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March 1, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

The second sign recorded in the Gospel of John at least begins, as the first, in Cana.  However it is a year later in AD 27.  Jesus has again returned from Jerusalem where he had celebrated Passover and began his public ministry with a cleansing of the Temple, provoking the powers that be.

His actions at Jerusalem caught the interest of a member of the Sanhedrin who would later become a faithful follower of Jesus as Messiah of Israel.  His name was Nicodemus, and his conversation with the young rabbi is a centerpiece of the Gospel of John.

Jesus took the high road in traveling back north to the Galilee.  This was not the usual path for Galilean pilgrims.  It ran along the mountain ridges and passed through Ai, Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem.  As he passed through Samaria he encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  He bypassed Nazareth and went north some ten miles to Cana.  Here he had friends and perhaps relatives.  John simply mentions offhanded, “For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his hometown (4:44).”

Cana is west of Capernaum some twenty miles and the Galilee Mountains rise between them.  Capernaum is on the Kinoret, or the Sea of Galilee.  It is a fishing town and the home of several of the Disciples.  Somehow the word gets out in Capernaum that Jesus is staying at Cana.  Capernaum is also a border town between the territory of Herod Antipas and Herod Phillip so that it is the residence of royal officials who watch over the tax situation.  One of those officials has a sick son.  He is referred to as a “basilikos,” meaning one of royal blood, or a servant of the king.  It is at least a full day’s hike between Cana and Capernaum, but this official has enough faith in Jesus and enough love for his son that the difficulty of the journey is no obstacle.  He pleads with Jesus to “come down” and heal his son.  John is very familiar with the geography of the Galilee.

Jesus does not make the journey.  However, he assures this royal official that, “your son will live.”  It is enough for this loving father.  He makes the long journey back and down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  It involves an overnight somewhere along the way, but as he approached home his servants meet him with the good news that his son was recovering.  He asks them when the turning point came.  He is told that the fever broke at the seventh hour.  This would be at one o’clock in the afternoon.   This was the very hour that Jesus had declared his son would live.

Our royal official had believed enough in this Galilean healer to make the journey.  However, the evidence was now clear to him that this was not merely a holy man.  He had power over the causes of disease.  He could command a cure.  John calls it the “second sign.”  The first sign demonstrated Jesus’ power over the inanimate aspects of creation.  He could call forth wine out of mere water.  The second sign demonstrates his ability to command the forces that involve living things.  He can heal our diseases.  This calls forth a deeper faith which influences the entire household.   This man has access to the creative power of God himself.  He speaks and it is.  “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs