Have You Ever Wonder About Those Signs?
By Jason Scherzer
What are Signs?
John 4:46-50 (NASB)
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” 49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.
John 11:1-4 (NASB)
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
John 11:44-45 (NASB)
44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.
John 19:18-20 (NASB)
18 There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.
John 19:35 (NASB)
35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.
Zechariah 12:10 (NASB)
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
John 20:30-31 (NASB)
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Exegesis / Background
The subject of today’s Starter devotion is, “What are Signs?” Signs are a redemptive theme throughout John’s gospel account. Think of Signs in John as a concept in which Jesus repeatedly show convincing proofs that He is the Son of God, the Messiah. The meaning of the word “signs” can be very close to that of “miracle”, yet it can also be quite different than a miracle. When Jesus revealed a Sign, He had a very specific purpose through the Sign to reveal His identity.
While each of the four Gospel writers had a central purpose to reveal Jesus as the Christ, yet each writer also had a unique purpose for writing. John gives a statement of purpose for writing at the end of his book in chapter twenty, saying that there were many other signs that Jesus had performed which are not written in John, yet he wrote down these signs so that those who read John’s gospel may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and have life in His name.
John has a specific emphasis on the way in which Jesus performed His Signs with a purpose of producing an active belief in Himself. Jesus was not so much interested in performing miracles to show that He is powerful (He is of course), but rather to reveal who He is and to bring people to the point of actively placing their belief in Him. The purpose of each Sign that John records is to produce an active faith and to reveal specific aspects of Jesus’ deity / Messiahship. Sometimes the Signs are miracles that need to be interpreted in a symbolic way to be more fully appreciated. But let us think of the Signs as ‘proofs’ of who Jesus is.
We usually count a total of 7 Signs in John’s gospel, with the Water to wine at Cana being the first sign (John 2) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11) being the seventh Sign. Although it is very fitting to consider the Cross of Jesus, His great hour, to be the greatest of the Signs in John’s gospel. There are also many wonders Jesus performs which John doesn’t call a ‘Sign’, but do function as a Sign.
In John 4:46 we have an account of the royal official whose son was severely ill nearing the point of death. Jesus states that the people were missing the point of who He was, while merely looking to see a miracle. He nonetheless heals the man’s son, seeing the man quickly places faith in Jesus.
Other signs in John include the healing of a lame man, the feeding of the 5000, walking on water, healing of a blind man, and the raising of Lazarus to life. As already mentioned, each Sign was selected by John with a theological purpose to reveal Jesus and to highlight specific aspects of His deity and identity.
For each of the Signs in John’s gospel, there is a faith being called forth which is much more than intellectual assent. A certain measure of faith was in place for the disciples, but the Sign is a manifestation of glory that confirms the initial measure of faith. The Sign shows that the faith placed in Jesus as Son of God was a correctly placed faith, while deepening that faith with a powerful, convincing proof of the identity of Jesus.
In the case of the feeding of 5000, many people respond by trying to install Jesus as king so as to throw off Roman authority. However, the Sign is not that Jesus merely fed them physically, but that He is the Bread of Heaven, the spiritual and eternal nourishment that satisfies every need of the human soul. Jesus withdraws from the crowds of people, walks on water to show a Sign to His disciples, and then gives theological explanation to the people that He is the Bread of Life. The people should seek Him not because they were fed, but because He is the Son of God.
In the case of the raising of Lazarus back to life, the Sign has a very striking purpose, with Jesus saying prior to the miracle that “it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” An important result after Lazarus was raised is that many of the Jews who had come to Mary believed in Jesus. Jesus shows His sovereign power over time, nature (creation), death and life by waiting until Lazarus had already “fallen asleep” or passed from this life, before going to the place where he was. It is a deeply personal miracle and Sign because Lazarus was the brother of Mary, who had anointed Jesus’ feet. Jesus states His purpose before He raises Lazarus: his illness is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.
With His Cross, Jesus submits to death, (verifiably executed by the Roman government), and rises on the 3rd day in glorious power. The Cross is the last and greatest Sign that He is Son of God, Messiah King, and Son of Man. By the Cross, Jesus fulfills His mission of redemption by which He is sacrificed for our sins, while satisfying the just wrath of God that must punish sin. In John’s account, the Cross is a Sign that brings people to believe, just as the other Signs function to bring people to belief or to strengthen / deepen the beginnings of faith.
John’s gospel was written so that “…you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (20:31). Life in Christ (eternal life) is not about living an adequate Christian life; victorious life in Christ begins with placing our faith in Jesus as the Son of God. He is the only Messiah, the only LORD, the only Savior. Read John deeply and prayerfully, looking for the convincing proofs of who Jesus is. You may do well to record what you learn, as if reading John for the first time ever.
Jesus, You are the mighty King, the promised One, the Holy One, the Son of God! Yes! There is no other Savior, no other Messiah! I receive You as King, and You are LORD. Teach me Your ways and lead me in the everlasting way. Amen.