The Gospel of John, the last of the four Gospels, starts with a parallel to the first few passages in the book of Genesis. Just as God spoke the Creation into being, John starts by showing how that same Word through whom creation was spoken into being, has now become flesh and has made His dwelling among us. When God created the universe, He used a very powerful tool: His Word. In the beginning…God said.
In the beginning the Word already existed, the Word was with God, and Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created. (John 1:1-4a) NLT
In verse 14 John writes: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. From that marvellous introduction, we read on, captivated by what comes next. And among many other magnificent things to be learnt from the Gospel of John, we find that he recorded seven signs performed by Jesus.
We gather from the outcomes surrounding these signs that they were given to evoke belief. Not belief in the signs themselves, but belief in what and whom they are pointing to. John records his gospel and makes it clear in chapter 20:31 that these things were recorded that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing this we may have life in His Name. John aptly uses the word “sign” (Greek: sēmeion) for these signs were not the substance in themselves but were merely road signs, pointing towards the substance; in this case, “God with us” (Immanuel). When we see a road sign pointing towards Cape Town, we don’t take that road sign as being the substance of the city of Cape Town, but we understand that it is merely showing us the way to get there. Likewise, these signs recorded by John are not an end in itself, but merely “signs” pointing us to God as He reveals Himself through Jesus Christ. They show us the “hands-on” approach God had towards mankind and creation in His plan for salvation. They show that He did not handle “these sinful people” with celestial tongs, but touched them; touched the earth. They show how He took sinners by the hand and put them back on their feet, how He changed water to wine; how He made clay out of spit to heal a blind man. They show God “with His hands deep in the soil and flesh of creation” (Eugene H Peterson). They are given so that we may believe.
However, not everyone believed. For some, these signs had the very opposite effect of belief. For the most part there were those who saw what God was doing among them with their own two eyes, but instead of believing it evoked in them a jealous rage and hatred. Much of their unbelief can be ascribed to the fact that God’s revelation of Himself through Jesus did not conform to their preconceived expectations of how God should be operating. They were also expecting the Messiah, much like many of the other people around them, but they had they own ideas of how the Messiah would appear, and this Jesus didn’t fit the bill. The ones who had God “all figured out” and neatly packaged into a box missed Him; missed the wonders of what was transpiring right in front of them. It is not much different today. Whatever is not done the way our denomination or ministry is doing it, can’t possibly be from God. Stereotyped ideas of how God should do things and how He should reveal Himself still cause many to miss what He is doing right under their noses. In the final analysis, it is the person who thought he knew the most that will find he knew the least. Wisdom urges us to bow down to God’s way of doing and not enlist Him to our way of doing. God gives grace to the humble.
When the book of John is read as a letter (a unit), it becomes clear (especially from the first 11 chapters), that these signs are all interweaved and that together, they build up towards the Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus –ultimately to the New Life offered by faith in Him.
The Seven Signs:
1. Changing water to wine (John 2:1-11)
2. Healing of the Official’s son (John 4:46-54)
3. Healing at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15)
4. Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:15-21)
5. Walking on Water (John 6:15-21)
6. Healing of the Blind Man (John 9:1-41)
7. The raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-57)
Next week, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the individual signs and their impact on the lives of people then and now.
- Fourth Sign: Feeding of the Five Thousand (christianweeklydevotional.wordpress.com)