Eight Sign Miracles In John: Christ’s Deity Revealed

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Introduction

In John, we are presented with eight distinct sign miracles that reveal different aspects of the deity of Jesus. These signs would draw people to Christ[1] and reveal God in a time of great uncertainty and trial for the Jewish and Samaritan people. From turning water into wine to overcoming death itself, Christ gave hope that changed the course of history itself. It is a hope that transcends time and brings purpose to life itself. Each of these miracles is worth taking a look at as we consider who Jesus was and what His deity entails.

The Old Becomes New

The first miracle presented in John occurs at a wedding in John 2:1-12. Mary alerted Jesus when He arrived at the wedding with His disciples that the wine supply had run out. 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[2]. Jesus proceeded to instruct the servants present to fill six stone water jars to the brim with water that became wine as they presented the jars to the master of the banquet. Gary Burge and Andrew Hill note: “stone jars could be used as permanent vessels for purification (ritual washing. In the previous chapter, John the Baptist offered a ritual washing, but he announced a more powerful baptism to come (1:33). Jesus had now taken up the necessary symbols as the fulfiller of Judaism.”[3] The master of the banquet replied by exclaiming: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”[4] The miracle itself is a contrast between the pitfalls of Judaism and the coming of Jesus because the new wine was noticeably superior to the old wine and all the old wine had passed away before this miracle[5]. This miracle reveals the change that occurs with Christ, a change that is abundant and satisfying to the soul. The element of His deity revealed is that He has the power to make all things and all lives new. He can take the old things and change them into glorious blessings.

No Distance Too Great

The second miracle occurs in John 4:43-54 where Jesus heals the son of an official. This man was probably a high ranking official of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee[6]. Jesus does not go with the man, He instructs the man to return to his son and he will find his son well, which the official believed. When the official returns home, his servants meet him to tell him his son’s fever had broken at the exact time Jesus said the boy would live. Andrew Hill and Gary Burge note: “The very hour of healing is the hour of Jesus’s utterance (4:52). This combination of miracle and unbelief (4:50, 53) is what distinguishes the Johannine term ‘sign.’”[7] There is no doubt that this miracle reflects the need for faith in Jesus and the power of His word. The very fact that the official trusted Jesus at His word and returned home show that the official had complete faith in Jesus. The official demonstrated faith in God’s spoken word when he believed what Jesus said (John 4:50), and then he demonstrated faith in the incarnate Word of God when he and his household believed (John 4:53)[8]. The element of deity shown here is that Christ has authority over space and distance. He is able to do works that assist believers from Heaven and no distance is too great for Him to overcome.

Time Is Not A Factor

The third miracle occurs when Jesus heals a lame man at Bethesda in John 5:1-14.  This man had been lame for thirty-eight years. Jesus questions the man and asks him if he wants to be healed to which the man replies that he has no help to enter the pool when the water is stirred. Stirring of waters is more than likely a reference to Christian baptism[9]. Jesus tells the man to get up and walk and man got up, grabbed his mat and walked. This miracle hinders on the issue of Jesus performing a miracle on the Sabbath and the lame man was forbidden to carry his mat on the Sabbath day[10]. The miracle, therefore, represents the authority Jesus has over both ritual and the laws of man. Jesus is not subject to the laws and transcends them to reflect that He is the bringer of the New Law. The element of deity He reveals here is that he transcends time. The man had been lame for thirty-eight years, yet Christ allowed him to overcome his condition immediately.

Come, Let Them Eat

The fourth miracle occurs in John 6:1-14. A large crowd approaches Jesus and the disciples. There was not enough bread and fish available to feed the five thousand people present. Jesus took the five barley loaves and two fish, blessed them, and turned it into an amount of food that was more than they needed for the hungry crowd. Morris states of this miracle: “The bread symbolism is complex, but clearly Jesus is the supplier of our deepest needs.”[11] In this miracle, we see not only that God provides what man needs, but He does so abundantly. Jesus can take whatever man is able to give Him and multiply it beyond what their minds could ever fathom. Jesus is revealing that His deity allows Him to know man’s deepest needs before they even bring them to Him[12]. This element of deity also allows Him to supply man with everything they need.

Walk On Water

The fifth miracle also occurs in John 6:16-24. Here, the disciples are in a boat heading for Capernaum when they encounter a storm. Jesus approaches them from a distance where they were scared initially but Jesus calmed their fears by saying “It is I; don’t be afraid.”[13] Jesus would then be welcomed into the boat and would help the boat reach the shore. The revelation of His deity is quite clear in this instance. Christ’s deity allots Him authority and mastery over nature. This in turn allows mastery over all things within nature.

The Blind Shall See

The sixth miracle is in John 9:1-12 where Jesus heals a man who has been blind since the day he was born. Jesus reveals that the blindness was not a result of sin of his parents (a common thought of the time[14]), it was caused so God could be shown through him. Jesus uses spittle to cover the eyes of the blind man, anoints him, and instructs him to the pool of Siloam. Why Siloam when Bethesda was closer? Towns states of Siloam: “The sending of this man to the ‘springs of salvation,’ which also spoke of the sending of the Messiah, was the beginning of Jesus’ revelation of Himself to this blind man.”[15] Another reason is that Christ was testing the blind man’s faith and obedience to Christ and this produces spiritual light[16]. In this instance, Jesus’s deity is revealed by Him overcoming physical laws. A man who is blind from birth cannot see and should physically never be able to see. Yet, Christ is able to overcome obstacles like this and give sight to the blind. Similarly, Christ opens to sinner’s “blind eyes” to the Truth of His glory[17].

Bring The Dead To Life

The seventh miracle occurs in John 11. Here, Jesus is informed that a close friend, Lazarus, has died. Jesus’s response is: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”[18] He leads His disciples to Bethany where He visits Mary (sister of Lazarus) and Martha and He weeps tears over the death of Lazarus. He makes a point to confirm the faith of Mary and Martha before they lead Him to where Lazarus lies. Mary and Martha hoped for a healing miracle because they could not comprehend a resurrection[19]. Jesus has the stone rolled away from the tomb of Lazarus, gives praise to God, and instructs Lazarus to exit the tomb. The fact He praises God and asks for God’s glory in it is very important. Graham Twelftree notes: “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.”[20] Towns states: “The word of Christ gave life to Lazarus, just as the Word of God gives spiritual life today (Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23).”[21] The element of Christ’s deity revealed in this miracle is His power over death. His promise is that those who believe in Him and accept His sacrifice will see eternal life in Heaven.

Believe In Me

The eighth miracle is found in John 21:1-14. Here, the resurrected Christ appears on the shore by the Sea of Galilee where He calls out to the disciples who were led by Peter to go fishing. Important here is that the disciples did not know it was Jesus on the shore, they could not see Him well. He asks the disciples if they were catching any fish to which the disciples respond they are not. Jesus instructs them to cast their net along the right side of the boat and the disciples are unable to bring in the net because of the one hundred and fifty three fish that were caught in it. The beloved disciple exclaims: “It is the Lord!”[22]. When Peter heard this, he jumped out of the boat to head for Jesus and the other disciples (including the beloved disciple) followed in their boat making sure to bring the fish with them. The fish would become great food for the breakfast Jesus wanted them to have with Him. Hill and Burge states of the miracle: “Essentially Jesus is emphasizing the mission of the disciples. When Jesus directs their work, they will prosper. And the beloved disciple has indeed chosen the correct task: to remain with the fish so that none are lost.”[23]

John 21: All Miracle Signs Present

This final miracle shows Jesus’s deity by His power over everything. Not only has He resurrected, but at His command, the fish appear. In an area of the sea that had produced no fish, Christ brought them and brought them bountifully. In truth, all of the deities presented in the prior seven miracles are present here. To start with, Christ was resurrected which was foreshadowed by His resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. Christ’s deity certainly has power over death. Surely the fact the disciples could not see Jesus from the distance reflects the blind man in John 9. He did not see Jesus, but he trusted Him. The disciples did that as well and their eyes were opened as to who it was that commanded them. Jesus performed this miracle from the shore which was distant from the boat. He overcame the physical law of the sight’s range and impacted the hearts of the disciples. When He healed the nobleman’s son in John 4, the son was a considerable distance away. The nobleman took Jesus at His word and that faith brought healing. Jesus overcame that space for the disciples as well and brought healing to their hearts after His death. In John 6, He presented His mastery over nature by walking on the water. In John 21, He certainly presented His mastery over nature by producing fish where fish were not present before. In John 5, Jesus transcends time by healing a lame man of thirty-eight years with immediate results.  In the catching of the fish, Christ transcended time by making the catch immediate that would have otherwise took a few days to achieve. Just like Jesus takes few supplies in John 6 and makes more than enough food for a crowd of five thousand, He takes the disciple’s empty net and fills it beyond their need for a meal. Finally, like turning water into wine in John 2, Christ’s deity allows Him to make all things new. Most notable in John 21, the disciples were regenerated and were now ready to bring others to Christ when they would have been depressed or doubtful before.

Conclusion

These eight miracles go beyond what man’s wildest imaginations can begin to fathom. For centuries man has worked to replicate these miracles, explain these miracles with science, or disprove them altogether. However, these miracles reflect Christ’s deity and the power of God Himself. No man could ever begin to do these things because they were miracles done by the hands of the Word Himself. Christ did these things so that man may come to know Him, receive Him, and come into an eternal relationship with the Father. The overall message in these miracles is that man cannot earn salvation, only Christ can bring that and make all things new in all lives.


[1] Twelftree, Graham H. The Cambridge Companion to Miracles. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011. pp. 115-116

[2] Towns, Elmer L.  The Gospel of John: Believe and Live.  Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series, edited by Mal Couch and Ed Hindson.  Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002. p. 19.

[3] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012. p. 1120.

[4] John 2:10, NIV.

[5] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. p. 1120.

[6] Towns, Elmer L. p. 44.

[7] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. p. 1125.

[8] Towns, Elmer L. p. 44.

[9] Towns, Elmer L. p. 48.

[10] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. p. 1126.

[11] Morris, Leon.  Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989. p. 32.

[12] John 6:6

[13] John 6:20-21

[14] Towns, Elmer L.  p. 90.

[15] Ibid. p. 91.

[16] Ibid. 91-92.

[17] John 9:35-41

[18] John 11:4

[19] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. p. 1140

[20] Twelftree, Graham H. The Cambridge Companion to Miracles. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011. p. 115.

[21] Towns, Elmer L. p. 112.

[22] John 21:7

[23] Burge, Gary M. and Hill, Andrew E. p. 1162.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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