There are few ways a parent can exert a more raw claim to authority over their children than to settle a discussion with, “because I said so.” These words usually conjure a negative emotional reaction. As children, we hated to hear them because they cut off the conversation without satisfying our curiosity. As parents (who promised ourselves we would never talk like that to our kids), we resort to them when we are exasperated by little minds asking for details of a plan that does not exist. But if we can set those associations aside for a moment, I think this phrase can help us see something important about our relationship with God – something worth stating in such a provocative manner.
The focus in “because I said so” is on the I. The claim being made is not about the merit of the child’s question (which may or may not be appropriate), nor is it about the wisdom of the parent’s plan (which may or may not be in place!). The claim being made is about the person of the parent. What is being said, in so many words, is “look beyond the circumstances, which are beyond your comprehension, and focus on my character as your parent, which you know well.”
At the end of John 4, Jesus has an encounter with an official that fits into this category. This official had a son who was ill (vs. 46). When he heard Jesus had come home to Galilee, this father travelled the 15 miles or so from Capernaum for the purpose of bringing Jesus back with him to heal his son. It is important to note that the encounter we read about in verses 48-50 is contextualized by the contrast with verses 43-45. There we find that the “welcome” Jesus received when he arrived in Galilee was not the embrace of faith that honored who He was, rather, it was the carnal excitement of laying home-town dibs on an increasingly popular miracle worker (see also John 2:23-25 and 7:4-5). They didn’t want faith – like the Samaritans of 4:42 who believed because of His word – they wanted fireworks like He did in Jerusalem and Cana. They felt entitled to their own “private screening” of his power since, after all, He was “theirs.”
In verse 48, Jesus’s response puts this official in that same camp. When the father comes to him and asks Jesus to “come down and heal my son,” the shocking response is, “unless you (plural, sweeping the whole region into this indictment) see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Undeterred – or perhaps passing the test – the father repeats his request. And it is in verse 50 that Jesus says, in some many words, “because I said so.”
The official has asked that Jesus come down and touch his boy. We assume the love between father and son is genuine. But what other motives might be swirling in his heart? The prestige of having the miracle-worker answer his request? The thrill of having somewhat exclusive contact with this local meteorite during their trip? The generations that would be told of the time Jesus touched his son, right here in this room, and the fever left him? All those motives would be in line with the sentiment of a region that “welcomes” this prophet but has no “faith” in him.
So Jesus does not go and touch the boy. He tells the father to go, and the son will live. This response requires the father to look past the power, past the disappointment of his circumstance, and see the person of Jesus. Jesus does not explain how it will work. He doesn’t defend the differences between this command and every other healing testimony the father has heard. He just stands as the sovereign authority over both this man and his child and says, “Go, because I said so.”
And apparently, as the second half of verse 50 shows us, this was enough for the father. He saw past the fact that his expectations, whatever they were, had been disappointed. He refused to allow the urgency he felt on his request to make him demand further explanation. He saw Jesus for who He was, and he obeyed. That is believing the word. That is faith in the Word.
Of course, it is true that there is only One who can make it so by saying so. Often our “because I said so” betrays more about our lack of answers than it does our wisdom and authority. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is an abuse of power, or that we should stop saying it – the opinion of secular child psychologists not withstanding. We shouldn’t stop because when we say it, even sparingly, we are building a category for our children out of which they will later be asked to relate to the God who does indeed always have a perfect plan in place, but who does not always give a “satisfactory” account to His children. We are teaching them how to trust and obey, not because it all makes sense to them, but because of who it is who is asking for their faith. And each time we hear those words come out of our own mouths, may we remember that even as parents, we are children of the Father. May we be quick to “believe the word” and obey when God says so.