Ministry in Galilee
“The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed, and all his household” (v. 53).- John 4:43–54
Today’s passage explains that Jesus left for Galilee after finishing His ministry in Samaria (John 4:43). Immediately after reporting on Christ’s departure for Galilee, however, John includes a parenthetical comment that Jesus had no honor in His own “hometown,” which is more accurately translated as “country” (v. 44). This statement has perplexed many commentators because John also reports that Jesus was welcomed in Galilee, His own country where He grew up in the town of Nazareth (v. 45). Furthermore, great crowds followed Jesus when He ministered in Galilee (Matt. 4:23).
What, then, did Jesus mean about being unwelcome in His own country? First, not everyone in Galilee was so welcoming of our Lord. His hometown of Nazareth, for example, largely rejected Him (13:53–58). Second, there is a sense in which even those who seemed to welcome Jesus did not really welcome Him at all. We have already seen that many Jews looked for Jesus not to believe in Him as Messiah but to see His signs and wonders (John 2:23–25). Jesus moved from Samaria, where Samaritans believed in Him, to Galilee, where many Jews rejected Him. So, John includes the comment about Jesus’ rejection as a reminder that the Jews to whom Jesus first came largely refused Him. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John that “people often welcomed Jesus when they happened to be looking for signs and wonders, but they gave Him no real honor as the Messiah.”
Of course, this is not to say that signs and miracles cannot be used of God to create and strengthen faith. Our Creator used signs for that purpose, as today’s passage reveals. In Galilee, Jesus met a royal official—probably an adviser to the local ruler Herod Antipas—who begged our Savior to heal his dying son (4:46–47). Jesus in His initial response seemed to be rebuking the man for requiring signs in order to believe (v. 48), which is in line with His later pronouncement of blessing upon those who have not seen Him in the flesh and yet believe (20:29). But the problem is not in desiring to see the Lord do a supernatural work, for God tells us to ask Him for healing (James 5:13–15). The problem is when we seek signs as ends in themselves or when miracles are the sole foundation of our faith and not the promises of God. This was not the case for the royal official in today’s passage. He took Jesus at His word that He would heal his son before he was actually healed; the miracle then confirmed faith that was already present (John 4:49–54).
What is the foundation of your faith? The signs and wonders recorded in Scripture can help confirm our faith, but they are by themselves no sure foundation for faith. We know, in fact, that many people saw Jesus do great signs and yet never believed. Our faith must be grounded in the promises of God. When we are convinced of His trustworthiness, our faith will persevere.
Passages for Further Study