4:43 When the two days were over, Jesus went from that place to Galilee 44 (for Jesus
himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country).

45 When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. 46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum.

These transitional verses introduce the story of “a royal official” who has a sick son in Capernaum. The identity of this “royal official” is unknown. He may have been a Jewish official of the court of Herod Antipas the tetrarch (whom people considered a king, Matt. 14:1, 9). Or this “royal official” may have been a Gentile Roman officer of Caesar’s household, having business in Judea. Given the prominence of a non-Jewish woman in John 4:1-42, I am inclined to think that we are staying with a non-Jew in this story at the end of chapter 4.

Regardless of the “royal official’s” actual identity, the important point is that he is a person of power and influence. John the Gospel writer sets him up in direct contrast to Jesus. This “royal official” is a person who, unlike Jesus (see 4:44) would have been honored in his “own country”. He holds a position of privilege and prestige. He has authority and is looked up to and respected by the people and by those who hold power. He is accustomed to giving orders and getting his way.

But, as I suggested with the Samaritan woman at the well, the “royal official” has a deep and painful wound. His “son lay ill” 30 kms away “in Capernaum”. The “royal official’s” power is not adequate to fix this situation. He lacks the ability to solve this problem. He is powerless to heal his son. He has come up against the limitations of his human authority. What will he do?

What do I do when I confront a situation over which I am powerless? How do I respond when I find myself faced with a frightening situation that I do not know how to make right?  The answer to these questions is the journey of life. And the way I answer them will shape everything about how I live in this world that so often confounds my wishes.