Friday, October 4, 2013

The Sign Miracles: How They Identify Jesus Christ the Son of God

When evangelizing and sharing Christ in American society there is the likelihood that one will encounter an individual who will deny the deity of Christ or that Christ ever claimed deity.  This is particularly true if one encounters a Jehovah Witness or a Muslim.  They will blatantly claim that Christ never conferred deity upon himself.  With the Jehovah Witness they will deny the translation of John 1:1, and so it is vital that one can present the deity of Christ in another way.  This can be successfully done when one understands the sign miracles carefully conveyed in the Gospel according to John.

There are seven miracles or signs presented to the reader in the Gospel account of John.  First, Jesus turning the water into wine in John 2:1-11.  Second, Jesus healed the nobleman’s son in John 4:46-54.  Third, in John 5:1-14 Jesus healed the man who was lame.  Jesus’ fourth miracle was the feeding of the 5.000 men, plus women and children, found in John 6:1-14.  His fifth miracle was walking on the water (John 6:16-21).  Christ’s sixth miracle was the restoring of sight to the man born blind in John 9:1-41.  And finally his seventh sign was the rising of Lazarus in John 11:38-43.  These are the miracles that most scholars reference when they come to the Gospel of John.  Now, Dr. Towns takes a stance that not are there only seven signs performed, but eight, and he looks to the miraculous catch of fish in John 21:5-8.[1]        This paper will examine each of the miracles individually and how they demonstrated the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had just begun his public ministry and at the end of John 1 Christ has called six of his disciples; Andrew, John, Peter, James, Philip, and Nathaniel.  In John 2 Jesus and his disciples attend a wedding.  While at the wedding an unfortunate event occurred, and the party ran out of wine.  Mary comes to Jesus and informs him that the party has run out of wine.  Scholars debate as to why she came to Jesus about this.  Dr. Towns provides four opinions that have been postulated such as she was asking Jesus and the Disciples to leave, she was asking Jesus to pick up more wine, or she was asking for a miracle, or she was asking Jesus to speak.[2]  The text does not indicate what Mary’s expectations where in coming to Jesus, but what the text does specify is that Jesus sees six water pots, has them filled with water, and presented to the Chief Servant, and the water was turned to wine (John 2:7-9).

In this passage Jesus performed his first sign.  However, what was the significance of His turning the water into wine? The text demonstrates that only the servants who drew the water, and the six disciples with Christ knew about this miracle (2:9, 11).  H.R. Reynolds describes one aspect of this act; “It was a creative act.”[3]  T. Croskery further adds to this as he explains how the one “who can create matter can easily change it from one kind to another.”[4]  He also explains how this provided for the disciples evidence of the divine nature of Christ, and that “they believed as they never had before.”[5]

John 4:46-54 records Jesus second sign miracle.  While Christ was in Cana of Galilee a nobleman came to him pleading for the life of his son who was sick.  This was not a Jew who came to Jesus but most likely a Gentile who was in the service of Herod.  This man came to Jesus because he had heard about the miracles of Jesus.  Upon his request it seems that Jesus gives the man a stern response; “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (4:48, HCSB).  However, this response does not phase the nobleman at all, instead he again asked Jesus to come and heal his son (4:49).  Jesus assures the man that his son will live and sends the man on his journey back home.  What is remarkable at first is the belief that the man has in the words of Jesus.  At Jesus assurance that his son will live, the man simply starts his journey home (4:50).  The first significance of this miracle is that Jesus was demonstrating that he was not limited by space.  He was over twenty-five miles away from the boy who was ill.  Even today a person may be able to communicate with an individual miles away through cell phone or internet, but there are no direct actions one can do that would at would transverse any distance.  In this miracle Christ demonstrated a power that no simple man could attain.  Furthermore, Dr. Towns points out that this lead to this man and his whole family believing in the “incarnate Word of God”.[6]

Jesus travels to Jerusalem for a festival of the Jews in John 5.  While he is there Jesus provides His third sign and he heals a man who for 38 years had been unable to walk (5:5-8).  This sign was directed specifically at the Jewish leadership, and the Pharisees primarily.  Christ performed this miracle on the Sabbath which led the Pharisees to further attempt to kill Jesus (5:8, 18).  This miracle was significant because of the Jews charge, and Jesus’ response to the charge.  The Pharisees were arguing that it was unlawful to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus responded that as His Father is working so He also is allowed to work on the Sabbath.  As Leon Morris points out, through this sign Jesus was demonstrating that “He could do on the Sabbath things that the Pharisees could not do.”[7]  The Pharisees understood the point Christ was “making himself equal to God”.[8]

In John’s record of Jesus’ fourth miracle we are taken to a crowd gathered around Jesus in by the Sea of Galilee, as they are listening to his teachings (6:3).  It is now later in the day and as Christ looks over the crowd there is a compassion to care for their spiritual but also their spiritual needs.  Jesus talks to Philip, already knowing what He is about to do, but as a faith check on Philip.  However, Philip fails the test, and so Jesus brings about another sign and provides not only for the needs of the 5,000 men who are gathered, but also to help build faith in His disciples.  Dr. Towns sees the gathering of the twelve baskets as a demonstration of a principle Jesus will further expound on the next day; “That of all that He [the Father] has given Me I lose nothing” (6:39).[9]

Unlike most of the signs of Jesus John leads right from Christ’s sign of the feeding of the 5,000 to Jesus fifth miracle, waking on the water.  After the feeding of the 5,000 the crowd purposed to put Christ on the throne of David (6:15) as their provider and defender against Rome.  However, the purpose of Jesus at His first advent was not to come as the conquering king, but instead the sacrificial lamb.  Jesus removed Himself from the crowd, and sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee.

The disciples begin their journey across the Sea of Galilee, but a storm comes upon them, and so the disciples have to work diligently to proceed across the way.  As they are attempting to cross the now turbulent sea, they see Jesus walking across the water possibly with the intent of passing them (6:19).  They are greatly frightened and even assume this might be a harbinger of doom, yet Christ calls to them, and tells them not to be afraid (6:20).  In their moment of fear, Christ came them and offered comfort.  Reynolds sees the point of this sign as demonstrating that even in Christ’s divinity He has the ability to comfort all fears and doubts, for nothing can occur outside of His control.[10]

Jesus and His disciples come into contact with a man born blind in John 9.  His disciples question Him and ask if this blindness is a result of the sin of the individual or his parents (9:2).  Jesus explains that it is not the result of sin from anyone of this man being born blind, but instead so that God the Father might be glorified through Christ (9:3).  Again, on the Sabbath day Jesus is about the work of His Father.  This sign was to demonstrate the mission and ministry of Christ on earth as Divine Operation[11] as B. Thomas points out in his homily in the Pulpit Commentary.  Thomas states that this demonstrates the fact that redeeming grace, an attribute the Jews considered only as coming from God, was within Jesus as well.[12]

The other miracles are also significant in their own ways.  In the rising of Lazarus Christ’s demonstrates that He has all authority over life and death, a power only held by God.  And in the miraculous catch, Christ demonstrates additional power and authority over all of creation.  If one is challenged with the claim that Jesus never claimed deity.  His very signs demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Christ was indeed divine.  This was something His disciples came to see, the nobleman, the man born blind, and the Jews saw as well.  Three of these groups and individuals came to the right understanding of who Christ was, one was blinded and refused to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to send forth the Messiah. 






















Croskery, T. Gospel of John. 1890. Edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Pulpit Commentary. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978.


Morris, Leon. Jesus Is the Christ. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012.


Reynolds, H. R. Gospel of John. 1890. Edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Pulpit Commentary. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978.


Thomas, B. Gospel of John. 1890. Edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Pulpit Commentary. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978.

Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Rev. ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.

[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live, rev. ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), xiii
[2] Towns, 19.
[3] H. R. Reynolds, Gospel of John, ed. H.,D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, Pulpit Commentary (1890; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978), 79.
[4] T. Croskery, Gospel of John, ed. H.D.M Spence and Joseph S. Exell, Pulpit Commentary (1890; rerp., Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978), 94.
[5] Croskery, 95.
[6] Towns, 44.
[7] Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 28
[8] Morris, 29.
[9] Towns, 60.
[10] Reynolds, 255.
[11] B. Thomas, Gospel of John, ed. H.,D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, Pulpit Commentary (1890; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978), 427
[12] Thomas, 427.

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