Sign Miracles of John

In John, there are eight sign miracles that Jesus performs.  Each miracle shows a portion of the deity of Jesus.  Jesus liked to show that He is not only the God for the Jews but also the God of the Gentiles.  Each miracle was unique in nature and each miracle showed the ultimate power that only Jesus possesses.  Jesus’ signs and miracles show that He was part man and is all God and nothing is impossible with God.

The first miracle in John happened at a wedding in Cana of Galilee in John 2:1-12.  Jesus and His disciples arrived at the wedding and Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, approached Him and said that there is no more wine.  The most plausible reasoning for Mary telling Jesus this was that she was simply informing Him of a need and was much like a prayer instead of a command.[1]  Jesus, in verse seven, states, “Fill the waterpots with water.”  For the Messiah to come (and this is the unexpected news) the old institutions must pass away. Jesus enacts his first miracle on a religious device of Judaism. What were these jars? The Mishnah indicated that stone jars could be used as permanent vessels for purification (ritual washing). Jesus has transformed their contents. In the previous chapter John the Baptist offered a ritual washing, but he announced a more powerful baptism to come (1:33). Jesus has now taken up the necessary symbols as the fulfiller of Judaism.[2]  Jesus’ deity was shown in the changing of water to wine.  Jesus can make anything from nothing, showing the power that He is God, even when He looked like only a man.

The second miracle occurred in John 4:46-54 where Jesus healed a nobleman’s son.  Jesus returned to Cana of Galilee, where He performed the miracle at the wedding.  A nobleman came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his son.  Jesus then issued the warning that the people would not believe in Him unless He continued to perform the miracles He was doing.  The nobleman did not understand and asked Jesus to come to his son to heal him.  Jesus showed His deity in the fact that He did not have to be with the child to heal him.  Jesus simply spoke and the child was well.  Jesus showed that He is the Great Physician, who can heal the sick, blind, lame, and other people with simply a touch or a word.

The third miracle was the healing of a sick man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-14.  The sick man who was by the pool had been there for thirty-eight years and could not find a way to get into the pool before everyone else because he had no one to help him.  The fact was that everyone waited for the moving water as it was thought to have healing properties when the water moved.  The thirty-eight years have been taken to refer to either the wilderness wanderings or the centuries of messianic expectation.[3]  Jesus approached the man and asked the man if he wanted to be made well again (verse 6).  The sick man tried to explain his situation for why he could not be healed in the pool, not realizing who Jesus is and what He can do.  Jesus then does something that would have seemed odd to everyone around.  He told the man to pick up his bed and walk (verse 8).  The man was immediately made well and could walk.  Jesus showed His deity by healing a man who was sick for thirty-eight years.  Jesus does not worry about how much time has passed; He can make people well simply because He is God.

The fourth miracle happened in John 6:1-14.  This is the feeding of the five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fish.  This is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels; it must have been deemed very important by the early church [4]  Jesus was busy healing the sick and was also gathering a large following of people waiting for the signs that Jesus was performing.  This occurred during the time of the Passover and Jesus asked His disciples where food could be purchased to feed the people.  This was a test to see the faith of his disciples.  The disciples tried to use human logic and reasoning to figure out how much money would be needed to feed this amount of people.  Jesus took five loaves of bread and two small fish from a small boy and fed five thousand people with food to spare.  Morris records this for the miracle: “The bread symbolism is complex, but clearly Jesus is the supplier of our deepest needs.”[5]  Jesus showed His deity by taking care of the physical needs of the people by making a small amount of food fed a large amount of people.

The fifth miracle happened in John 6 as well at John 6:16-21, where Jesus walked on water to the disciples who were out to sea.  This is directly after the feeding of the five thousand and the people were looking to make Him king (verse 15).  Jesus then secluded Himself on a mountain to be alone, more likely to pray and have time to rest for a moment.  Jesus’ disciples got in a boat that night and started to head toward Capernaum.  John often uses the word skotia to refer not only to physical darkness but also to a kind of spiritual darkness, as when Judas went out to betray Christ.[6]  Just then, a storm occurred and the storm was great enough to have made these experiences seafarers afraid (verse 19).  Jesus showed His deity by controlling the weather and showing that everything in nature must respect and honor the power that Jesus has.

The sixth miracle was in John 9:1-12.  Jesus healed a man born blind since birth.  Jesus was with His disciples and they asked Jesus why this man was born blind and whose fault it was, thinking that this must be the reason.  Jesus explains that this man is blind at this particular time so that He can show his power that comes from being God.  Jesus then spit on the ground, made clay and put the clay on the man’s eyes.  After the man went to the water to wash off the clay, he was able to see as if he had not been blind since birth.  Jesus showed His deity by again showing that man’s time is not obedient to Jesus; Jesus can perform miracles apart from a time structure created by man.  This lesson also pointed to Jesus speaking about a spiritual blindness that needed to be removed.

The seventh miracle can be found in John 11:1-44.  This miracle surrounds the death of Lazarus, who was of the town of Bethany like Mary and her sister Martha.  Jesus received word that a man named Lazarus had become sick and was near death.  Jesus, rather than rushing in to save him, chose to wait to teach the disciples a lesson about belief in Him.  Jesus, by the time He had arrived where Martha and Mary were, found out that Lazarus had been dead for four days.  This paves the way for a lesson about Jesus.  Jesus shows his deity by raising Lazarus from the dead in his physical body.  Even being dead for 4 days, Jesus has the power to conquer death and the grave.  Jesus was also pointing to the fact that He not only takes care of the physical body but is in control of the spiritual body as well.  Graham Twelftree wrote: “the synoptics portray Jesus’ miracles as acts of compassion, the Fourth Gospel never does. Conversely, in the latter, Jesus twice (John 9.3; 11.4, 40; cf. 5.17) performs a miracle in order that the works and glory of the Father might be revealed through the Son – a motive absent from the synoptics.”[7]  Jesus can offer eternal life to those who would believe in Him.

The eighth and last miracle occurs in John 21:1-14.  This is the miracle of Jesus filling the disciples’ nets with fish when they previously could not catch any.  The passage starts with the disciples going out to sea to catch fish that they might eat.  John identifies some but not all of the seven disciples who had been fishing all night.[8]  The disciples spent all night trying to catch fish and could not catch anything.  Now these men were not novice fisherman, but experienced and would know where to go to catch fish.  Jesus approached the disciples and before they could recognize them, He asked them for food.  They told Him that they had not caught anything, not knowing that they were speaking to Jesus.  Jesus then tells them to throw the net over the right side of the boat (verse 6).  It was then that there were so many fish in the net that the disciples could not bring it into the boat and required help.  The word John uses here to describe this scene is an imperfect active picturing the disciples tugging at the net.[9]  Jesus showed His deity in that He was reaffirming the mission of the disciples.  God’s love led to his giving his Son so that people would get life (John 3:16)[10].  The fish were a representation of the unsaved people of the world and the disciples were to go out and bring the people to Jesus to be saved by Him.

From turning water into wine to even bringing people back from the dead, Jesus showed His disciples and all those who saw that Jesus is powerful.  Jesus also showed that He is God and can do all things, much more than what men can accomplish on their own.  People need Jesus in the physical world as well as the Spiritual world.  Jesus, by the miracles that He performed, shows that He is the way to God, not a way to God.  Jesus made sure to take care of physical needs first but followed this with showing the need for spiritual healing.  All the miracles that Jesus performed could only be performed by God and not man.  These miracles were performed to show the world the Jesus is who He says He is.  His deity is shown time and time again in these miracles.

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

[2] Gary Burge and Andrew Hill, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012)

[3] Towns, Gospel.

[4] Burge and Hill, Baker

[5] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989)

[6] Towns, Gospel.

[7] Graham Twelftree, The Cambridge Companion to Miracles (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

[8] Towns, Gospel.

[9] Towns, Gospel.

[10] Morris, Jesus.