The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son


John 4:46-54
Then Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman°, whose son was sick at Capernaum. He, hearing that Jesus comes out of Judea into Galilee, went to Him and besought Him that He would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die. Then Jesus said to him, Unless you see signs and miracles, you will not believe. The nobleman° said to Him, Lord, come down before my little^boy dies. Jesus says to him, Go; thy son lives. And the man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way. And° as he was already going down, his servants met him, and reported, saying, Thy boy lives. Then he inquired of them the hour when he began to recover. And they said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. Then the father knew that it was at that same hour in which Jesus said to him, Thy son lives. And he himself believed, and his whole house. This is again a second sign that Jesus did, when He came out of Judea into Galilee.

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 8364.
In general ‘sicknesses’ means sins, as may also be seen in Isaiah,

“… a man of sorrows, and acquainted with sickness, on account of which as it were men hid their faces from Him. He was despised, so that we did not esteem Him. Nevertheless He has borne our sicknesses and carried our sorrows, and through His wounds healing has been given to us.” Isa. 53:3-5.

This refers to the Lord.

[6] Since sicknesses represented the unrighteous ways and the evils of spiritual life the sicknesses which the Lord healed have as their meaning deliverance from the different kinds of evil and falsity that were molesting the Church and human race and that would have brought spiritual death. Divine miracles are distinguishable from other miracles by the fact that they involve and have regard to states of the Church and the heavenly kingdom; and this is why the Lord’s miracles were primarily healing of sicknesses. These miracles are meant by the Lord’s words addressed to the disciples sent by John,

“ Tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead rise again and the poor hear the gospel. Matt. 11:4, 5.

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 5715.
A large four-sided opening appeared, falling away at an angle down to a considerable depth. At the bottom I saw a round opening which then lay open but was soon closed. A vexatious heat rose up from there, being a collection emanating from various hells. It arose out of various kinds of evil desires, such as pride, lack of sexual restraint, adultery, hatred, revenge, quarreling and fighting. These desires present in those hells were the origin of the heat that was rising up. When it acted on my body it instantly caused a sickness like that of a burning fever; but once that heat ceased to come into me, this form of sickness instantly departed. When a person falls sick in this way he has contracted his sickness from the life that is his; in his case an unclean sphere corresponding to the sickness attaches itself and is present as the cause from which the sickness springs. To enable me to know for certain that this is the case spirits from many hells have been present with me. Through them the sphere created out of emanations from them has been communicated to me; and as that sphere has been allowed to act on the solid parts of my body, I have been seized by an ache, pain, and indeed the corresponding sickness. But these feelings departed the instant those spirits were driven away. And to leave me in no doubt the experience has been repeated a thousand times.


We continue to look at the Gospel record of the signs and miracles the Lord did while in the world.  Having looked at the first sign, that of the changing of the water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee we now come to the second sign, which is the healing of the nobleman’s son.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that the stories found in the Word are dealing with spiritual realities and that everything in these stories of the Lord’s life and activity has an inner application to the life of the Lord as the Word within the human mind.  The Heavenly Doctrine teaches us that the Word as to its letter is perfect in its form, that it is the Divine Form Itself.  Its perfection lies in its ability to communicate spiritual realities to those of us who live on the material plane of life.  The form of the letter of the Word is such that everything in it perfectly corresponds to, and so grounds, higher celestial and spiritual things.  This is not just a nice theoretical idea, the Word is the Divinely appointed means by which human beings can have direct contact with higher realms of reality that is safe and is specifically focussed on our spiritual health and welfare.  This is because the Word being from the Lord Himself is the fullness of God present with people.

Until people are willing to acknowledge that the Word is the Lord His ability to effect change in them so that they can become awakened spiritually and made whole is hampered.  This is because the Lord operates according to order and one of the principles of His operation within people’s lives is that they must be left in freedom to act according to their understanding of things.  The Lord never invites Himself into our lives to “fix” us; we have to invite Him in.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.  Rev 3:20

Now to ask the Lord into our life is to open the door.  Spiritually this has nothing to do with a verbal request.  People make the mistake when they hear this Scripture of thinking that all that is required is for them to ask Him in to their life and that a verbal prayer is all that is required.  When they think this they confuse the natural idea of asking for something from somebody with the spiritual idea of asking for something and wonder why nothing happens when they ask the Lord for help.  To ask for something from heaven is to ask with your being, it involves what you are willing to do in the light of the understanding you have.  In a way we could say that your life is your prayer in that how you live, what you tend to dwell on in your thinking and what kinds of feelings you keep alive in yourself, reflects what it is you are asking for.  It’s an old adage, we get what we ask for.  You see it is not what we say with our lips but the quality of our inner life that reflects our true prayer, or our request as to what it is we want.  If we desire to live a more spiritually enlightened life yet neglect to read and study the Word so that we can apply it to the life of our minds then, given that we know from the teachings for Spiritual Christianity that the Word is the Lord, what can we say about our motivation in regard to that desire. To desire something and yet not do what is required to see that desire come to fruition is to not truly desire it at all.

These principles are reflected in the story of the healing of the Nobleman’s son.  We can see from the opening verse that this sign is linked to the first for it states that, ‘Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He made water wine.’  The story of water becoming wine teaches how a natural understanding of truths in the Word, represented by water, becomes spiritual, represented by it becoming wine.  The fact that it occurred at a marriage teaches us that central to this transformation is the need to take truths and marry them to life, for it is through this process of being in the effort to apply truths that the door on which the Lord knocks is opened and new possibilities in regard to our spiritual growth and development become possible.

Because the natural idea of place corresponds to the spiritual idea of state ‘Cana of Galilee’ corresponds to a person’s tentative understanding of truths found in the Word arising from the desire to be in the Lord’s circle of life.  Galilee means ‘a circle,’ and corresponds to the desire to see good made real in life.  For the goodness of the Lord to be manifest in life there needs to be a reciprocal connection from the Lord to us and from us through what is of Him in us back to Himself. The means of connection is through what is of Himself in us and this is the Word.  This is why the Word is the basis for communication of the spiritual with the natural and the natural with the spiritual.  The quality of this reciprocal communication however is according to the quality of our understanding of truths from the Word.

So it is to Cana of Galilee, or the state of our understanding of truth in relation to life to which Jesus comes within us.  Jesus represents the Lord’s desire for our salvation, and His coming describes the influx and reception of the Divine Good into the Word in the more external parts of our mind.  The power of the Lord’s goodness to effect anything in us is dependent on the quality of the our understanding of truth because this is what He flows into and uses to enlighten us as to the quality of what passes for our mental life.  If we desire to live a spiritual life then we have a responsibility to work with building our understanding of truths taught in the Heavenly Doctrines, for it is through these truths that the Lord is able to empower us to live more fully from the Word.

We see that the Lord is said to have come out from Judea to Galilee. For the Lord to “come out from” one place “to” another place in the Word spiritually describes the opening of our perception so that we can perceive His presence on a more external plane of life.  Judea represents more internal celestial states of life and Galilee the more external celestial states of life and His coming coincides with a realisation on the part of a “nobleman” that all is not well with his “son” who is described as “sick at Capernaum” and “about to die.”

When we become aware of spiritual truths within the natural truths of the Word, represented by the changing of water to wine, we begin to be confronted with the need to apply truths to deeper aspects of our lives.  Natural truths are for the natural man and are designed to be applied to external life understood in terms of our social relations and behaviour towards others.  What passes for a natural religious or spiritual life is understood in terms of external appearances, of being seen to do the right thing.  When this level of natural religious life is the focus little attention is actually paid to the quality of our internal mental life.  But it is this internal life that is our true spiritual life or the life of our spirit and it is the focus of a genuine spiritual religion.  The life of our spirit is nothing other than the thoughts and feelings we experience from moment to moment.  When our understanding moves from what is represented by water to what is understood by wine the focus of our attention begins to be drawn toward the deeper more internal things belonging to our mental life. We then begin to move from a state of external concerns to a state of internal concerns. (HH 490’s on)

And what we find in that transition is that our understanding of truths is lacking, so much so that we find ourselves at a loss in how to deal with the habitual negative patterns of feeling and thinking that have ruled in the life of our thoughts and feelings that have been built up over a life time of responding unconsciously from the loves of self and the world.  Because love corresponds to fire, the Lord who is love itself is called “a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24; 9:3), the negative aspect of the correspondence of fire is applied to the loves of self and the world for these are the loves that make hell (Ps 140:10; Isa 9:18), and so we find that the perceptive faculty represented by the nobleman’s son is said to be afflicted with a fever.

The nobleman represents an awakening desire for genuine spiritual life in the natural that is beginning to govern or rule within our mental life with new thoughts and affections from the Word.  As a father he is a spiritual desire in the natural mind that wants to see goodness brought forth into life for “a father” corresponds to good and “his son” to the affection for truth or truth itself.  This afflicted affection for truth is said to reside in Capernaum, which means “field of repentance” and so the struggle described in this situation revolves around our inability to perceive truths in the Word in relation to the work of repentance, particularly as it relates to the life of the mind.

The work of self-examination and repentance (Logopraxis) places us in front of powerful forces that we remain largely unaware of prior to making an effort to apply truths to the life of the mind.  It is in the act of working with the Word that those things in us that are opposed to what is good and true begin to make their presence felt.  These spiritual forces look to destroy our ability to perceive truths by igniting desires we easily identified with, and so catch our attention in an effort to draw us away from, or lessen our motivation for work on our inner life. When things belonging to the loves of self and the world take our attention away from heavenly things our ability to perceive truths is weakened and is described here in terms of a son of a nobleman being sick, suffering from a fever and being on the point of death.

It is the desire to see goodness brought into life that focuses the mind to seek out the Lord in our understanding of the Word.  The point of connection between the nobleman and Jesus is Cana, or in that understanding of the Word that has been established through the marriage of truths to life.  The nobleman is said to have heard that the Lord was come out of Judea into Galilee.  To hear spiritually is to be in a life of obedience, and to hear of Jesus is to be attuned to living from ones understanding of truths in an effort to bring goodness into life.  It is this state of life that brings us into connection with the Lord.  The desire of this state of life wishes for a clearer perception of truth, and it knows that the basis for this is to be purified from the hold the evils and falsities of the proprium have over its life.  For this to become a reality for us the Word has to be acknowledged in our life; as all powerful in its ability to save us by overcoming every evil and falsity. Such an acknowledgement only exists when we are prepared to go to it, learn of it, and apply it to the life of our mind.

If we would do this we will hear the Word of the Lord saying…

“Go; thy son lives”

And we would find our perception of truth increased, so much so that the whole of our mental household, with all its related thoughts and affections, attuned to the things of heaven.

And he himself believed, and his whole house. This is again a second sign that Jesus did, when He came out of Judea into Galilee.

For a comment on “the sick” see AE 316[19]

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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