After spending two days teaching the people of Sychar in Samaria, Jesus gave the word, and much to Judas’s relief, they headed north toward Galilee. As they walked, the disciples talked among themselves. “Can someone please explain to me why we left Judea in the first place? We had a lot of people coming to us down there.”
“Philip!” James called in an exasperated tone.
“That’s a reasonable question!” Philip shot back defensively. “I don’t mind going back home to Galilee, but why now when we had such a good thing going?”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Judas growled under his breath.
“Okay, listen,” Rock said. “Until the Teacher tells us, we won’t know why we’re doing this. I just know that wherever He goes, I’m going, and I think all of you feel the same. Actually this could work out just fine. Jesus and most of us are Galileans. I would imagine that there are many people back home who will join us.”
“I’m sure there are,” Andrew agreed. “I saw a lot of Galileans in Jerusalem at the Passover. They would have all seen or heard of the Teacher’s miracles and signs.”
“So is that why we’re going to Galilee, Teacher?” Philip asked.
All eyes turned to look at Jesus. Without looking back at His followers, the Teacher answered loudly enough for all to hear. “A prophet has no honor in his own country.”
“But, Lord,” Thomas the Twin returned, “there are many from Galilee who have seen Your miracles! They will believe in You!”
“It’s nice to have someone around to heal your aches and pains and to entertain you, but that’s as far as their faith will go right now,” Jesus answered. “They might believe in what they see Me do, but they aren’t trusting in My words, and they certainly don’t believe in Who I am. I will need to grow their little faith by challenging it, like I am doing with you.”
“So are we going to Capernaum?” James asked.
“Eventually,” Jesus answered. “But first we are going back to Cana.”
“CANA!” Nathaniel of Cana exclaimed. “That’s great, Teacher! I have several more family members and friends that I want to introduce you to!”
“Is he any better at all, Joanna?”
“No, Husband! Even with Herod’s physician, the boy is getting worse!”
Chuza, Herod Antipas’ chief steward, looked desperately at the attending doctor.
“I’m sorry, Chief Steward,” the exhausted physician responded to the unasked question. “I have attended him all night, and nothing I’ve done has helped. Though it breaks my heart to say it, the boy is dying.”
The parents fell on each other’s shoulders, weeping bitterly. “How long does he have?” Chuza asked through his tears.
“One…maybe two days at most,” came the heart-wrenching answer.
“If only that miracle-working prophet Jesus were here,” Joanna cried, “but He’s been gone from Capernaum for weeks.”
“The last report was that He was still in Judea and too far away to help us,” Chuza groaned.
“Actually that’s not the last report.” The steward, his wife, and the doctor all turned to face the speaker, who was standing in the doorway.
“Manaen, my friend,” Chuza responded hopefully, “what have you heard?”
“It was reported that the Teacher left Judea a few days ago and is now in Cana.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“I’m the king’s brother(*),” he answered with a smile and a shrug. “I hear things.”
“That’s only fifteen miles!” Joanna gasped.
“I will leave at once!” Chuza declared.
“I’d let you use my carriage,” Manaen said, “but the mountain road to Cana is too rough. You’ll have to take a horse. Grab what you need. I’ll get horses and two of my guards to go with you.”
Chuza paused just long enough to grab his friend’s hand. “Thank you,” he said earnestly, “and please have them grab torches to use when we come back tonight.”
“Just hurry,” Manaen urged as he rushed out. “I’ll have the guards take an extra horse for the Teacher to ride as well.”
The sun had set as a tired and worried Chuza rode into Cana with the guards. Several people were standing out in the street staring at the newcomers. Quickly the chief steward rode to the nearest ones and asked where he could find Jesus.
“Just follow the crowd,” the answer came back.
Looking up the street, Chuza saw a small crowd of people walking toward a house at the end of the street. He reigned his horse to a stop beside the crowd and called for Jesus as he hurriedly dismounted.
“I am Jesus,” the Teacher announced as he stepped forward to meet the anxious man.
“My son is dying!” the steward cried out. “You must come with us immediately to Capernaum and heal him!”
Jesus stood still, gazing deeply into the eyes of this frantic father.
“There is no time, Teacher,” Chuza appealed again. “You must come!” Tears began to form in the man’s eyes.
There was disappointment in Jesus’ voice when He answered. “Unless you people actually see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
“Sir, it’s my child!” There was no hiding the desperation in man’s voice. “Come down with us before he dies!” Chuza looked imploringly into the face of the man who held his son’s life in His hands. What he saw was a pair of eyes that seemed to search the very depths of his soul. Chuza thought he saw compassion in them, but there was something else. Jesus was looking for something.
Finally the Teacher said, “Go your way; your son lives.” Then He turned to enter the house.
That was not the answer the steward expected, and he struggled with what to do. Jesus wasn’t coming, but He said his son would live. How could that be? Jesus was fifteen miles away from the boy. He didn’t know where they lived. He didn’t know the boy’s name. He didn’t even know what the boy was sick with. How could He just say that he would live? If Jesus didn’t go with him now, there would not be time to come back to get Him. What should he do?
Just then a hand rested on Chuza’s shoulder. “It’s never easy to grow faith,” Nathaniel of Cana said compassionately. “You clearly believe that Jesus can heal your son.”
“Yes, I do,” came the tense answer.
“Friend,” Nathaniel continued, “this Man is much more than just a miracle worker. The same God who gives Him the power to heal also gives Him the words He says. His words are as sure as His works. Trust Him.”
With a deep sigh Chuza gave the disciple an understanding nod and mounted his horse. Looking down at the disciple, Chuza asked, “Who do you believe He is?”
A large smile spread across Nathaniel’s face. “He is the Son of God! He is the King of Israel!”
“Chief Steward,” one of the guards said, “we have the authority to arrest this teacher and make him come with us if you wish.”
“No,” Chuza returned. “He said my son lives, and I will trust Him. We’re going home.”
“But, sir,” the other guard spoke up, “it is almost dark. We should spend the night here and return in the morning.”
“We have torches to light our way,” Chuza shot back. “I must get back to my son!”
With a nod of thanks to Nathaniel of Cana, the chief steward and his guards rode into the night. They made slow progress through the darkness along the narrow mountain trail, but the next day as dawn approached, the concerned father and the two guards found themselves only a few miles from Capernaum. “Since we can see now, let’s pick up the pace,” Chuza called to the others. “We’re almost home.”
They had only been trotting half an hour when one of the guards called out, “Steward, someone approaches!” They reigned their horses to a stop, and both guards drew their swords, moving their animals up beside Chuza.
“The ones who are yelling at us are Toma and Eli, two of my house servants, but I can’t understand what they’re saying.”
“The other two are palace guards,” one of his companions volunteered.
“Come on!” Chuza exclaimed and drove his heels into his horse’s flanks.
“He is well, Master! He is well!” Eli cried out with joy.
“Your son lives, Master!” Toma added. “The Lady Joanna knew you would be anxious to know, and she sent us out before dawn to meet you. Master?”
But Chuza could not answer just then, he was sobbing with tears of joy and thanksgiving. Finally the chief steward looked up and asked, “When did the boy start getting better?”
“He was suddenly fine last evening just after sunset,” Toma answered. “It was right at the seventh hour when the fever left him. We were all stunned!”
“Amazing!” Chuza returned, looking at his two guards. “It occurred at the moment that Jesus told me my son lives!
“I must get home! Toma, give me your fresh horse, and you mount mine.”
After the exchange of rides, one of the guards with the two servants said, “We will ride with the chief steward.” But Chuza was already galloping away.
Later that day the chief steward and his wife, Joanna, were sitting on a divan holding each other as they watched their healthy son fighting pretend battles with toy soldiers on the floor.
“He was so sick,” Joanna said. “I never expected to be sitting here today watching him play. He shouldn’t even be alive!”
“I believed that Jesus could touch a person and heal them,” Chuza began. “I saw Him do it in Jerusalem at the Passover…a lot of us did. I thought if I could bring Jesus here, He would touch our son and heal him. But Jesus wouldn’t come. He said the only way we would believe was if we actually saw miracles. When I begged Him again to come with me, He simply said that our son lives and walked away.”
“And he does live!” Joanna said happily.
“Yes, he does,” Chuza agreed thoughtfully. “Do you realize what Jesus did, Joanna? I never told Jesus our son’s name or where our home was located. Jesus didn’t even know what kind of sickness our son had, and yet He knew what miracle was needed and where to send it! That’s way beyond what a miracle worker could do.”
“Do you believe Jesus is the Coming One?” Joanna asked.
Chuza thought on this question for a moment before he answered. “Joanna, what Jesus did was as much about us as it was about our sick son. He knew we needed much more than just believing that He could work miracles. It was His plan all along to heal our son in a way that challenged us to greater faith in Him. And it worked! At first, I believed in his power,” Chuza continued, “then I trusted in His words. Now I believe in Who He is…the Son of God and King of Israel!”
Joanna knelt down beside her son and hugged him. “And we owe Jesus everything!”
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 4:43-54)
(* Manaen is mentioned both in the Bible and secular history. He was the foster brother of Herod Antipas, was well educated, and became a follower of Jesus Christ. In Acts 13:1 Manaen is mentioned as being one of the primary teachers in the church at Antioch.)