The Seven Signs: Healing from Afar (John 4:46-54)

The number seven plays a prominent part in John’s writings. In the book of Revelation there are: seven churches (2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1, 3:7; 3:14), seven seals (6:1; 6:3; 6:5; 6:7; 6:9; 6:12; 8:1), seven trumpets (8:6-7; 8:8; 8:10; 8:12; 9:1; 9:13; 11:15), and seven beatitudes (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). In the book of 1 John there are: seven tests (1:6; 1:8; 1:10; 2:4; 2:6; 2:9; 4:20), and seven contrasts [light v. darkness (1:5-2:11); Father v. world (2:12-2:17); Christ v. antichrist (2:18; 2:28); good v. evil (2:29-3:10); spirit of truth v. spirit of error (4:1-4:6); true love v. false love (4:7-4:21); begotten v. unbegotten 5:1-5:21)].

In the book of John, there are seven “I am” statements made by Jesus: [1. Bread of life (6:35, 48); 2. Light of the world (8:12; 9:5); 3. Door (10:7, 9); 4: Good shepherd (10:11, 14); 5. Resurrection and life (11:25); 6. The way, the truth, and the life (14:6). 7. True vine (15:1)]. There are also seven signs to back up these seven statements (2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:1-14; 6:16-21; 9:1-41; 11:1-45). Today, we look at the second of the seven signs.

The Setting

The second sign involves two locations. Jesus is in Cana of Galilee, having recently returned from Judea. The one “sick,” and “at the point of death” is in Capernaum. The distance between these two places is about 20 miles, or a day’s journey by foot.

The father of the one sick is described as a “nobleman”. The word “‘basilikos” is used by Josephus, the Jewish historian, to denote a royal officer or servant, whether of civil, military, or household service” (Woods, A Commentary on John, p. 91). He, having heard that Jesus is relatively close by, travels to him and begs him to come down and heal his son (John 4:46-47).

Jesus replies, “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48). Ouch! It is possible that this man is not a real believer, but only turns to Jesus out of desperation. It is possible that Jesus understands this from the man’s heart (cf. John 2:25). However, it should be pointed out that “you” is plural. These words include the greater audience and masses. It is also possible that Jesus is simply saying that he does miracles so that they will believe, but that the message is more important than the miracle.

The father responds, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” (John 4:49). In other words, “I am not interested in theological discussions about my faith, at this point. All I know is that my son is about to die, and if you can do something, then I beg you please come with me. We are in a race against death.”

The Sign

Jesus tells the man “Go your way; your son lives” (John 4:50). Paraphrase: “My immediate presence is not required.” The man starts for Capernaum. He is met by some of his servants along the way. They come bearing good news. The fever had left the child on the seventh hour of the previous day, the same hour that Jesus had said, “Go your way; your son lives.”

Interesting note: “The father inquired of the servant when his son began to amend; that is, gradually get better. Evidently, he had not expected sudden and complete healing. His servants … pointed out that the fever ‘left’ him, i.e., had wholly vanished. The healing was total and complete” (ibid, p. 93).


  1.  Jesus knew and could do things even from a distance (John 1:47-48; 4:16-18; 4:49-53; 11:14; Luke 7:1-10).
  2. God at times may seem distant from us, specifically spatially. In reality, He is not. He is not limited by space.  Read Psalm 139:1-4; Proverb 15:3; Jeremiah 23:23-24.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Jesus, Miracles, Seven signs, Signs, Textual study and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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