The Eight Sign Miracles

Introduction

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31 (HCSB)

In the Gospel of John there are eight recorded sign miracles that Jesus Christ performed. This paper will briefly describe each miracle and how it reveals the deity of Jesus Christ.

Turning of Water into Wine

The first miracle Jesus performed was changing water into wine. He and His disciples arrived at a wedding celebration that was already in progress. Mary, the mother of Jesus, came to Him and told Him they had run out of wine, presumably because she knew that He was capable of doing something about the dilemma.[1] Jesus responded by telling her that His hour had not yet come. While scholars disagree on what Jesus meant by this statement, it is obvious that Mary, as a woman of faith, understood enough that she instructed the servants at the wedding to do whatever Jesus asked them to do.[2] Jesus did in fact direct the servants to fill six pots with water, which He then miraculously changed into a fine quality wine. “The changing of water into wine is surely meant to bring out the power of Jesus to bring about new beginnings.”[3] We might parallel the higher quality of wine that Jesus made from the water with the higher quality of life that Jesus made available through His death and resurrection. John shows how Jesus “changes the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity, the water of Christlessness into the wine of the richness and the fullness of eternal life in Christ, the water of the law into the wine of the gospel.”[4] This miracle points to the deity of Christ in that it displays His power over creation.

Healing of a Nobleman’s Son

The next sign miracle recorded in the Gospel of John is the healing of the nobleman’s son in verses 46-54. The nobleman, probably a high ranking official of Herod Antipas, went to Jesus and begged Him to heal his dying son. Jesus told the man to go and his son would live. The man believed Jesus and on his way home, his servants met him and told him that his son was alive. When the servants told the nobleman when the healing had occurred, he realized it was the precise time that Jesus had spoken the words to him. Then, the nobleman and his entire household believed. Dr. Towns explains how the first belief (verse 50) was in the Word of God, while the second belief (verse 53) was faith in the incarnate Word of God. “This is the first example of salvation to all who believe.[5] This miracle also reveals Christ’s power over space because He did not travel to the man’s son to perform the act, but instead did it from a distance.

Healing of a Lame Man

The illustration of water as symbolic of the law is used again in this miracle to show how the law cannot make someone new. A man who had been lame for 38 years had been by the Pool of Bethesda waiting for someone to let him into the water to be healed. The custom was that the pool, which was used to clean animals before sacrifice, had curative powers under certain circumstances. The man was unable to get into the water by himself, and so he had been there for a long time. Jesus asked the man if he wished to get well, and then told him to get up. The fact that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath is significant in the way it points to His deity. “The sign is Jesus’ assertion that he could do on the Sabbath things that the Pharisees could not do.” “It is through this miracle that God set His seal on the work of His Son.”[6] This miracle also reveals Jesus’ power over time. The man had been suffering for many years, but nonetheless, Jesus was able to make him like new. As the Son of God, Jesus is outside the limiting bounds and effects of time.

Feeding of the 5,000

The next sign miracle is the feeding of 5,000 people with no more than two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus and His disciples were on a mountain when Jesus saw a large crowd of people coming toward them. He knew these people were not following Him because of who He was, but because of the miracles they had seen or heard He had performed. Nevertheless, Jesus saw their need for food. Jesus knew how He would handle the situation, but before He told His disciples, Andrew brought a small boy and his lunch to Jesus. Although Andrew’s had little faith concerning what could be done with it, Jesus used his small faith and turned that tiny lunch into a feast for all the people. He first prayed over the meal, which showed His dependence upon the Father.[7] This miracle displayed Jesus’ power over food and His willingness to use whatever we willingly offer.[8] Jesus tells the people “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will certainly not hunger, and he who believes in me will certainly not thirst, ever.” (John 6:35) Jesus’ claim to be the bread of life further reveals His deity. As Morris says, “The bread symbolism is complex, but clearly Jesus is the supplier of our deepest needs.”[9]

Jesus Walking on the Water

The next miracle recorded occurred later that same day. The disciples were waiting for Jesus, who had withdrawn for prayer, before they set sail across the Sea of Galilee. He had not arrived by dark, so they left without Him and set sail into a storm. Halfway through the journey, the sea was raging and the disciples were afraid. Then Jesus came toward them, walking on the water, and calmed their fears by revealing His true identity to them. “He told them, ‘It is I’ (6:20) which is the Old Testament identification of Jehovah ‘I am.’”[10] This miracle further reveals Christ’s deity by displaying His power over natural laws, which He created.

Healing of A Blind Man

This miracle involves the only healing of a man who had been blind from birth. Many scholars agree that this is an illustration of conversion. When we are saved we gain a completely new ability to see and understand the things of God. (1 Cor. 2:14-15)[11] The understanding of the Jews was that suffering was caused by the sin of either the afflicted or their parents. Jesus explains to them that sin is not always the reason for physical suffering. In this case, the man was born blind so that “the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) “The right attitude is to see in suffering not a reason for imputing guilt, but an occasion for the revealing of God’s glory in the way it is dealt with.”[12] Jesus revealed His deity when He healed the lame man as a “work of God.” This miracle also displays Jesus’ power over physical laws. Only the One who established these laws would have the power to overcome them.

Raising Lazarus from the Dead

The next sign miracle recorded is Jesus’ raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. We read in the other Gospels about the special relationship Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, had with Jesus. This is the first mention John makes of that relationship. Messengers come to Jesus and tell Him that his friend Lazarus is ill. Jesus tells them that Lazarus’ sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. Jesus travels to where Lazarus is buried and everyone is mourning. Jesus displays His sympathy and love for the family by shedding tears of His own. Even though Lazarus had been buried for four days, he came out of the tomb at Jesus’ command. This was the most challenging of miracles yet performed, and Jesus meets the challenge by praying to the Father. This helps the onlookers to see that He is acting in communion with the Father.[13] This miracle reveals Jesus’ power over death and illustrates the future resurrection of believers. It also points to His deity by revealing His relationship with the Father. As John MacArthur states, “This miracle glorifies God because it vindicates all the claims of Christ’s deity. He was not just a man, or merely a sub-god; He was God Himself in human flesh.”[14]

Miraculous Catch of Fish

The final sign miracle recorded in John occurred after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He appeared to the disciples as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had not caught a single fish, which many Bible teachers say shows that they were not giving the ministry the first priority it deserved.[15] At first the disciples did not recognize Jesus. He called to them and told them to cast their nets to the right of the boat. They were obedient and caught a miraculous abundance of 153 fish. They then came ashore and had breakfast with Jesus, whom they then recognized. The purpose of this miracle was for Jesus to reveal Himself to the disciples and for them to understand the resurrection. Although Jesus had previously revealed Himself to them, they had not fully understood.[16] Through this miracle, Jesus revealed Himself as the resurrected Son of God and displayed His power over all things.


[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 19.

[2] F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary, Rev Sub ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 1236.

[3] Leon Morris, Jesus in the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 24.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 176. (As cited in Leon Morris, Jesus in the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 24.)

[5] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 44.

[6] Leon Morris, Jesus in the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 28.

[7] F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary, Rev Sub ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 1243.

[8] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 60.

[9] Leon Morris, Jesus in the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 32.

[10] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 61.

[11] Ibid., 90.

[12] F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary, Rev Sub ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 1248.

[13] Ibid., 1251.

[14] John MacArthur, “The Resurrection and the Life,” Sickness for the Glory of God, http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1531.htm (accessed February 18, 2011).

[15] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 212-213.

[16] Ibid., 216.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bruce, F. F. New International Bible Commentary. Rev Sub ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

MacArthur, John. “The Resurrection and the Life.” Sickness for the Glory of God. http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1531.htm (accessed February 18, 2011).

Morris, Leon. Jesus in the Christ: studies in the theology of John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (21st Century Biblical Commentary Series). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.

This paper was submitted to my professor on December 18, 2010.


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