Never, I suppose, has the mere stating of a time had such far-reaching consequences as the time recounted to a royal official who lived in the lakeside village of Capernaum. “Yesterday, at the seventh hour.” Innocuous words, these, and yet with eternal consequences, and words which we still ponder two thousand years later.
Wading into the last part of John 4 (43-54), I was immediately struck by the slaves’ response to the royal official’s question. The official is hurrying back to Capernaum from Cana, a distance of some 33 kilometers. He has been to see Jesus, his last hope for his son who lies near death with a fever.
A strange encounter, that one. He asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus seems to complain that “you people” [plural and that is important, but I will get to it later] won’t believe unless I do the equivalent of a magic show. Like any good father who is desperate, the official is not dissuaded by Jesus’ comment. “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus: “Go, your son will live.”
Astonishingly, and demonstrating great faith, the official goes, leaving Jesus behind.
Then the encounter with his servants. Slaves: “He is recovering.” Official: “When did the fever leave?” Slaves: “Yesterday, at the seventh hour.” And the official and his whole household believe.
Jesus heals. With words. From 33 kilometers away. Who wouldn’t believe?