Come, Before My Child Dies
It was a journey Jesus made many times in his lifetime.
Galilee to Judea, Judea to Galilee and back again. A traverse of about 90 miles depending upon origin and destination, a journey difficult though oft made. His first time to make this journey began in Nazareth in his mother's womb and culminated in the open smells of a stable in Bethlehem. The first sensations of his new body were the pleasant smells of animals and hay. A lowly place, yet a place of warmth and welcome. Such is the nature of low places. May we all know such places, for it is there we are reborn.
Jesus remained in Sychar, among the Samaritans, for two days before continuing his trek to Galilee, another two days travel to the small community of Cana. When he and his friends finally reached their destination, the Galileans welcomed them. They had heard of all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, including his adventures in Herod's temple, and they remembered how he had turned water to wine in their very presence.
Josiah ben Hadad, one of the officials of Herod's court, was in Cana when Jesus and his entourage arrived. His son lay close to death. Like most fathers, Josiah loved his son. Men, good men, are like that. They see more than a bit of themselves in their sons. They know the struggles of boys changing into men. They want to give them every possible opportunity to grow up better than they. A father takes joy in his son becoming an individual in his own right, in his own consequence, in his own persona. And a father's heart breaks when his son is hurt or incapacitated. Like so many others, Josiah had heard of Jesus' power to do extraordinary things. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son.
Jesus, however, was not in a receptive mood. He was tired from the trip, his mind on food and rest. He answered Josiah irritably, "Unless you people see miracles you will never believe!" Is that what Jesus really thought? Was he not aware of this man's profound pain? Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Why such an insensitive and surly retort? Is such a response commensurate with what we know of the qualities of gentleness, kindness and concern for one in pain?
Perhaps he was not aware.
For all Jesus knew, Josiah may have been no more than another of Herod's lackeys seeking a display, a show of magic. Is it not remarkable that the Son of God seemed so myopic on this occasion? But Jesus was human. Completely so. It is not remarkable that he could be tired and irritable. He existed and lived in a human body and was subject to all its frailties. Essentially, the body Jesus lived in while on earth, was no different than anyone's. As I said, he was human. Completely so.
Surprised and anguished, Josiah pleads the more earnestly, "Please Sir, come before my child dies."
"Come--before my child dies!"
A father cannot speak more compelling words. In this town, in Cana, Jesus had turned water to wine. Much has been said of that event. But here, in mortal terms is a far more significant event. A father's child is dying. With that child dies his hopes and dreams. The impending death of Josiah's son meant for him a frustration of the very purpose of God. If this man were of God, how could he not care?
Despite Josiah's sublunary limitations, Jesus was arrested by his desperate appeal. Recovering himself he said, "Josiah . . . Josiah, my friend, it is all right. Be comforted." These gentle words from the Master, these missionaries, these exigencies of peace, this mitigation of agony, the balm of Gilead. "Go now," he whispered, "your son will live." The sun had passed its zenith.
Josiah backed away, his eyes filling, bowed his head and left. He knew he had been heard by someone whose mere word had power to succor. That had been all he wanted. That had been what he had sought for and hoped for. Now he would see. Was this man what everyone said he was? Was he who he claimed to be? He said my son would live. He cherished the thought. My son will live! As he approached Capharnaum, hoping, anticipating what he would find, he saw men rushing toward him. Familiar men.
They were those in his employ. They had news. What news? Their animation! The expression on their faces! The boy lives! Josiah lifted his eyes to the sky and wept out loud. Recovering from wrenching paternal sobs he asked, "When did my son recover?"
"The fever left him yesterday around the seventh hour in the afternoon." Then Josiah realized that this was the time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he, and not so surprisingly, his entire household believed. This was the second miracle that Jesus performed, both having taken place in Cana of Galilee.
Jesus had returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. When the course of events have a story to tell, when things happen in such a way that we wonder if there is something deeper behind them, when occurrences take place that can only be explained by an event larger than the occurrence itself, one concludes that the power of the Spirit is present.
Jesus, of all men only, did not seek such power. It came to him as a natural consequence of who he was--and who he is. With others, it is a spontaneous power that seems at its own whim to be evident or not. One may call upon it, and it will not fetch back. One may be utterly ignorant of it, and be overwhelmed by it. A capricious thing for men, but for Jesus an ordinary spectacle, a common, routine attendance.
Hence, his fame spread. News about him measured through the whole countryside. Repeatedly, he was invited to teach in the synagogues, and wherever he did, he drew enormous crowds and was applauded. Many believed and followed him.