“He came therefore again unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said unto him, Except you see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word that Jesus spake unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, saying, that his son lived” (Jn. 4:46-51).
Sometimes there are accounts of healing or events that are very similar to a different time, place, and individuals which are also recorded. Because the two may be much alike, some see the two as the same event. The healing in Jn. 4 of the nobleman’s son is sometimes confused with the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-11; Lk. 7:1-10). There are similarities between the two events: both who sought Jesus’ help were government officials; both lived in Capernaum; both sought Jesus to heal someone dear to them; and, in both instances Jesus healed the loved one without His personal presence.
But there are differences which tell us that while there are similarities, these are really two different events. The man in Jn. 4 is called a “nobleman”, literally, King’s officer. The man of Matt. 8 was a centurion; thus, the nobleman was a Jew, the centurion a Roman. The nobleman sought healing for a son. The centurion sought Jesus to heal his servant. Obviously, both believed Jesus had power to heal the one for whom they sought help, but the faith of the nobleman was much weaker than the faith of the centurion. The nobleman earnestly sought Jesus to come to his house; the centurion stopped Jesus from coming to his home. And Jesus said nothing about the greatness of the nobleman’s faith while he commended the faith of the centurion saying, “I have not seen so great faith not in all Israel” (Matt. 8:10).
Two other events which some confuse as the same is the anointing of Jesus by a woman. All the gospel accounts record a woman anointing Jesus, each of which showed great humility in that she wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair (Matt. 26:6-12; Mk. 14:4; Lk. 7:37-39; Jn. 12:1-3). All the gospel writers record one account but the four accounts are not their versions of a single event. Luke’s account (7:37-39) is the account of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet but a different woman than the woman which Matthew, Mark, and John wrote about.
As in the case of the nobleman and centurion, there are some similarities. The host in both accounts was named Simon (Matt. 26:6; Lk. 7:40), but that does not prove the accounts were the same. There are at least nine different men spoken of in different places in the New Testament. Both women anointed Jesus’ feet and both wiped his feet with her hair.
On the other hand, there are real differences. The three accounts which are identical (Matthew, Mark, and John) each specifically mention the great value of the ointment which she poured upon Jesus’ feet. In Luke’s account no comment is made as to the value of the ointment. The woman of Lk. 7 was obviously unknown to Jesus while the text of Jn. 12 showed the woman in that text to have been a dear friend of His. Perhaps the thing of greatest significance was the attitude of the Jews toward the women. In the case of the woman of Lk. 7, she is identified as a “sinful woman” whom the Jews did not even want to touch (Lk. 7:39). The woman of John was a woman greatly respected by the Jews — when the woman’s brother died, many Jews came to console both her and her sister (Jn. 11:18). The events are similar but different.
It is important that we consider the text when we study. In Acts 2:37-38 after Peter had preached and concluded his sermon saying, “Let all the house of Israel know assured that God had made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36), the reaction on the part of many was immediate and agonizing. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter responded, “Repent, ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). In Acts 8 Peter said to a sinner, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray the Lord if perhaps the thought of thy heart should be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22). Two different people, both sinners, yet to one group Peter said “Repent ye and be baptized … for the remission of your sins”. To the other individual the same preacher said, “Repent and pray”.
Do not confuse these two incidents. Yes, the people on Pentecost (Acts 2) were sinners. Yes, Simon (Acts 8) was a sinner but they were different kinds of sinners. The people on Pentecost were “alien sinners”. Simon was an “erring sinner”. Does one ask, “What is the difference?” The difference is that the people on Pentecost had never been born again — they were “alien sinners”. Simon had been born again (Acts 8:13); he was an “erring child of God”. God’s law of forgiveness to the alien and to the erring child are not the same. The alien must be “born again” (John 3:3, 5; Acts 2:38); the erring child must “repent and pray”.
There is a difference between the two and there is a difference in what each must do to be forgiven when he sins. Similarity does not always mean identical and that difference can make a difference, sometimes eternal in its nature!