The Second “Sign” in Galilee (John 4:43-54)

At the seven-day festival following the Passover, the Galileans present for the observance had witnessed Jesus’ activity in Jerusalem, including his miraculous signs and his cleansing the temple of commercial activity. Based on what they had seen, they welcomed him. (John 4:45)

Arriving in Cana, where he had earlier turned water into wine, he met a royal official from Capernaum, where Peter and Andrew and seemingly also James and John resided. This official’s son was seriously ill. Upon learning that Jesus had come from Judea, this man set out to meet him, requesting that he come to Capernaum to heal his boy who was then close to death. (4:46, 47)

Jesus responded, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” (John 4:48) According to the Greek text, the verbs are second person verbs, not the singular (“you see” and “you believe”). This suggests that Jesus’ words were designed to test the genuineness of the royal official’s faith. Was the man like the many others who personally wanted to see signs and wonders before they would put faith in Jesus?

This official’s next words reflected the desperate plea of a father for his son and the belief that Jesus alone could cure him. “Sir [or, Lord], come down before my boy dies.” Instead of accompanying the father back to Capernaum, Jesus told him to return, assuring him, “Your son lives.” He believed what Jesus told him and departed. The measure of faith he had then manifested was strengthened during the trip back to Capernaum. While he was on his way, his slaves met him, telling him that his son was alive and well. In response to his inquiry about when his son’s health improved, the slaves said, “Yesterday, in the seventh hour [about 1:00 p.m., according to Jewish reckoning], the fever left him.” This was the very time Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” Therefore, he “believed” (evidently in Jesus and with greater conviction than he had upon first heading back to Capernaum) and so did his household. (4:49-53)

This was the “second sign” Jesus performed in Galilee, and the first one since his return from Judea. How many miracles Jesus did earlier in Judea is not disclosed in the biblical accounts. (John 4:54) Like the other miracles, the “second sign” served to identify Jesus as the Son of God. It demonstrated the greatness of the divine power operating through him, as he did not have to be present personally for the cure to occur.