What does it take for us to believe? Christ tells us that it is better for us to believe having not seen (John 20:29). However, this does not prevent Him from acting in our lives when we need Him, even if we are having doubts.
Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.
As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household.
– John 4:46-53, NASB
Jesus hit the nail on the head: the folks of his time needed to see signs and wonders in order to believe the message which He brought. We aren’t a whole lot different. In this case, the royal official was so troubled because his son lay dying. At first, one may take Jesus’ remarks as some what callous. This man’s son was sick and likely not to recover. Why did Jesus say what He did? The reason for Jesus’ comment is that the death in this life isn’t the one to worry over. The death in eternity – spiritual death by eternal separation from God – is the one we need to care about. And belief in Jesus Christ and acceptance of His gift of grace is what is necessary to avoid this second death. This was a teachable moment. Jesus was implanting in this gentleman the understanding that there was a greater need than the life or death of the boy: there was the matter of eternity for the man and his household.
The royal official continued to plead for his son’s life. And here Jesus acted. He told the man his son lived. Jesus didn’t take the man’s request lightly. Nor did he neglect the man’s cares and concerns. But what Jesus did was take care of the bigger issue, salvation, before dealing with the one the man brought before Him. The man ultimately came to realize this as he headed back home. Met by a servant, he learned that not only had his son gotten better, but that it occurred at the exact moment which Jesus spoke, “Your son lives.” Note what the Scriptures tell us next: the man believed, as did his whole household.
The wonderful thing this miracle reveals about our Savior is that He addresses the real needs in our lives. Many times we pray and take things to the Lord in prayer expecting that we know how to solve things. And then God acts in a surprising way to us. The reason we are caught off guard is that we don’t see things as He sees them. The royal official didn’t see that there was a bigger problem than just his son being sick. The conversation with Jesus planted a seed in his head and in his heart that upon learning of the fulfillment of the miracle germinated and grew into faith. Jesus does the same thing with us. He knows our needs better than we do. The Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning even as we don’t know how to pray for ourselves (Romans 8:26). God is actively involved in identifying our deepest needs and is in the business of meeting them. How can we not adore Him if we truly understand this? After all, which shows the greater love: knowing what is really needed but doing only what is asked or hearing what is asked but taking care of what is really needed?
As you pray today with prayers of supplication, remember that while God hears your need, He sees things you don’t. Therefore, when God acts in an unexpected way to some of your petitions, don’t be upset or put out. Rather, be pleasantly surprised because that meant that although He heard you, He acted on His knowledge and not yours to accomplish what needed to be done. He did so because He cares for you and me with an unbelievable and unmatchable love. And when He surprises you in this way, go back to Him in prayers of thanksgiving for going above and beyond, for acting not on what we asked, but on what we really needed!