John 4:47 describes a desperate scene: “When this [royal official] heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.”
This was a world of honour and of strict social convention. The royal official humbled himself before Jesus—something which would have seemed, to many people at least, an action that was beneath him. Royal officials were not given to grovelling at the feet of small town Jewish teachers and wonder-workers, even ones who were becoming immensely popular.
And yet he “begs” Jesus for help and even calls him “sir.” This language should surprise us—or, at least, would have surprised the original readers or hearers of this story. We are taken aback that the lofty official shows deference.
Desperation has a way of compelling humility.
John Calvin points out: “we are amazingly spoilt, amazingly impatient and fretful, until we are subdued by adversities and forced to lay aside our pride and disdain.”*
But this man is desperate for his son to be helped and healed. So he throws off any fake façade of independence, superiority, and “having it all together.”
Do you have something you’d like to ask Jesus? Perhaps you need to check your attitude. Do you feel entitled? Do you think God owes you something because you’re so perfect and amazing?
Friends, go to God boldly—but do so with a humble heart, and as a beggar with open hands.
–*John Calvin, The Gospel According to St John, 1-10, Calvin’s Commentaries, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), 113.
–On Sunday, May 8th, 2022 I return to the pulpit to continue our series on John with chapter 5, verses 1 to 18. Since God is still at work in the world, so are we!
–Bible quotes are from the NIV.