John 4:43-54 – Saving Faith and Spurious Faith

John 4:43–54 (ESV) — 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 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. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 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. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

This Diving Deeper lesson outline seeks to gain some understanding of the different kinds of belief we have encountered thus far in the Gospel of John.
  • Specifically, we have encountered those who believe in Christ’s works for personal benefit.
  • And then we have encountered those who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • The first is a Spurious Faith and the Second is a Saving Faith.
  • We begin, however, with one of John’s “hard sayings” followed by Jesus’ healing of the son.

1) TRAVELING

John 4:43–44 (ESV) — 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)

Jesus spent only two days in Samaria and then resumed His journey back to Galilee.
  • John then provides us with a very peculiar commentary in verse 44 (one of John’s “hard sayings”).
  • This is a “hard saying” because it presents us with at least (2) difficulties.

(1) He tells us that Jesus is going to Galilee because “he has no honor” there.
  • Yet he then tells us that “the Galileans welcomed him”.
  • So what is it rejection or welcoming?

(2) And even more peculiar is that the testimony of Jesus that John is referring to (Matt 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24) was actually the reason Jesus gives for leaving Nazareth in Galilee not arriving.
  • John alludes to Jesus’ testimony, and then has Jesus acting the exact opposite of the testimony being alluded to.
  • Why would Jesus leave for reason “A”, and then be shown to return for the very same reason?

It is important to reconcile these difficulties because how one does so affects how we understand the rest of our text today.
  • Scholars appear to be in agreement that what is needed in order to properly resolve these apparent difficulties is a correct understanding of the “where” John is referring to when he speaks of Jesus’ “hometown”.

D.A. Carson tells us that there are about 10 directions one can take here.
  • Some of the more prevalent are that John is talking about Jerusalem, Judea, or heaven.
  • And the most obvious option, my first guest, is Nazareth.
    o We know Jesus was forcefully rejected in Nazareth.
    o And as mentioned, we know that Jesus word’s alluded to by John refer to His rejection in Nazareth.

But, these views don’t help us understand the difficulties nor do they appreciate the broader context of chapter 4; specifically the Samarian interlude.
  • D.A. Carson, Andreas Kostenberger and John MacArthur all seem to agree about the “where” and Nazareth, Jerusalem, Judea and heaven are not really it at all.
  • BTW – this text presents us with an excellent example of the need for good commentaries.
 
So what is going on here and why is it so important to the rest of our text?
  • And how does it help us resolve the difficulties?

As stated earlier, the heart of the meaning rests with to what location John is referring to when he uses the Greek word “patris”.
  • In our text it is most often translated as “hometown”.
  • However, it can also mean “fatherland” or “homeland”.

The answer also hinges on John’s use of the Greek word “oun”.
  • In our text it is most often translated as “so”.
  • Grammatically, however, “oun” logically connects what is before it with what comes after it.
  • Therefore it is best understood as “therefore”.
  • In fact, Carson says that the 10 unlikely solutions “falter on the “oun” which in the Greek text begins v. 45”.

Given all this (and other considerations) we are left with the following possibility:
  • John intends to contrast the response of the Jews both in Galilee where he is returning and in Judea from whence He came with that of the Samaritans (a “Samaritan Sandwich” if you will – Jew-Samaritan-Jew).
  • In this is the case, “patris” here is referring to “fatherland” not “hometown”.
  • D.A. Carson puts it like this:
    o “A more plausible interpretation identifies patris with Galilee—indeed, not just with Galilee, but with Galilee as it represents Jewish soil over against Samaritan soil. Jesus’ ‘own country’, then, is Galilee and Judea, Jewish turf, as opposed to Samaria, from which he has just come. This obviously suits the immediate context…In Samaria Jesus has just enjoyed his first unqualified, unopposed, and open-hearted success. Now he returns to his own people (cf 1:11), and, consistent with the pattern developed so far, the response is at best ambiguous”.
    o John 1:11 (ESV) — 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

How does this take on verse 44 impact the meaning of the rest of our text and answer the difficulties?
  • Moving forward, we will soon find out.

John 4:45–46a (ESV) — 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 46a So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.
  • John refers back to Jerusalem about which he wrote in chapter 2, so we must also.
  • In chapter 2 we have Jesus’ first sign (water into wine); we have Jesus clearing out the temple; and then in John 2:23-25 we get a great deal of info to help us out.

John 2:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
  • (1) We learn that the “feast” (John 4:45) that brought everyone to Jerusalem was Passover.
  • (2) We learn that the “seen all that he had done” (John 4:45) is referring to the signs performed by Jesus.
    o John 20:30 (ESV) — 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
  • (3) We learn that there is a belief in Jesus that is not a saving belief.
    o Presumably, this belief, one based only on Jesus’ Works which has as its object Jesus the Healer not Jesus the Messiah, is the belief held by the Galileans and explains why they welcomed him.

So here is how the difficulties are answered and how verse 44 impacts the meaning of the rest of our text:
(1) The first difficulty is resolved because:
  • It turns out that verse 45 is not a positive commentary; John is being “deeply ironic” – D.A. Carson.
  • We saw last week in John 4:42 that many Samaritans came to have a right belief in Christ as Messiah based on His Words.
    o John 4:26 (ESV) — 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
    o John 4:42 (ESV) — 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
    o John 4:41 (ESV) — 41 And many more believed because of his word.
  • In contrast, our text today shows that the Galileans “welcome” Christ as Healer based on His Works.
  • This means that they merely “welcome” Jesus as the “signs” guy not as “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
  • And given our lesson on the “Two Whoevers”, one either trusts Jesus as Messiah or rejects Him.
    o So in this sense, their welcome is in fact a rejection!
  • Therefore, they are those to whom Jesus has not entrusted Himself (John 2:24).
  • Kostenberger puts it like this, “‘Receiving’ Jesus is not necessarily the same as accepting him, in keeping with the Johannine pattern of initial “faith” that is subsequently exposed as inadequate”.
    o Psalm 78:32 (ESV) — 32 In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.
    o Numbers 14:11 (ESV) — 11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?
    o John 12:37–38 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

(2) The second difficulty is resolved because:
  • “Jesus went to Galilee because the Galileans needed the gospel” – Boice.
    o In spite of their spurious belief which Jesus and John are condemning (John 4:48), they are still in need of the Gospel.
    o Remember, in spite of man’s heart, God “so loved the world” (John 2:24 & John 3:16)!
  • Moreover, Jesus’ leaving Galilee in the Synoptics because of the peoples’ unbelief was not an outright rejection.
    o Remember, he had not come to explicitly judge yet – the “Two Worlds” lesson (John 3:17).
  • Additionally, Jesus was being obedient to Scripture and he desired to do so.
    o Matthew 4:13–16 (ESV) — 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
    o Luke 13:34 (ESV) — 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
  • Finally, there were some Galileans that would come to a saving belief as demonstrated by Nathanael (John 1:43-51) and in our text today (John 4:53) – Words plus Works, Healer and Messiah.

And as we move on in our text, we see all of this play out with an official from Capernaum.

2) HEALING

John 4:46a–51 (ESV) — 46a And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 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. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.

It was two days journey from Samaria to Cana and Capernaum was 14 more miles than that, so evidently news spread fast that the wonder worker was in Galilee.
  • And the fact that the official traveled those 14 miles up hill (700’ elevation change) on his sick sons behalf, demonstrates how well known Jesus’ abilities were.

But, after the official asked Jesus to “come down and heal his son” (John 4:47), Jesus makes a seemingly curt statement that can now be completely understood give our lesson thus far.

Jesus tells the official, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48).
  • The “you” here refers to not just the official, but to the Galileans at large.
  • In other words, at this point the official was your typical Galilean who would gladly accept Jesus Works of healing but not his Words of Messianic claim.
  • He “welcomed” (John 4:45) his supernatural power, but did not “entrust himself” (John 2:24) to Jesus as Messiah.

But there is a subtle difference with the official.
  • Though Jesus identified him with the rest of the Galileans, we do get a sense of a seeking heart.
  • Even after Jesus exposed the nature of the official’s belief in Him as spurious in verse 48, the official was undeterred and asked Jesus again, “Sir, come down before my child dies” (John 4:49).
  • Jesus then made this surprising statement, “Go; your son will live” (John 4:50).
  • And the official’s response reveals there is something a little different about his heart.
  • John tells us that he “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him” (John 4:50).
  • Clearly the official’s words express a faith that is subtly different at this point than it was moments before.
    o Without seeing his son healed, he believed Jesus healed him.

Kostenberger puts it like this, “His urgent prayer for help (including come down: cf. notes on v. 47) wins the Master’s healing powers. The man accepts Jesus’ word and departs, thus demonstrating that he, unlike most Galileans, is not simply interested in signs and wonders (v. 48).
  • In other words, he “welcomed” (John 4:45) Jesus because of the power of His Works, but left Jesus believing in the power of His Word to perform His Works from a distance.
  • And in John 4:51, the official’s “subtly different” faith and Jesus’ power were both vindicated, “his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering”.

But was his “subtly different” faith a saving faith?
  • It seems it was about to be.
  • BTW – it seems to me that there is a subtle parallel with the official’s subtle faith at this point and the faith of Nathanael (John 1:49-50).
  • They came to have saving faith from a spurious faith.
    o Spurious – not valid or well-founded.
    o In the case of these parallels, spurious faith is a belief in Christ based on the Works of His supernatural power not on the truth of His Words as Messiah.

What is a Spurious Faith?
What does Jesus and John’s Gospel say about this Spurious Faith?
  • “In John’s Gospel, too much interest in the raw miracles themselves is spiritually dangerous (2:23–25; 6:26). Miracles cannot compel genuine faith (e.g. 11:45–46). But the apologetic value of miracles, though often exaggerated, should not be despised: Jesus himself can encourage faith on that basis, especially amongst those too skeptical to trust his word (10:38; 14:11)” – D.A. Carson.

(1) Spiritually Dangerous:
  • John 2:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
  • John 6:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?
  • John 10:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
  • John 7:27 (ESV) — 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” – AND – John 7:31 (ESV) — 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
    o A Spurious Faith can give false assurance that one has a Saving Faith (John 2:23-25).
    o A Spurious Faith can reject the Words of Christ while accepting His Works (John 6:28-30).
    o A Spurious Faith is man-centered not Christ-centered (John 10:25-26).
    o And as such, a Spurious Faith is vulnerable to “opposing evidence” (John 7:27 & 31).

(2) Cannot Compel Genuine Faith:
  • John 3:1–2 & 12(ESV) — 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” – BUT – 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
  • John 6:36 (ESV) — 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
  • John 11:45–46 (ESV) — 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
  • John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
    o It can compel interest, a following and even religiosity, but not a saving faith.

(3) Can Encourage Faith for Skeptics of His Word:
  • John 1:49–50 (ESV) —49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
  • John 10:37–38 (ESV) — 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
  • John 14:11 (ESV) — 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

3) SPURIOUS FAITH VS. SAVING FAITH

John 4:52–54 (ESV) — 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 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. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

We just saw that the official believed in the power of Jesus’ Words to perform long distance Works.
  • And on learning that his son’s healing did in fact occur, the official had an interesting response.
  • And I must confess at this point that I identify completely with the officials road to conversion.

On learning that his son was indeed healed, we are given no indication that he rejoices or worships Jesus.
  • Instead, what does the official do?
    o He seeks confirmation that Jesus was the source of the healing; that his belief in Jesus is an intellectually tenable one.
      * Contrast with Peter’s response in Luke 5:8-9.
    o The official appeals to a man centered authority – reasoning as adjudicated by one’s own criteria as opposed to Christ’s criteria.
    o Importantly, the official’s course of action is symptomatic of a Spurious Faith.
    o We will explore all of this more later.
  • And how does his investigation reveal that Jesus was the source of the healing?
    o It matches up the time of his son’s healing with the exact time Jesus told him “Go; your son will live” (John 4:50).

But to the official’s credit, what is yet another indication that his faith is subtly different from other Galileans?
  • The official still hasn’t seen his son with his own eyes yet.
  • His belief that Jesus did in fact heal his son is based on the words of his servants confirming the Words of Jesus.

And in finding confirmation of the truth of Jesus’ Words, the man and his household did what?
  • They “believed” (John 4:53).
  • The official moved from a Spurious Faith to a saving faith.

We must keep in mind a crucial fact when understanding the official’s movement from a Spurious Faith to a saving faith.
  • In John 3:3 we learned that one must be what to have saving faith?
    o Born Again.
    o So like any form of unbelief, a Spurious Faith can only lead to a saving faith if we are born again by the Spirit of God.
    o This means that no amount of well-reasoned evidence and confirmation can bring one to a saving faith!
      * Not easy to swallow for one who has come from a Spurious Faith to a saving faith.

So, one who comes to a saving faith from a Spurious Faith is like any other saved person.
  • A born again person who believes in Jesus the Messiah and His work on the cross.
  • But coming from a Spurious Faith to a saving faith is peculiar.

In fact, Jesus Himself acknowledges the existence of this Spurious Saving Faith when speaking to Thomas.
  • John 20:29 (ESV) — 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
  • And reference the “For the Skeptics of His Word” section above for more.

But why is it peculiar?
  • It carries with it baggage from the past.
  • The dangers inherent to it (as discussed earlier) continue to manifest themselves and “haunt” the saving faith.

The Baggage of a Spurious Saving Faith (speaking from experience):
(1) A Spurious Faith is at odds with a saving faith and it creates tension for a believer as long as it lingers.
  • A Spurious Saving Faith seeks too often to appeal to a man centered authority – reasoning as adjudicated by one’s own criteria as opposed to Christ’s criteria, as mentioned earlier.
  • The official believed Jesus healed his son because he found the position intellectually tenable.
(2) A Spurious Saving Faith hinders worship.
  • The official sought to confirm, but Peter fell to his knees in worship when confronted with Christ’s power.
  • And though it may be that the official eventually worshiped Jesus in this instance, as I can attest about my response to God, it was probably measured.
(3) A Spurious Saving Faith remains Spiritually Dangerous for the believer who has come out of it.
  • It can reject the Words of Christ while accepting His Works (John 6:28-30).
  • It is man-centered not Christ-centered (John 10:25-26).
  • And as such, it is vulnerable to “opposing evidence” (John 7:27 & 31).

To illuminate the baggage even more, we need to look at what a Saving Faith w/o any Spurious Faith Baggage is?
  • (1) It is a faith that accepts, irrespective of any man-centered reason, the Words of Jesus.
    o “In John believing Jesus or his words is believing in him, for proclaimer and proclaimed are the same, as the proclaimed himself meets and speaks with us. [Why? Because…] The act of God is word, and Jesus is this word-act (Jn. 1:1)” – TDNT.
  • (2) It is a faith whose reasoning is foolishness to the world; to a man-centered reason.
    o 1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (ESV) — 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
  • (3) It is a faith in which Jesus is the source of wisdom and knowledge!
    o Colossians 2:1–4 (ESV) — 1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.
    o So reason, wisdom and knowledge are rooted in Christ!
    o Therefore, the fact that we can reason at all demonstrates the truth of Christ.
    o In other words, without Him we couldn’t.

The foundation for the basing one’s reasoning and knowledge, not in the Works (signs and wonders) of Christ, or man, but in the Word of God can be found in Jesus own words.

Jesus (and John) provide this reason for us.
  • John 3:34 (ESV) — 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
  • John 12:49 (ESV) — 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
  • John 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
  • John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
    o Biblically speaking, this should be enough!

And it is for these reasons that Jesus says the following about His Words:
  • John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word [NOT WORKS] and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
  • John 5:47 (ESV) — 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
  • John 8:31 (ESV) — 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word [NOT WORKS], you are truly my disciples,

Lesson For Us:
  • (1) One coming from a Spurious Faith finds it difficult to abandon oneself to Living Inside Out as discussed a few weeks ago – a flow of Heart-Mind-Action.
    o There is still the thought, contrary to Paul’s words, that this type of living is “stupid” or “foolish”.
  • (2) “Jesus had said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” This statement was a true description of the thinking of vast numbers of men and women. The world even has it in a proverb, which says, “Seeing is believing.” The teaching of Jesus was that in spiritual things the order is reversed and that believing is seeing, for it is only as one believes in Jesus that he sees spiritual things happening” – James Boice.
    o And speaking from experience, this tension of trying to reconcile “seeing is believing” with “believing is seeing” can rob some of the joy out of one’s walk when out of balance.