Section II. The Signs and Public Discourses of Jesus (John 1:19 - 12:50)


Audio (3:27)

'Feeding the Multitude' window (2000-2001), St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Ayer, Massachusetts, under the direction of Scott McDaniel, Art Director, Stained Glass Resources, Hamden, MA.
'Feeding the Multitude' window (2000-2001), St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Ayer, Massachusetts, under the direction of Scott McDaniel, Art Director, Stained Glass Resources, Hamden, MA.

We've begun the second major section of John's Gospel. After the Prologue (1:1-18), John carefully selects incidents in Jesus' life that tell us Jesus' significance, who Jesus is. Who he really is. Remember John's purpose:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs (sēmeion) in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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)

Many commentators call 1:19-12:50 the Book of Signs, followed by the Book of Glory (13:1-20:31), where Jesus glory is seen in his death and resurrection.

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."[11] For John, these wonders are not just miracles, but signs that point to who Jesus actually is.

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:

  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)
John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels that include many teaching parables about the Kingdom of God, John's Gospel displays Jesus' teaching in a series of discourses, many of which follow miraculous sings. If you were to number the major discourses in the Book of Signs you could come up with Seven Discourses:

  1. The New Birth (3:1-36)
  2. The Water of Life (4:1-42)
  3. The Divine Son (5:19-47)
  4. The Bread of Life (6:22-66)
  5. The Life-Giving Spirit (7:1-52)
  6. The Light of the World (8:12-59)
  7. The Good Shepherd (10:1-42)

Whether John planned his Gospel to be divided so neatly into two Books, Seven Signs and Seven Discourses, is debatable. However, it provides the modern reader with some structure within which to understand Jesus' ministry.

Endnotes

[11] 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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