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John's “Sign” Miracles

“Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:30,31).

John (as guided by the Holy Spirit) chose eight of Jesus' miracles and recorded them as special "signs" of the glory of Jesus Christ. Although some recognized and believed these signs (2:11), many did not (12:37). Let us now consider the miraculous "signs" recorded by John.

1. Changing Water Into Wine

John identifies the miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee as being the first (2:1-11). This miracle demonstrates the seeds of the move from law to grace. John had previously demonstrated, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (1:17). The water, which had been set aside for the rituals of purification, is a reminder of the legal requirements imposed on the population at that time. The Pharisees were legislating joy out of the nation. Jesus turned the water into wine, a symbol of joy and of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), where it represents the blood of Messiah shed for sin.

2. Healing a Ruler's Son

The second sign that John records is the healing of the sick son of a royal official, a boy who was at the point of death (4:46-54). Capernaum, the location of this sign, was the place where Jesus made His home during the time of His public ministry. It was a place that saw many of His miracles, described by Jesus as “mighty works” (Matthew 11:20). Yet, the people of Capernaum generally remained unrepentant, and rejected His Messianic claim. Signs and miracles do not guarantee faith in Jesus.

3. Healing a Disabled Man

The third sign is the healing of a severely disabled man (5:1-16). The long-term invalid had been chronically ill and disadvantaged for 38 years. This period of time reminds us of the generation which wandered in the wilderness for a further 38 years after God had found them guilty of their sin (Deuteronomy 2:14).

By healing at the pool of Bethesda, served by the fountain of Siloam, Jesus brings into focus the prophecy of Zechariah 13:1, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”

4. Feeding a Large Crowd

The fourth miracle that John records is the feeding of the great crowd (6:5-14). The crowd, in Messiah's eyes, was like a flock of sheep without a shepherd, and He viewed them with compassion. Feeding the multitude showed Jesus as the incarnate God, who came from Heaven. He alone was able to say, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (6:35).

5. Walking on the Sea

The fifth significant miracle was that which took place on the Sea of Galilee at night (6:16-21). In this miracle, the divine Son of God demonstrated again that He would thwart every attempt by Satan to drag Him down. Not only did Jesus walk on the water, but He also stilled the storm, saved Peter from sinking beneath the waves, and brought the boat safely to shore. After seeing the multitude fed, Peter saved, and the devil defeated, it is no wonder that they “worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

6. Healing the Man Born Blind

This sixth sign takes place at the end of the feast of Tabernacles (9:1-41). To heal the blind man, Jesus made a clay poultice out of dust and spit, and applied it to his eyes. He then instructed him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash away the mud. When he washed, he was able to see clearly. The two ingredients of the poultice, dust and spittle, represent the natural man (Genesis 2:7; 3:19) and the shame and humiliation of sin. On the other hand, the water from the pool of Siloam represented the Spirit of God. This symbolism was at the heart of the ceremonies which took place during the week of the festival, and was the reason Jesus “stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit)” (7:37-39).

7. Raising a Dead Man

The seventh sign/miracle is the raising of Lazarus (11:1-44). When Jesus received news that His friend was at the point of death, He not only delayed until Lazarus was dead, but also waited until he had been buried and entombed for four days. His intention was to demonstrate to the leaders of the Jewish nation that He was able to raise Lazarus, not just from the grave, but also from Hades. Because of the framework of Jewish belief at that time, they believed that the soul did not descend into Hades until after three days. Jesus needed to wait until the fourth day to demonstrate fully that His power reached to the grave and beyond.

8. The Miraculous Catch of Fish

The last sign recorded in John's gospel is that which took place at the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection of Messiah (21:1-14). Here Jesus works a double miracle. First, He demonstrated that fishing was not the disciples' future, as they worked all night yet their nets were empty. Then, in the morning, He stood on the shore and instructed them to cast their nets again, this time on the other side of the boat. They caught 153 large fish. On bringing the catch to shore, they were invited to a breakfast of bread and fish that had already been prepared.

In the first sign, Jesus provided wine. Here, at the lakeside, He provided bread. Significantly, table fellowship is placed at the heart of the Church's activities, where bread and wine symbolically represent the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16).

—Condensed from Miracles of the Messiah, copyright (c) 2006 by Byran W. Sheldon. Published by Gospel Folio Press