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Just for Certain Ones
“Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.” (John 4:43-54)
Grace is not for everybody, but just for certain ones. If you read the Bible with your eyes open, that fact cannot be missed. It is as plain as the nose on your face. We read in Matthew 9:18 of “a certain ruler” by the name of Jairus to whom the Lord Jesus was merciful. He was in desperate need. His daughter was dead. No one could help him, but the Lord Jesus. As the Savior was going to Jairus’ house, he was detained by “a certain woman,” who had been plagued with an issue of blood for twelve years (Mark 5:25). How great her need! How desperate she was! She had spent all her living on physicians of no value, and only grew worse. The only hope she had was that the Lord Jesus would be gracious to her.
Then, there was “a certain man” whose son was a lunatic (Matthew 17:14-21), who came kneeling before the Savior, crying for mercy for his son. Who would not pity this poor man? How desperately he needed mercy! His boy was grievously vexed of the Devil. Then there was “a certain woman” (Mark 7:25), a Syrophenician, a Gentile, whose young daughter was possessed of an unclean spirit. She had no right to expect anything from the King of Israel. She was a Gentile dog. But, because her need was desperate, because the only hope she had was the grace of Christ, she took her place at his feet, under his table, as his dog. That poor, desperately needy soul would be satisfied with any crumb of mercy that he might toss on the floor in her direction.
There was “a certain centurion’s servant” (Luke 7:2), who was at the point of death. “A certain man” (Luke 8:27) dwelling among the tombs, possessed by a legion of devils, a wild man. How desperate was his need! “A certain man” (Luke 14:2) had the dropsy. We read of “a certain beggar” (Luke 16) named Lazarus. As the Lord Jesus came into Jericho there was “a certain blind man” (Luke 18:35) sitting by the roadside begging.
In The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) our Lord Jesus describes all those whom he came to save under the image of “a certain man” who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, who stripped him, robbed him, wounded him, and left him half dead in desperate need. I repeat — Grace is not for everybody, but just for certain ones. Grace is for poor sinners in desperate need of grace, sinners who must have the mercy of God, who must have grace, who must have Christ.
“Leprous souls, unsound and filthy,
Come to Jesus as you are:
`Tis the sick man, not the healthy,
Needs the great Physician’s care.
O beware of trust ill-grounded
`Tis but fancied faith at most:
To be cured and not be wounded,
Is to be found before you’re lost.”
— Joseph Hart
“Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.” — If you look back to the beginning of this chapter (vv. 1-3), you will see that our Savior was on his way to Galilee, when he was detained for two days in Samaria. He was detained there because the time had come for the salvation of many of God’s elect among the Samaritans. The Lord Jesus spent two wonderful days in Samaria, raining mercy from heaven and gathering flowers of grace. Seven great lessons are stamped out in bold letters in these last twelve verses of John 4. May God the Holy Ghost write them upon our hearts and fix them in our memories, that we may use them continually as we journey through this world of time and trouble.
Prophets and Honor
The first lesson taught here is about prophets and honor. God’s prophets do not seek or want the honor of the world; but none should be honored more by men than those men who faithfully minister to the needs of their immortal souls. Yet, our Lord Jesus testified repeatedly “that a prophet hath no honour in his own country” (v. 44).
Our Savior went back to Galilee, but not to Nazareth, his home, where he was despised and rejected. Rather, he went back to Cana, where he performed his first miracle, where men and women, “having seen all the things that he did,” received him. The people of Nazareth despised God’s Word and lost it forever. In Cana of Galilee, where the Lord Jesus began to show forth his glory by making the water wine, needy souls believed him and received God’s Word. Here John tells us that our Savior returned to that place where he was honored as God’s Messenger, as God’s Prophet. And here, again, we are taught that prophets, Gospel preachers, ought to be highly honored because they are God’s servants. They should be honored because of the Gospel they preach. As God the Holy Ghost puts it, they should be highly esteemed in love for their work’s sake (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17).
Though God’s prophets should be highly esteemed and honored, they are more commonly held in contempt than honored, especially by those of their own country and kin (Luke 4:24; Matthew 13:57). Joseph, when he began to be a prophet, was hated by his brothers. David’s brothers looked upon him with utter disdain (1 Samuel 17:28). Jeremiah was maligned by the men of Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21). Paul was despised by his countrymen, the Jews. And our Lord’s near kinsmen spoke of him with contempt (John 7:5). His family friends said, “He is beside himself” (Mark 3:21).
Men do not like to receive instruction from their peers, let alone reproof; and they are insulted by the instruction and reproof of one they consider less than a peer. Matthew Henry rightly observed, “Desire of novelty and of that which is farfetched and dear bought, and seems to drop out of the sky to them, makes them despise those” they know well. Proud religious men love titles of honor, but despise truth. Proud well-educated men love academic degrees, but despise dogmatism. Proud unlearned men love higher education, but despise heavenly enlightenment.
Look at what we are told about these Galileans, these country folk, these hillbillies, these redneck hicks from Galilee. In verse 45, the Spirit of God tells us that they received the Lord Jesus, welcomed him, believed him, and cheerfully embraced his doctrine. The reason given is that the Galileans had seen all the things the Savior did at Jerusalem.
They went up to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. The Galileans lived a long distance from Jerusalem. Their road to Jerusalem took them straight through Samaria; and no Jew wanted to walk through Samaria. Yet, in obedience to God’s command, they went up to the feast; and there they became acquainted with the Lord Jesus. At Jerusalem, they saw the Savior’s miracles, his wondrous works.
Second, we are reminded in verse 46 that our Lord Jesus’ first miracle was performed in Cana of Galilee, and that he “made the water wine.” There is a lesson here about things our God transforms, things he makes what they were not before, things entirely transformed. We are told here that our Savior “made the water wine.” He did not make the water look like wine. He “made the water wine.” He did not make the water taste like wine. He “made the water wine.” He did not make the water appear to be wine. He “made the water wine.” He did not treat the water as though it were wine. He “made the water wine.” And he did not make the water bear the consequences of being wine. He “made the water wine.”
The word “made” refers to a single act and means “caused to be” or “caused to become.” It refers to a complete transformation of something. This is exactly the same word used in the first part of 2 Corinthians 5:21, where we are told that Christ was “made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” I want you to see something here. The Lord Jesus was made (caused to be, caused to become) sin for us. When he was made sin, our sin was imputed to him, and he bore all the guilt of our sins, as our Substitute. Otherwise, the Lord God could never have punished him for our sins (Proverbs 17:15).
The word translated “made” in the second part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is another word altogether. When the Holy Ghost speaks of God making us righteous as the result of Christ being “made sin,” the word translated “made” means “to generate,” “cause to come into being,” “to finish,” and “to fulfil.” Thus, like the water in Cana of Galilee, our Lord Jesus was made sin that he might be made a curse (Galatians 3:13) for us and die in our place. As the result of that, all for whom he died are generated to righteousness by grace, born again as righteous ones, made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Faith and the Word
Third, we have before us a very important lesson about true faith and the Word of God. Saving faith involves hearing, seeing, and believing; and that faith is God’s work and God’s gift.
The Galileans believed because they saw all the things Christ did at Jerusalem. If ever you come to trust the Lord Jesus, it will be because God the Holy Spirit has caused you to see all the things Christ did at Jerusalem, when he laid down his life for his sheep. You will be caused to see, by divine revelation, that the Lord Jesus Christ satisfied justice by his substitutionary death, put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, brought in everlasting righteousness by his obedience as our Representative and Surety, saved his people from their sins, redeemed his elect, and glorified God
And this certain nobleman came to the Savior for mercy, because he “heard that Jesus was come.” — “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25). This fact needs to be emphasized. Faith in Christ comes by hearing the Word of God preached. This faith in Christ is created in the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners by God the Holy Ghost, by the instrumentality of Gospel preaching (1 Peter 1:25). Did you notice that our Savior said to this nobleman, “Except ye see sign and wonders, ye will not believe” (v. 48). He could not believe because he would not believe; and he would not believe because he could not believe. Yet, when the Lord Jesus said to him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth…The man believed the Word that Jesus had spoken” (v. 50). The Word spoken came home to his heart with Divine, irresistible power, causing him to believe.
There is something else taught in this passage by the Spirit of God that is commonly overlooked. I do not want you to miss it. It is a sweet, blessed thing to learn. — Our Savior’s word is as good as his presence. The Lord Jesus did not go down to Capernaum to see the nobleman’s sick son, but only spoke the word, “Thy son liveth.” Omnipotent power went with that short sentence. That very hour the boy began to get better. Christ spoke, and the cure was done. Christ commanded, and the deadly disease was halted.
That fact is full of comfort. It gives enormous value to every promise of mercy, grace, and peace, which ever fell from Christ’s lips. If we build our hope upon the Savior’s Word, we are built upon a Rock that he has exalted above his very name (Psalm 138:2).
What Christ has said, he is able to do. What he has undertaken, he will perform. What he has promised, he will make good. The sinner who rests his soul upon the Word of the Lord Jesus is safe to all eternity. He could not be safer, if he saw his name written in the book of life with his own eyes. The Lord Jesus Christ has said, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” I have come, and he will never cast me out. In all earthly things seeing is believing; but in Gospel matters believing is seeing!
Parents and Children
Read John 4:43-54 again, and see a fourth lesson. It is a lesson about parents and children, a lesson about parenting. Let all who are parents do as this nobleman did. Flee away to the Lord Jesus in earnest, importunate prayer, carrying your little ones, dead in trespasses and in sins, to the Savior for mercy.
There is something that stands out here and throughout the New Testament that ought to be encouraging to every mother and father. — Never once did a mother or father bring the needs of a child to the Savior who did not obtain for his child the mercy he sought.
O believing parent of soul-sick children, bring your sick darlings to the Lord Jesus. Cast them at his feet and beg his mercy for them!
Providence and Grace
Fifth, there is a lesson here about providence and grace. As the Word of Christ was proved to the nobleman by the witness of his servants, so God’s providence often proves his Word. — O that we had eyes to see it! And as the sickness of the nobleman’s son brought him to the Savior, so God’s afflictive providences are often the means by which he hedges about his elect and sweetly forces them into the Savior’s arms.
We recognize that judgment never produces repentance. Yet, the Scriptures do teach, and teach very clearly, that our God graciously arranges all the affairs of providence to graciously compel chosen sinners to seek his mercy. That is exactly what we read in Psalm 107:1-43.
What benefits affliction often bring on our souls! Anxiety about his son brought this nobleman to Christ, in order to obtain help in time of need. Once in the Savior’s company, he learned a lesson of priceless value. In the end, “he believed, and his whole house.” All this, remember, was brought about as a result of the son’s sickness.
Affliction is one of God’s medicines. By adversity, the Lord often teaches us things that cannot be learned any other way. He will not hesitate to burn your barley fields to get you; and if he does, you will thank him for burning your fields. Thousands have ruined themselves, only to be healed by Christ. Untold multitudes have learned grace by the things they have suffered, and obedience by the rod of sorrow.
Let us beware of murmuring in times of trouble. May God settle it firmly in our hearts, that there is a needs-be for every tear and a message from God in every sorrow that falls upon us. J. C. Ryle rightly observed, “There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction. There is no commentary that opens up the Bible so much as sickness and sorrow.” The resurrection morning will prove that all our losses were, in reality, eternal gains (Hebrews 12:11; 1 Peter 1:3-7).
“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!...The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” (Psalm 107:31, 42-43)
Riches and Sorrow
Sixth, we see in this passage that rich noblemen have the same sorrows as the poor nobodies. This rich nobleman was in great pain. His darling son was dying. His money did not help. His noble standing in society gave him no comfort. He was born into nobility and rich beyond imagination; but his son lay dying; and he couldn’t do anything to help his dying son.
Wealth does not bring happiness. Someone once said, “Silks and satins often cover very heavy hearts.” Those who live high often sleep little. Gold and silver cannot prevent pain, trouble, and sorrow; and cannot make them more bearable. The higher the tree, the more it is shaken in the storm. The broader its branches, the bigger target it is for the strike of the lightning bolt. David was a happier man when he kept his father’s sheep at Bethlehem, than when he dwelt as a king at Jerusalem and ruled the twelve tribes of Israel.
Wealth and distinction are not things to be sought. If God puts these things in your hands, you have a very great responsibility to use them for good; but do not seek them. Seek grace. Seek mercy. Seek Christ. Seek usefulness. But do not seek wealth. Do not seek honor (Colossians 3:1-3).
Death and Age
Seventh, we have before us a very sobering lesson about death and age. Here’s the lesson — Death does not wait for old age. Sickness and death come to the young as well as to the old. Here is a son sick unto death and a helpless, healthy father watching. The boy is going to the grave. The father is about to bury the son.
The lesson is one we are slow to learn. We all shut our eyes to plain facts, and speak and act as if young people do not die. Yet, the grave-markers in every cemetery tell a different story. The first grave that ever was dug on this earth was that of a young man. The first person who ever died was not a father, but a son. Aaron lost two sons at once. David, the man after God’s own heart, lived long enough to see three children buried. Job was deprived of all his children in one day.
These things were carefully recorded for our learning. They stand as blazing beacons, saying to all, “Prepare to meet thy God! — Tomorrow thou shalt die!”