Appendix 5. "Signs" in John's Gospel


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Detail of 'Healing the Blind Man,' stained glass, All Saints Church, Rickling, Essex, UK.
Detail of 'Healing the Blind Man,' stained glass, All Saints Church, Rickling, Essex, UK.
One of the characteristic words for miracle or healing in John's Gospel is "sign." The term "miraculous signs" (NIV), "signs" (NRSV), "miracles" (KJV) is the plural of sēmeion, "a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication." Here, "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers, miracle, portent."[376]] For John, these wonders are not just miracles, but signs that point to who Jesus actually is. In the first such instance, the changing of the water into wine, a "sign" had two functions:

  1. Reveals his glory.
  2. Inspires faith. The miracles inspired faith in those who believe in him, but in his enemies they inspired only a determination to eliminate him. Of course, this faith inspired by miracles isn't a mature faith and is sometimes fickle, but it is a beginning, which will hopefully grow into a fuller faith based on who Jesus is.

Toward the end of his Gospel, John explains,

"30  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (20:30-31)

Sēmeion is used in John a number of times (2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30). In the early part of his Gospel, John numbers two of his signs (2:11; 4:54). If you were to number all the signs about which John gives considerable space, you could come up with Seven Signs:

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.
  1. Changing the Water into Wine (2:1-11))
  2. Healing of the Nobleman's Son (4:46-54)
  3. Healing at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-9)
  4. Feeding the Multitude (6:1-14)
  5. Walking on the Water (6:15-25)
  6. Healing the Man Born Blind (9:1-8)
  7. Raising Lazarus from the Dead (11:1-46)

Endnotes

[376] Sēmeion, BDAG 920, 2aα.


Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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