Why Did Jesus Take the Time to Heal the Child of a Wealthy Royal Official?
Today’s reading: John 4:43-54
We ask for your presence and guidance as we reflect on our beliefs. Lighten our steps as we walk by faith and continue to follow your ways of love and justice.
In this text, Jesus is a local legend, the one who turned water into wine. I often wondered about the role of miracles in Jesus’ ministry. In this case, Jesus talks about how the people around him, without wonders and miracles, would not see him for who he was.
Yet, even knowing this about the people, Jesus still performs a miracle for them.
Not only that, but Jesus’ miracle was to heal a royal official’s child.
In other translations, this official is said to be a Centurion who was a commander in the Roman army, or a wealthy aristocrat who was an official under King Herod. Out of all the people Jesus could have healed in Galilee, why choose to help a royal official and his child? Why care for an official’s child, who is so privileged within society, when many other children who lacked the same privilege probably had similar needs?
I wrestled with this. It does not align with my own worldview in which Jesus expressly is concerned with alleviating pain and poverty, for people on the margins and those who are excluded from society. The royal official was wealthy and powerful. He was an elite. Yet, Jesus takes the time to heal his son and send him on his way.
But perhaps Jesus healed the royal official to make a bigger point. Perhaps he performed this miracle in such a way, so others could see that he was more than just a magician, but someone with true authority. Or did he also have genuine care for the royal official’s concern? Did it matter to Jesus what the royal official’s status was within society or what he did for a living?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that Jesus healed the royal official’s child. I also know that prior to this passage Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, another gentile who he cares for. After this passage, he meets with and heals a paralyzed man waiting for a miracle by the pool. In many study bible commentaries, these three passages together (i.e., the Samaritan woman, the royal official, and the paralyzed man) represent how Jesus did not discriminate against anyone who needed help, no matter their status in society. This uncritical interpretation does not do justice to the whole picture of who Jesus was. Jesus declared judgments on those who took advantage of those who had less. Jesus also reached out to widows and orphans.
Yet, this passage remains and I am challenged by it. While I know he did not condone those with power and privilege taking advantage of people, he still showed care for those in need, even those who had advantages that others did not.
In my own life, I confront racial dominance in my profession and battle conservative evangelical circles in my personal life. Often I get upset and angry and it is easy to hate those who willfully ignore and participate in the injustices of this world. Yet, I am challenged by Jesus’ care for the royal official and I am reminded that my anger at injustice should not turn to hate towards fellow humans. It is a constant battle that I fight within myself and one that Jesus continues to refine in me.
How do we engage in the battle for justice, support those who have been marginalized or forgotten, and confront their oppressors? Do we still need to care for those who have every advantage? If so, how do we do that without further hurting people who have been marginalized?
Created by: Amos Lee
About the author: I was a former public school teacher in elementary and middle schools and am currently an adjunct professor for teacher education at a state college. My interests include: Calling out cultural (mis)appropriation of Korean food, battling on Facebook with colorblind and post racial rhetoric among friends, and being a resident skeptic that continues to push back against dominant narratives and norms.
Image by: Dae Jeong
About the author: Dae is a photographer, ex-pastor, and stay-at-home dad. He lives with his wife and two children in Maryland. He is a recovering Calvinist. 😉
Thanks for your devotional reflection, Amos. It is challenging that some who seemingly should not qualify for healing do get healed. However, which one of us truly qualify or deserve healing when we suffer, however poor or sick? I guess in my eyes, some do seem more worthy than others. I believe if the oppressed were put in a place of privilege, there would still be the same temptation to elevate oneself over others.
What stands out in this narrative is the exchange of faith and healing. The official had enough faith to approach Jesus for this need. The key, it seems, is humility to approach Jesus and asking Him and believing that He has the authority and power to do so. I see the miracles of Jesus as a revelation of God’s character and the things that are on His heart, and of course, the fulfillment of prophecy about the Christ. Thanks and God bless!