Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Encounters: a royal official

When Jesus leaves the woman at the well and is travelling on to Galilee, he is met by a royal official, possibly an official from Herod's court. This man's son is gravely ill, and the official has sought out Jesus on the basis of all the healings that Jesus has performed. He implores Jesus to heal the child.

In this account we see a slight shift in the reasons that Jesus is approached. Both Nicodemus and the woman at the well were searching for something for themselves. In the case of the royal official, he was seeking healing for his son, so was petitioning on behalf of someone else. Of course, being the child's father, he was desirious of healing for the child for his own reasons too- he would suffer enormous grief if the child died.

One of the worst experiences in life is to see a loved one suffer, particularly your own child. Most parents of terminally ill or disabled children would desperately desire to see their child healed and well. Jesus' healing of this child indicates that it is quite correct to intercede on the behalf of others for healing.

In verse 48 of chapter 4, we read " Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, Jesus told him, "you will never believe". The man sought out Jesus because he was desperate and because he had heard that this man healed. Similarly today there are those who seek the gifts rather than the giver - healing, prosperity, blessings, rather than relationship.

A deep truth that we can perhaps gain from this account is Jesus' attitude to this kind of seeking. He may well give the desired gift. Yet perhaps He is even more pleased with those who seek Him, beyond what He can give or withhold.

This may perhaps help us to understand a little of the complexity of responses to prayer. Some Christians pray earnestly for healing for loved ones, which does not come in this life. Some seem to be called to bear the pain of disability or illness or to grieve the effects of the same in the life of a loved one. We can choose to become embittered by this, or it can draw us more closely in relationship with God.  Our dependency upon His sufficiency increases. Our values become more closely aligned with His.

But for those whose prayers are answered in the way that they expect, like the royal official, they have every reason to rejoice and believe in the One who has blessed them. When trouble struck, the royal official could not trust in his position or wealth or connections. He could only place his trust in an itinerant carpenter who called Himself the Son of God, and his trust was firmly given to the right person.

 Recently I was touched deeply by an account on the subject of healing written by Nathan Fischner, a man with spina bifida. It can be accessed through the blog of Josh Broward - Humble Future- at the following link

Josh's blog is one which continually challenges, informs and inspires on a variety of Christian issues.

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