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The Nobleman's Son.
This lesson, though it follows the last without a break in John's Gospel, is thought to be separated in time by a short interval from the last. It will be noted that Jesus, on leaving Samaria, does not return to his old home at Nazareth, the home of his mother and brethren, but goes to Cana, where he made the water wine, the home of Nathanael or Bartholomew, one of his disciples. It is well known that John did not aim to give a full history of the words and deeds of Jesus (John 21:25), but rather to supply what had been omitted by Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is thought by many that the teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth, related in Luke 4:16–30, occurred at 80this time, immediately after his departure from Samaria. It certainly occurred early in his ministry, and it is probable that it was at this time. If this view is correct, Jesus passed a Sabbath, soon after his sojourn at Sychar, at his old home, and attended the synagogue where he had often worshiped; was handed the Scripture to read the lesson of the day, as a teacher of established fame; read from Isaiah and spoke words that were at first listened to with profound attention, but soon with disapproval; and when he rebuked sternly the implied demand that he should work a miracle for their gratification, they rose in an angry mob and endeavored to take his life. Passing from their midst, by the exercise of a power, either moral or supernatural, which he often exerted, he turned his back on Nazareth never to return. “For,” says John, “Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country.” Therefore he went into other parts of Galilee. This view is made more probable by the fact that in going from Sychar to Cana, Jesus would pass either through, or very near to Nazareth, it lying almost directly between the two former places. See also Matt. 13:57; Mark 6:4, and Luke 4:24, in each of which passages the same statement is made as in verse 44 by John, and in each case refers to the rejection of Christ by the people of Nazareth.
The return of Jesus brings him once more in that part of Palestine in which his youth was passed and where, until the last year of his ministry, he did most of his teachings and wrought most of his miracles. Though Nazareth might be filled with narrow prejudice against the exalted claims of the boy who had grown up in the humble carpenter's family, whom it had seen so often playing on its hills, or had beheld in his manhood working at the bench, and who, it knew, had never attended any of the great schools of Jewish theology, yet the Galileans, as a body, were far more disposed to listen with favor to his teachings than the proud Jews of the national capital. Though Galilee was not free from its conflicts, yet it furnished Christ all the apostles but one, and that one proved a traitor, and we find evidence that his teachings exerted a profound effect on the Galilean mind in the fact that, after his resurrection, “five hundred brethren at once” were permitted to behold the risen Lord in Galilee. The Galileans, remote from the influence of the temple, and brought into closer contact with Gentile influences, were less prejudiced and narrow, more simple in their faith, and of more open hearts than the Jerusalem Jews. It was among this teachable people that the Savior seemed to love to linger; there was Capernaum “his own city,” there he fed the five thousand who attended his ministry on two different occasions, there the transfiguration occurred, there the enthusiastic multitudes sought to make him a king by force, and when on the last Sunday of his earthly ministry he made his entry as a king into Jerusalem, the multitude who surrounded him were mostly Galileans. (Joh 4:43)
43. After two days he departed thence and went into Galilee. Two days were spent delightfully in sowing the seed of the kingdom in the “good ground” of the Samaritan hearts. Then he went on to Galilee, for which he had started, and 81which he had left about eight months before. Luke 4:14, 15, which probably refers to this time, makes it probable that he spent a short time teaching elsewhere before reaching Nazareth. (Joh 4:44)
44. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. The “for” explains why Jesus did not tarry at Nazareth, but went to other parts of Galilee and stopped at Capernaum. This statement of Jesus is recorded four times and in three of these certainly refers to the rejection of Jesus by his neighbors and kindred at Nazareth (see Matt. 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24). This must be its meaning here, and is evidently based on the incident recorded in Luke 4:14–30. It declares a general truth. Judea persecuted Isaiah and Jeremiah; Israel, Elijah; Columbus had to go to a foreign land to got help to discover America. The interpretation of this passage, suggested by comparison with the parallel passages, that it explains his turning aside from Nazareth to sojourn elsewhere, is so easy and natural that it is a surprise to the writer that so many commentators reject it for far-fetched and complicated explanations. (Joh 4:45)
45. When he was come into Galilee the Galileans received him. He had honor abroad in Galilee, though rejected at his own home. The ready reception of the Galileans is explained in the statement that they had seen all that he had done at the feast, his cleansing of the temple, and his miracles. John explains, for the benefit of Gentile readers, that “the Galileans also attended the feast,” as was customary with all devout Israelites. The hearty reception of the Galileans is in striking contrast with the opposition of the priests, Levites and rulers of Jerusalem. This helps us to understand why Jesus spent so large a portion of his ministry in Galilee and selected Galileans for his apostles. (Joh 4:46)
46. So Jesus came again to Cana, where he had made the water wine. It was the home of Nathanael, who, there is reason to believe, had followed him in his journey to Judea, and some think that it was now the home of Mary, but this is mere conjecture. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick. The Greek word translated “nobleman” is Basileukos, from Basileus, a king, and implies one connected in some way with royalty. “Origen thinks he may have been one of Cæsar's household, having business in Judea at this time. But the usage of Josephus is the safest guide. He uses the word Basileukos to distinguish the soldiers, or courtiers, or officers of the kings (Herod and others), but never to designate the royal family. He may have been Chuza, Herod's steward (Luke 8:3), but this is pure conjecture. This man seems to have been a Jew.—“Alford. He was probably a king's officer of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, and was stationed at Capernaum. Capernaum. The site of this city, so 82interesting as the “Lord's own city,” his earthly home for two years of his ministry, is certainly known. That of Cana is in dispute, but it was probably distant twenty or twenty-five miles from the former. Cana was in the hill country; Capernaum, “down” on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Hence Jesus is besought to “come down.” (Joh 4:47)
47. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea. Either he had been to Jerusalem to the feast, or he had heard of the deeds of Jesus from others. The fact that he comes, as soon as he heard of the return of the Lord, shows that he was already regarded as a prophet in Galilee. Note that: 1. The nobleman has already “faith as a grain of mustard seed” in Jesus; 2. That faith moves him to seek the aid of Jesus; 3. To make sure of his help he comes in person, instead of sending servants; 4. While he thought he could heal his son, he did not comprehend that it could be done unless Jesus came to where he was; 5. He thought it would be too late if the son died before his coming. His faith was very imperfect. (Joh 4:48)
48. Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. Jesus had just come from Sychar where, without a miracle, but because his words and character met the needs of their souls, the people believed on him and declared him “the Christ, the Savior of the world.” The nobleman, in his sore distress, has some faith, caused only by the fame of the “signs and wonders” wrought. His faith is still imperfect, far below the holy trust of the Samaritans. He is the type of a class whose belief depended on outward signs, while a higher, nobler faith, is that which recognizes in Jesus the Bread of life, that satisfies the hunger of the soul. A “sign” was a miracle wrought as a proof; the term “wonder” does not demand such a motive for the miracle. (Joh 4:49)
49. Sir, come down ere my child die. Fearing, by the Savior's reply, that he did not intend to grant his request, he makes an impassioned appeal. “Not a moment was to be lost. Soon it would be too late. Come down, at once, before the child is dead.” Christ is educating his faith. It is made more complete by the next utterance. (Joh 4:50)
50. Go thy way; thy son liveth. These words were spoken like the Son of God. There was no hesitation; no doubt; the fact is as firm as the hills of Cana. The manner of the Lord at once carried conviction to the heart of the sorrowing father. The man believed. At the time of his coming he had a partial belief that Jesus was a prophet; now he believes upon him; believes his word; believes 83that at the moment he said, “Thy son liveth,” his disease was arrested. He did not comprehend the Savior's mission and character, but he now had such faith in him that he was ready to accept all his words. (Joh 4:51)
51. And as he was going down. He did not hurry back. He might have reached Capernaum the same evening, as the Savior had dismissed him at one o'clock, but his anxiety was gone. It was on the next morning that his servants met him with the good news that his son was well. (Joh 4:52)
52. Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him. At the exact hour that Jesus had spoken the fever disappeared. The seventh hour is one o'clock. (Joh 4:53)
53. Himself believed, and his whole house. Henceforth this household was among the believers. It is a natural and pardonable curiosity that leads us to seek their further history. He was an officer of Herod, and the fact that “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward,” was one who ministered to him in his Galilean ministry, has suggested that he may have been the nobleman. Acts 13:1, names Manaen, “who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch,” as a prominent Christian of Antioch. He may have been the man whose son was healed. (Joh 4:54)
54. This is again the second miracle. The word is “sign” in the Greek. He had wrought other miracles in Judea, but this was the second wrought in Galilee. The seat of the first was Cana; the Lord was at Cana when he wrought the second, but the subject of it was at Capernaum.
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