According to Google Maps, the distance from Cana to Capernaum, on currently existing roads, is 37.4 kilometres (23.2 miles). Google suggests that you can walk it in 7 hours and 40 minutes, but warns that “this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths”. I don’t know about you, but I think that I would have trouble keeping up a 5 km/hour (3 mph) pace for 7 hours and 40 minutes even in the most ideal conditions. This route is in mountainous terrain, and Capernaum is approximately 200 metres (700 feet) below sea level. Even Google Maps realizes that it will take longer to go from Capernaum to Cana than the other way around, and estimates that the same route up will take 8 hours and 19 minutes. They do offer other routes, but each requires going around Mount Arbel.
When Jesus had returned to Cana after His time in Samaria, a royal official with a sick son was desperate enough to see Jesus that he made the trip up from Capernaum to find Him. Some people read the Biblical account of this event (John 4:46-54) and think, based on what Jesus said regarding the people not believing without seeing signs and wonders (John 4:48), that this royal official had no faith. I think that if he left the his family’s side during this uncertain and difficult time, he had to have had some faith, imperfect though it was. What is not evident in all English translations is that the you in John 4:48 is plural. It wasn’t just the man that Jesus was speaking to, but the crowd. The father with the sick child had enough faith to realize that Jesus could help him, but did not understand that He had the power to do so from a distance or even after the child died.
Jesus could have gone with the man and healed his son in person, but He chose not to perform this miracle publicly. If He had gone home with the official, surely a crowd would have followed to witness it. But Jesus is not limited to healing only those in His presence, and so He healed the boy from a distance, and required the official to choose to have faith in His word (John 4:50), rather than a visible sign. What a difficult choice for that anxious father. After all, he couldn’t just call home, or even run home, and check to see if Jesus was telling the truth. He had to choose to believe or not believe.
People today also ask for proof that God is really God. They want to see signs, but God won’t always give them. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) Interestingly, those who choose to believe first, often get to see and understand later, just as the royal official did. Some things are made clear to those who are willing to see, and some things will have to wait until we are permitted to know fully. (I Corinthians 13:12) The choice is yours though. If you refuse to believe, if you fight against believing, don’t expect God to make understanding easy for you. He requires us to have faith.
This post was inspired by a sermon by Rev. Danny Smith of Middleton Baptist Church.