This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
A Gospel Which Is Selective
John’s gospel was written after A.D. 70 when Jerusalem city and the temple were destroyed by the Romans. All other gospels were written before that date.
This gospel is like the highlights of a world cup final. The key moments are shown. It is selected material. And at different points John as a narrator comes to explain the meaning to us.
That is why John selects 7 signs (there are many more Jesus did—John 20:30). He prefers to use the word signs than miracles. Each sign highlights in a different way who Jesus is. “Sign” is said to be a wonder with a meaning in it. And John is trying to tell us what the meaning is.
The 7 Signs John Selected
Sign #1. Jesus Changes Water to Wine 2:1—11
In the first sign, Jesus reveals himself as master over quality. Wine which takes many weeks to age properly is made instantly. We often forget that Jesus did this miracle to save a family from shame—the shortage of customary food at a wedding banquet. The presence of Jesus makes a qualitative difference in our lives; doesn’t he?
Response: His disciples put their faith in Jesus (2:11).
Sign #2. Jesus Heals the Royal Official’s Son 4:46—54
Jesus can heal from anywhere. Capernaum was nearly 17 miles or 25 kilometres away from where Jesus was. By healing a boy at that distance Jesus was showing that he was the master of distance or space. The Royal Official showed remarkable faith in leaving his sick son at home and coming to Jesus.
Response: The Royal Official and all his household believed in Jesus (5:53).
Sign #3. Jesus Heals an Invalid Man 5:1—9
When diseases are there for a long time it is difficult to heal. By healing a man who was invalid for 38 years in an instant Jesus was showing himself master of time. Here Jesus is seen as the restorer of lost powers.
Response: The Jews persecuted Jesus because the healing took place on a Sabbath. They try all the harder to kill Jesus because he was making himself equal with God (5:18)
Sign #4. Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand 6:1—14
This is a miracle recorded in all the gospels. It is such a huge miracle that not one of us can ignore it. A boy was willing to share his lunch. Just five loaves (barley was the food of the poor) and two fish (probably pickled fish) was enough to feed five thousand men, women and children. Jesus showed himself through this miracle as the master of quantity. The above sign is an acted parable on the claim that Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35).
Response: People spoke about Jesus as the Prophet who is to come into the world. They intended to make him king by force (6:15).
“The people wanted to make Christ their King because He could feed them. How like people today! They long for someone who can give them food and clothing. But Christ would not be King on their grounds. He dismissed the excited multitude and departed to a mountain. The people were disappointed that He would not be a political leader, and so they ‘turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66).’ ”
– from What the Bible Is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
Sign #5. Jesus Walks on the Water 6:16—21
Even when you are alone Jesus is watching over you. That is the beauty of this miracle. He showed the mastery of Jesus over natural law.
John’s emphasis is not on the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. His emphasis is on the ever-present Saviour. When they needed him he was there. He assures us: “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Simple isn’t it? Are you trying to row your boat all alone? Jesus is our guide. See also Psalm 48:14.
Mark adds a few more details which helps us understand this incident better (see Mark 6:45—52). It was Jesus who sent them ahead. He went up a mountain to pray. He saw the disciples straining at the oars. The wind was against them.
John adds: “By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.” The absence of Jesus was now keenly felt by the disciples. They longed for his presence. But Jesus was trying to teach them to walk by faith and not by sight. The circumstances became tough: A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. But those are conditions when Jesus comes to you.
“He wants us to learn to walk by faith and not by sight; to endure when things are hard and there is no sign of success; to believe and go forward when there is no apparent way open before us; to obey simply because we hear his voice, even when we do not understand.”1
“Even if nothing else in our circumstances seems to change, what a difference it immediately makes when we are assured that he is present in our midst as companion on the difficult journey.”2
“He will come. We will hear his voice. Nothing around us will prevent his taking us to the very destination we have sought and he has planned.” 3
Response: The disciples were willing to take Jesus into the boat.
Sign #6. Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind.
This miracle shows a progressive understanding of the man about Jesus. The miracle also tells us that not all diseases are because of someone’s sin. If you are in some difficulty don’t let anyone lead you to believe that it is because of your lack of faith or some sin in your life. The reason can be totally different—to reveal the glory of God. This sign is a demonstration that Jesus is our light and also that he was the master of misfortune.
Response: Pharisees react against the man born blind. Jesus calls the Pharisees as “blind.”
Sign #7. Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead 11:1—46
Jesus shows himself as the master of death.
Response: The raising of Lazarus from the dead was however the last nail in the coffin as far as hatred against Jesus was concerned. Throughout the gospel John was showing us how people responded to Jesus. Many Jews had put their faith in him when they saw how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This was a real threat to the religious system of the day. They feared that the crowds would go after Jesus and the Romans will come against the Jews (v. 48). This is one example of how religious and political concerns can join hands together.
In summary, limitations of quality, space, time, quantity, natural law, misfortune, and death4 faced by man in his daily existence are taken care of by Jesus. These signs point to that fact.
1, 2, 3The quotes in have been taken from the Pastoral and Theological Studies on John’s Gospel by Ronald S Wallace.
4 Master of quality, space, time, quantity, natural law, misfortune, and death; idea taken from Merrill C. Tenney from his Analytic Study of the Text of John: The Gospel of Belief.