4:43 - 54--The Official's
Jesus spends two days with the Samaritans before
resuming his journey to Galilee (remembering that Jesus began this
journey in 4:3). Verse 44 gives us yet another example of John
alluding to the Synoptics, with the assumption that his readers have
read at least the Gospel of Mark. John notes, "Now Jesus Himself had
pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country," yet this
has occurred nowhere in John's Gospel. Rather, the comment seems to
be a direct reference to Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:4 (see also Luke
4:16 - 24).
It is more difficult to determine whether the
discourse of the royal official is likewise a parallel to the
accounts found in Matthew 8:5 - 10 and Luke 7:2 - 10. Certain
difficulties arise. Matthew 8:6 uses the Greek pais, which
could refer to a child or servant; Luke 7:2 clarifies the matter by
using the Greek doulos, which refers to a servant or slave.
John, however, uses the Greek huios, which refers to a
Furthermore, Matthew and Luke refer to this man as
a centurion, whereas John refers to him as a "royal official."
Matthew and Luke's centurion would have been a Gentile (indeed, many
Jews give the man a positive character reference in Luke 7:5,
he loves our nation and has built our synagogue"); John gives
no indication as to the man's nationality. And yet the circumstance
(a man pleading for the life of someone under him) and the location
(Capernaum) are similar enough that the initial assumption is they
refer to the same event.
If John and Luke are both referring to the same
event, then they seem to be at odds as to whether the young man is a
servant, or the centurion's own son. Some possible explanations
--the first is to point to John's role as
"clarifier of the Synoptics"; Matthew's account leaves open the
possibility the young man is a son or a servant, Luke seems to
favor the servant; John, however, may be clarifying that the young
man was, indeed, a son. Furthermore, as one of the Twelve, John
and Matthew would have seen this miracle firsthand, whereas Luke
would have relied on second-hand information. Perhaps John is
clarifying some details Luke got wrong.
--another possibility is that we are being too
stringent with our vocabulary (doulos/servant-slave vs.
huios/son). Perhaps John or Luke's use of the word
intended certain ambiguities to which we are no longer privy. Or,
perhaps this young man was in a unique situation.
--it is also possible that both John and Luke
are referring to different stories--that the centurion and the
"royal official" are two different men who find themselves in
similar circumstances. Certainly, Jesus' glowing reaction in Luke
7:9 is a far cry from His reaction in John 4:48! It may be that
Jesus healed the centurion's servant; the royal official heard of
the healing and, his son being in the same predicament, came to
Jesus for a similar healing.
Ultimately, any proposed solution is academic. We
are trying to read between the lines, but we must not miss the forest
for the trees. What was John trying to communicate in these two
Our outline of John places this story in the same
area as the Samaritan Woman, noting a "New Universalism." Certainly
this is clearly seen in Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan; how
does it apply here? Two possibilities.
If, as in Matthew and Luke, this royal official
were a Gentile, then the whole passage points to universalism in the
sense that Gentiles and Samaritans--those whom Jews considered
outsiders--are accepting, and accepted by, Jesus. If, however, the
official is not a Gentile (John does not say either way), then his
story may serve to contrast the preceding narrative: the Samaritans
eagerly accepted Jesus, while others (Jesus' own hometown and this
apparently Jewish official) only reluctantly accept Jesus. Either
possibility is plausible; the second of the two goes well with John's
earlier comment in 1:11, "He came to that which was His own, but His
own did not receive Him."
Next week we begin a new section on Jesus and
the Jewish Festivals. See you then!
If you have anything of interest to add to
or you have general comments, questions, or ideas,
we welcome your
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