Jesus Builds Our Insufficient Faith

Click here for: Link to the Outline of the Gospel of John

ESV  John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Week Five: The Second Sign–Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Link to John 4:43-54)

Recap: In the First Sign–the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)–Jesus showed himself to be the Son of God by demonstrating his control over the natural world itself. Only someone above and beyond the natural world, someone who is outside of and not part of the natural world, could change the very substance of matter from one molecule (water) to others (wine). Because God is invisible Spirit, and Jesus was also truly physical man, he is the Son of God, rather than God the Father.

What was the Second Sign?

The second sign pointing to the deity of Christ he also performed in Cana of Galilee. In this sign, Jesus heals a nobleman’s son, who was on his deathbed sick (John 4:47).

  • he completely healed him (John 4:50-51)
  • he did so by speaking a Word (3 words–“Your son lives.”) (John 4:50) (lives is present tense in Greek, not future–your son now lives)
  • he healed the man’s son from a distance of about 16 miles (the distance from Cana to Capernaum)
  • the father checked with his servants to ascertain that the healing occurred at the exact time when Jesus spoke the word (John 4:52-53)

Again, a long distance healing accomplished by speaking a word can only be performed by someone who is themself supernatural. Jesus Christ is this person.

Troublesome Questions

1. Was Jesus first reply to the nobleman a rebuke?

ESV  John 4:48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”


  • It sure sounds like one!
  • The commentators I have consulted agree that Jesus was rebuking the man.


John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

  • We know that Jesus is Love; therefore, any seeming rebuke does not have any sort of negative motivation whatsoever. We must search for a positive motivation.
  • The verses above show that Jesus came to bring life to dying people. All people die. He came to bring eternal life–

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

  • The pathway to eternal life is belief in Jesus as the Son of God.
  • The pathway to eternal life is NOT having seen a miracle, believing in miracles, or having one’s beloved son miraculously healed.
  • Jesus’ observation was that the religious people of that day, of whom the nobleman was one, were MISSING THE MARK.
  • He didn’t want them to miss out on eternal life by going for the EVIDENCE rather than the PRIZE. Christ is the prize; miracles are mere evidence whose purpose is to lead people to belief in Christ as Son of God. Jesus’ complaint (rebuke) is that saving belief was not there, dependent as it was on the constant presence of miracles. Miracles don’t save; Christ saves. The means is belief in Christ, whether or not one has a miracle.
  • Two more shortcomings of the nobleman: 1) he did not initially believe that Jesus could heal from a distance (a greater miracle than laying on hands), 2) nor did he believe that Jesus’ power could extend after death itself (he thought that Jesus needed to get there before his son died)

2. How did Jesus build the man’s insufficient faith?


  • Step One: He made the man wait. He did not go rushing down to heal the man’s son at the first request. Waiting is a struggle that exercises our faith muscles. Either our faith will grow, or we will give up in disbelief. The nobleman’s faith grew as he persisted in exercising the faith that he did already have.
    • Applications:
      • Are we prepared to wait for our miracle, or do we give up if we do not receive an immediate affirmative reply?
      • Do we place our faith, our trust, and our hope in the goodness and love of God and his Son, even when circumstances seem to say otherwise? (Example: How could a loving God permit such-and-such?)
  • Step Two: Jesus did heal the man’s son, but not the way the man had asked. As a result, the man’s faith in Jesus clearly grew.
    • Before this rebuke, the man believed that Jesus needed to be physically present in order to heal his son. After this rebuke, the man believed in Jesus’ word and in his power to heal at a great distance.

John 4:50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

  • Step Three: Finally, the man and his entire household believed that Jesus is the Son of God. They now have eternal life, which is far, far better than an extension of our temporary existence.
    • Applications:
      • How “miracle-dependent” is my faith in Christ? If the miracles dry up, does my faith also dry up?
      • Do I submit to the faith-growing discipline of being asked by God to wait for my miracle, to wait for his answer to my prayer?

A Word of Encouragement

Fortunately, God’s answers to our prayers for help are not dependent on our faulty faith. Did you know that Jesus never turned down anyone’s request for help or healing? The gospels record that he healed everyone who ever came to him. Jesus wants to build our faith, not destroy it. God knows just how much we can bear. He often allows us to have a bit more than we think we can bear, because he wants us to call out to him. Encourage yourself today by thinking about all the times God rescued you and answered your prayers with a yes! God loves his children.

For Further Study:

Both David and Paul were men whom God greatly loved. Both of these men received not just a delay but a NO to their request for healing.

  1. David’s son died. (2 Samuel 11:27-12:25)
  2. God did not heal Paul’s eyes. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

What does this tell us about the relationship between miracles and saving faith?



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