When God says ‘No’
Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’
John 4:46-48 (NRSVA)
It has to be said: Christ does seem to be overly harsh here. After all, the poor man was only seeking help for his son. Yet, Jesus responds with a criticism. His tough words stand out all the more in the Gospel that tells us: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…’ (John 3:16). What had the official done wrong?
Jesus didn’t say these things because he felt particularly grumpy that day. In the Gospel of John, Jesus often made challenging statements. Take, for example, Jesus’ pointed comments to Nicodemus about his lack of understanding in John chapter 3. Jesus made these statements to force his audience to think – and in turn make us pause and think too.
The official knew exactly what he needed to do: he was going to get Jesus to visit his house and heal his son. Perhaps this man was used to people doing what he wanted. After all, he was a royal official, someone who had Herod’s authority to back him up. But Jesus’ penetrating criticism brought the official’s plans to a halt. It was then, and only then, that the official could hear what Jesus had to say. The events of that day were to follow God’s design rather than the wishes of an official, however important he was.
And this is where we come in. We have our plans, designs and ambitions and we want God to bless them. But the ‘noise’ of all our desires crowd out the content of God’s message to us; we only hear what we want to hear. Sometimes, we need God to bring us to a halt so that we begin to listen to his voice more clearly. God loves us. His love doesn’t give in to what we want; instead God always supplies us with what we really need. Those moments when God cries ‘stop’ are when his love for us shines through, even if it feels hurtful at the time.
Jesus told the official that his son would live. No, Jesus was not going to follow him back home. Instead, the official needed to believe and accept Jesus’ word. We too are invited to accept Christ’s word for our circumstances. It may not be what we want to happen, but we will be participating with what God is doing. And what can be more important than that?
Father, help us to understand what you are doing today. Sometimes it is hard for us to listen to your voice when we are busy with our own agendas for the day. Open our eyes to see; open our hearts to listen. We turn our day over to you through the one who truly knows your heart at all times: Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Study by Ian Woodley
About the writer:
Ian Woodley is a Minister in the Edinburgh congregation of Grace Communion International
Gilmerton New Church
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: