came His apostles (Acts 1:11; 2:7); foretold in Deuteronomy 33:18-19, 23. Compare on Pentecost Acts 2:7; Psalms 68:27-28. Jerusalem, the theocratic capital, might readily have known Messiah; to compensate less favored Galilee He ministered mostly there. Galilee’s debasement made its people feel their need of the Savior, a feeling unknown to the self-righteous Jews (Matthew 9:13). “The Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel,” appropriately ministered on the border land between Israel and the Gentiles, still on Israel’s territory, to which He was primarily sent (Matthew 15:24). Places and persons despised of men are honored of God. The region the first to be darkened by the Assyrian invasion was cheered by the prophet’s assurance that it should be the first enlightened by Immanuel (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Its population being the densest of any part of Palestine, and its freedom from priestly and pharisaic prejudice, were additional grounds for its receiving the larger share of His ministry.

(John 4:54) This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

Let me mention again what Warren Wiersbe said. That…

This was the second miracle He performed in Cana of Galilee (see John 2:1,11). He certainly gave those people special privileges.

B. It Didn’t Matter That The Need Was In A Distant Place

(John 4:50-53) Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. {51} And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. {52} Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. {53} So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

This means that he had traversed a distance of between twenty and twenty-five miles, so that there is no reason to treat with ridicule or regard as inexplicable the time taken for the return journey, or that a night should have been spent in the transit from Cana).

MacArthur writes…

Leaving Cana in the Galilean hill country, the official went down toward Capernaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee (about seven hundred feet below sea level). On the way, his slaves met him, already having left the town to find him and tell him the good news that his son was living (i.e., that he had recovered, not merely that he had not yet died). Overjoyed, the man inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. The servants replied, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The seventh hour would have been early afternoon, sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. in the broadest reckoning. By the time he left Cana and arrived in the vicinity of Capernaum, it was after midnight (yesterday).

Craig S. Keener, in the IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament said…

Long-distance miracles were rare by Old Testament, other Jewish and Greco-Roman standards; people generally believed prophets and Greek magicians more easily if they were present in person. The rare stories of long-distance miracles suggested to ancient readers that these miracle workers had extraordinary power.

Warren Wiersbe wrote…

This is one of several miracles that Jesus performed “at a distance.” He healed the centuries servant from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13, and note that he too lived in Capernaum), and He healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman in the same manner (Matthew 15:21-28). These two were Gentiles and, spiritually speaking, were “at a distance” (Ephesians 2:12-13). Perhaps this nobleman was also a Gentile. We do not know. …

Jesus showed His power over space. He was not limited simply because He was in Cana and the sick boy was in Capernaum. The fact that the father believed the word and did not know the results until the next day is evidence that he had confident faith. He trusted the word that Jesus spoke, and so should we.

Time and space are no barriers to the miracle-working power of Christ! He can reach out to the farthest place to touch that one that has such a great need.


It was interesting to me that in his Turning Points devotional for this weekend (March 19 & 20, 2011), David Jeremiah mentioned this very passage of scripture. And he said…

“The man took Jesus at His word and departed.” John 4:50 (NIV)

Now there’s a simple definition of faith. It’s taking Jesus at His word. The man had found Christ in the city of Cana and told him of his son, who was deathly sick back at Capernaum. Jesus simply said, “Go your way; your son lives.” The man didn’t stand there wringing his hands and wondering what to do next. He didn’t beg Jesus to travel to Capernaum. He didn’t ask for proof. He simply took Jesus at His word and departed. When he arrived home, he found that his son had recovered instantly the day before—at the very moment when Jesus had spoken the word.

Faith is trusting God with your burdens, knowing that your prayers are already answered (Isaiah 65:24). It’s being persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised (Romans 4:21). It is knowing that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). It’s being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Take Him at His word today.

“Oh, for more of that faith which will believe without seeing, which will take Christ at His word in spite of appearances the most adverse!” (Bishop J. C. Ryle)

Do you have a desperate need today? Come to Jesus! Ask Him! Trust Him!


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