In John 3–4, Jesus travels from Jerusalem through Samaria and to Galilee. Each place is punctuated with an encounter that shows us more of His person and power: the Jewish leader Nicodemus, the much-married Samaritan woman, and a desperate dad.
In John 4, Jesus is met by a nobleman from Capernaum. Being an official in a small Galilean town, the nobleman doubtless had heard how Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. Now, though, wine and weddings were the farthest thing from this man’s mind. His son was at the point of death, and the dad pleaded with Jesus to come quickly and save his child.
Years ago, my son nearly died. I was by his side in the ER during the whole gut-wrenching time. Seconds were like minutes, and minutes ticked away like hours before he pulled through. So, I can completely understand the visceral, desperate, impatient plea that this father made to Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. (vv. 48–50)
The nobleman couldn’t call home and check on his son’s condition, and he didn’t see any change of circumstances; he had to walk by faith, not by sight. The dad had twice asked Jesus to accompany him to his home, but the Lord did not do as He was asked. However, He did something far better. The nobleman would soon see that Jesus’ authority and mercy were not bound by space or time, and this moved him not just to believe Jesus would heal his son but to believe on Jesus: “And he himself believed, and all his household” (v. 53). Even though Christ did not physically come to his house, the man obeyed Jesus’ word, saw His work, and felt His presence. And it changed him forever.
It gives both comfort and confidence in prayer to know that God is God—and we are not. If God simply and always answered prayer to our liking and in our timing, He would be no more than a god made in our likeness. But God’s sovereign power and timing and His steadfast love are matched with an open invitation for His children to call on Him. Even in hard circumstances and painful silences, we can take Him at His word and go on our way trusting the One “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,” for “how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). This cross-centered perspective is why the pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor could remind his coworkers in the midst of every kind of trial, “We have so often been disappointed that we must not be sure of anything, save of God’s help and presence which He will never withhold.”