“Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.” With those words, Alexander Graham Bell began the age of communication at a distance via telephone. It would not be long (1900) before communication of the human voice over radio waves became possible. The world got much smaller after that.
It is hard to conceive of a world in which distance is not easily overcome. If we need to travel 30 km today, we can jump in a car and be there in less than 30 minutes. The world at the time of Jesus was much more limited. No cars, trains, airplanes, bicycles, smooth roads, nor telephone, telegraph, or radio communications.
The limitation of distance is what makes Christ’s second sign (John 4.43-54) so remarkable, even though we pass over it quickly today because distance is not so mysterious to us. A royal official comes to Jesus with an urgent request: Come to Capernaum at once because my son is dying of fever. It is not within the conception of the father who makes this entreaty that Christ can heal his son without coming to Capernaum. This would be like telling him that someday men would fly—laughable.
What happens is so spare as to pass almost unnoticed. Five words. No explanation from Christ, no reassurance of the worried father [“Don’t worry, sir. I got this. I am going to heal from a distance and don’t need to go with you to Capernaum. I’m Jesus, after all!”].
“πορεύου, ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ” (“Go; your son will live”)
The amazing thing about this encounter is not necessarily what Christ does, he is, after all, God in the flesh. He is just doing what he is entirely capable of doing. Distance is no barrier to his power, whether it be 30 km or 30000 km. He speaks. The boy is healed of fever. The amazing thing is that the father goes.
It’s interesting that the very next word in the Greek text is “he believed.” However Christ spoke those words, and whatever passed between the two in terms of non-verbal communication, the father believed that Christ alone—of all the people who had ever lived before or since—could speak; and healing would take place of a boy whom he had probably never met, and perhaps never would meet. The father believes and goes.