With this result: “while he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, ‘The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour'” (John 2:51-52). The servants whom the official refused to send to Jesus in his place now entered the event. They have come to find their master, for his journey was no longer necessary: “his boy was living,” literally, “he lives.” He is healed, and well.
These servants had never met Jesus, and had no knowledge of his actions. They had no idea when Jesus had spoken his healing word. And so their testimony was objective and substantively compelling. It provided independent verification of this miracle, much as the servants in our first miracle did for Jesus’ work there.
They didn’t know the full import of their report, but their master did: “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live'” (v. 53a). The “seventh hour” would be either 1 p.m. (Jewish time) or 7 p.m. (Roman). Given that the nobleman met his servants the day after speaking with Jesus (v. 52, “The fever left him yesterday”), it is likely that Roman time was employed here. The father had begun the long trek home after hearing Jesus’ words, camped along the way, and now met his servants the next morning.
When he received their report, “he and all his household believed” (v. 53b). This was the best news a father could ever hear, and it turned him to his own Father. He “believed,” with trusting, saving faith. Before he had believed in Jesus as a healer; now he made him his Master and Lord. Before he had trusted Jesus for his son’s physical life; now he trusted him for his own eternal life.
Such faith was radical, revolutionary, and sacrificial. At the very least a Roman follower of this itinerant Jewish rabbi could expect no further advancement in his political career. At worst, assuming his refusal to worship Caesar as his lord, his career and even his life could be in jeopardy. And he knew all this at the beginning of his faith commitment.
But he made his decision anyway. And he led his family to do the same: “all his household believed.” This pagan oppressor of the Jewish people became the first person in the New Testament to lead his whole family to Christ. Later Lydia would win her family in Philippi to Jesus (Acts 16:15), as would the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33, 34) and Crispus, the synagogue ruler in Corinth (Acts 18:8). But this Roman soldier was the first. May fathers and mothers across our church and country follow his example today.
It is plausible that the Roman official did even more in the service of our Lord than we are told here. Luke tells us of a certain “Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household” (Luke 8:3). This Joanna was among “some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases” (v. 2), and were “helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3). If this nobleman was the Cuza identified by Luke, then we can infer that his faith led his wife to faith as well. And that the One who healed his son also healed his wife, and led her to sacrificial discipleship.
Another possible identification of our nobleman is found in Acts 13:1: “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manean (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Paul.” If Manean was the official of our story, we can trace his evolution of faith from the army of Herod to leadership in the church of Jesus.
Both possibilities are speculative, of course. We cannot know for certain the name of the Roman official in our story. But God does. And that’s all that matters.
Our pagan official teaches us today to remember all Jesus the ways Jesus has met our needs in the past, and trust him to meet them again today. He then shows us that we must trust in the word he gives us, with immediate and total faith. Such faith led the nobleman to the physical salvation of his son and the spiritual salvation of his entire family. Jesus healed a single body so he could heal many souls. He waits for another who will bring him similar faith, and receive a similar miracle.
Will Jesus always heal us?
So, does God always heal? Will he always do for us what he did for this father?
John concludes our text: “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee” (John 2:54). Not the second miracle Jesus did in total, for while our Lord was in Jerusalem for Passover “many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name” (John 2:23). Our miracle was the second performed by Jesus in the region of Cana (Hovey 128), and was the last “sign” John numbered in this way (Carson 239). But not the last miracle Jesus would do.
In coming weeks we will watch Jesus cure a paralytic, feed a multitude, walk on water, heal a blind man, raise the dead, and appear in his own resurrected glory. Most of us have experienced his miraculous power in our lives today. But does he always act in this way? Does he always heal our bodies, whenever we ask?
No. Jesus healed 40 people we can identify in the gospels, out of the thousands who were sick and dying. All of his disciples but one were executed for their faith, and he didn’t heal their bodies. Paul, the greatest theologian and missionary of all time, prayed three times that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed, but Jesus didn’t do what he asked (2 Corinthians 11:7-9). He doesn’t always heal our bodies. And even those he heals will die, unless he returns to earth first. Lazarus died again. The nobleman’s son died later. So will we.