Verse of the Day 10.16.17 — John 4:50
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed.1
50 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Πορεύου· ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ. ἐπίστευσεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐπορεύετο.2
Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live.” The man believed in the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he began to depart.
The word translated “began to depart” (πορεύομαι | poreuomai) is written in the imperfect tense — signifying a past action that is in progress.3 Many translations, however, seem to translate the verb into the simple past tense (“departed” — NIV, HCSB; “went on his way” — ESV; “went his way” — KJV, etc.). Though this may be of little consequence, it seems that, in so doing, “the force of the imperfect is lost, which harmonizes with the succeeding sentence: he was proceeding on his way, and as he was now going down, [Jn 4:51, see NRSV],etc.”4
Therefore, I aimed to preserve the force of the imperfect tense, which appears to be an inceptive imperfect — emphas[izing] the beginning of an action.”5 The NRSV (“started on his way”), NASB (“started off”), and NLT (“started home”) seem to do likewise.
Commentary & Context
It would be wise for us to realize that Jesus did not need to touch someone physically for them to be healed. In the Old Testament, long-distance “signs and wonders” (Jn 4:48) were rare. And, in the first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman context, prophets and magicians were thought to be much more effective in person. For Jesus to heal the son of the royal official from so far away (Cana was about a full day’s walk from Capernaum (Jn 4:46). was a testament to His power.6
Speaking of power, the royal official probably served in the court of Herod Antipas.7 Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who ruled when Jesus was born, governed the Roman provinces of Galilee and Perea as a tetrarch (4 BC to AD 39).8 This Herod, who beheads John the Baptist (Mk 6:27) and later interrogates Jesus before His crucifixion (Lk 23:8-9), is the one whom Jesus calls a “fox.”9. Being a fox, in their context, meant that they were “worthless, slanderous, treacherous or (often) cunning in an unprincipled manner.”10
And it is a member of the court of this fox whom Jesus chooses to demonstrate his extraordinary healing power. For the official, who was probably much more wealthy, much more influenced by Greco-Roman culture, and much less religious than most Jews, ironically, has the kind of faith (active trust) that many of the Jews lacked. Many would not believe unless they were to see signs and wonders (Jn 4:48). But the official trusts in the words of Jesus, and puts his trust into action by returning home. And, while on his way, he is informed that his son’s fever had left him at the exact time Jesus said, “Your son will live.” (Jn 4:51-53).
For good reason, we ought to have faith (active trust) in the extraordinary power of Christ — even when we cannot see the exact ways in which His power is being made manifest.
Memorize John 4:50 after watching a brief tutorial demonstrating the How To Memorize Any Bible Verse In Less Than Five Minutes method below:
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 4:50.
- Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (Lexham Press; Society of Biblical Literature, 2011–2013), Jn 4:50.
- “Strictly speaking, the imperfect tense views the action as in progress. It is represented by the English past continuous forms (“I was teaching,” “I used to go”). But a simple past tense (“I taught,” “I went”) may sometimes be a sufficient translation for a Greek imperfect tense.” David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 105–106. “ἐ-πορεύετο impf describing an action in progress when sth else took place.” Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), 298.
- Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 130.
- Black, 106
- Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jn 4:46, 4:50-54
- Keener, Jn 4:46
- David C. Braund, “Herod Antipas (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 160.
- Keener, Jn 4:46
- Keener, Lk 13:32