That it is of great importance to see the special significance John attaches to the term “Sign” we have attempted to demonstrate in our former article. More could be said to substantiate our contention, but we trust that what we have written will, at least for the present, be sufficient to indicate its importance. We will have ample opportunity to refer to this matter again later in this essay in another connection.
It ought to be clear from what we have stated concerning the prevalency and consistent use of the term “Signs” in the Gospel of John, why we wrote “Signs in the Gospel of John”, above these articles. We did so advisedly. The term “miracles” is too vague to convey the specific notion of the term “Sign”.
There is, however, still a fourth term to discuss, a term used to designate the miracles of Christ. Jesus Himself often speaks of His miracles by employing this term. It is the word “Works”. The term occurs in the Gospel of John in the following passages, to wit,; and .
The term “works” points out the miracles of Christ as to their agent. They are then viewed in relationship to the one who has performed them. They point to their Performer, because He is unique, being the Son of God in our flesh, these miracles are Works in a class all by themselves. They are works that are wrought in such a way that they betray, nay, they most emphatically bear the imprint of the divine agent. Says Jesus: “I and the Father are one”. And again: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works sake”. These works speak so loudly of their divine author, be in the flesh of the descendants of Abraham.
Thus Jesus speaks of His works in: “the works which I (emphatically “I” in the Greek) do in the name of my Father, these witness concerning me”. So great are these works and so exalted is their testimony that Jesus can say to the Jews in : “Now I have a witness which is greater than John. The works which the Father gave Me, that I should finish them, the same works which I do testify concerning Me, that the Father hath sent Me.”
In these passages there seem to be the following elements:
1. The miracles, signs, wonders are works. They are wrought by an agent, by a personal agent. They are not just occurrences in nature. They all point to the author.
2. These miracles as works testify, i.e., they have a message that comes with authority, they have convicting power. As works they demand faith and obedience. They substantiate the Word.
3. Their very nature is that they bear the impress of the divine. They loudly proclaim that the Father, God Himself, is in this Son, and that He is sent to perform these works. They are the works of the great officebearer of God.
Summarizing what we have thus far seen, we notice the following:
Firstly, that the miracles of Jesus are wonders, they cause amazement to those who behold them, because nowhere else in the whole of creation are such phenomena beheld. Bread is commonly multiplied in the way of seedtime and harvest. But in Jesus’ miracles it is multiplied under His hands.
Secondly, that these amazing miracles are also powers. They are divine manifestations of might, either to save or to kill. It is divine power that is manifested in the raising of the dead to life.
Thirdly, these wonders, powers are always “works” of Christ, performed by His will, with all His heart and mind and soul and related to God the Father, Who is very really present in this “Worker”.
Fourthly, these works, wonders, powers are always signs, portents of things to come. They are pregnant with prophecy. They always speak of greater things to come. They loudly tell, and clearly obsignate the Mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, and do so in such a way, that believing in their testimony spells life, while unbelief is clearly willful disobedience. Upon the latter the wrath of God remains.
Having thus seen the implication of the term, we still stand before the task of showing into what pattern, according to the Gospel of John, the “signs” of Jesus are cast.
To begin, we may point out that the Gospel of John records to us only eight miracles. They are the following and recorded in the following chapters:
When we study this list of “Signs” performed by the Lord and recorded by John, it strikes our attention that all except two of these “Signs” are recorded to us only in the Gospel of John. These two are: The Feeding of the Multitude, and The Stilling of the Galilean Sea”. These latter two are also recorded in the other Gospel records, called Synoptic Gospels. All the other miracles recorded in John are those which he alone mentions. To this we might add, that strictly speaking, there is still one more “Sign” performed by Christ recorded here in John. It is the healing of the ear of the High priest’s servant, named Malchus. John 18:10. However, this sign we will not include in our discussion in this series.
Further, we notice, that seven of these signs recorded were performed by Christ prior to the hour of His crucifixion and death and only one refers to a sign performed after His resurrection.
Ere we inquire into the implications of these Signs separately, we still are faced with the task of determining the overall pattern of the Gospel of John into which these Signs are cast. In attempting to do this we are reminded of the words of A. T. Robertson: “The language of the Fourth Gospel has the clarity of a spring, but we are not able to sound the bottom of its depths. Lucidity and profundity challenge and charm us as we linger over it.” Yet, we may not for the reason of its profundity fail to try to see the unity and the design of this beautiful Gospel.
In attempting to understand this design there are various matters in this Gospel of John itself that should be noticed, and various notices by John himself that may guide us.
First of all we may notice, that, as we have pointed out in our former article, John has a very practical motive in writing this Gospel. There is every reason to believe that in view of this practical design, John very studiously chooses his materials. That he relates some events of Jesus’ life and ministry, and passes by others is done with conscious purpose. Such is the implication of the notice in. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name.”
John very evidently chose to record some signs. And those which He chooses show one outstanding fact: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God! This notice here in 20:30, 31 evidently shows not only the purpose of John in describing the events that transpired and the works performed by Christ, but has reference to the purpose of John in this entire “book”.
That this what John has here recorded in this “book” is sufficient evidence, is a clear and complete picture of the Christ, the Son of God is also an element that is underscored by John. This element we should not overlook. Writes: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which should be written.” What Jesus did as the Son of God in the flesh is indeed too numerous to mention. The little that John writes is, however, a rather adequate picture of this infinitely great Christ, the Son of God. For the believers this is sufficient and this testimony has ever been sufficient unto faith in the Son of God. For unbelief this witness is an offence, it is the testimony concerning the chief cornerstone. It need not surprise us that the attempts to discredit this testimony of the Apostle have been legion. But, of course, all to no avail. The hammer is worn out but the anvil stands.
We conclude, therefore, that John himself would have us understand the intentional design. Also, we are certain, John would have us understand that he made a very careful selection.
We thus have a directive from the writer himself. Consequently we will attempt to trace out this internal unity of the Gospel. We will try to detect its plan in the several parts.
A general perspective and orientation we receive in the so-called “Prologue”. Emphatically the greatness, the divinity of the Son of God is placed on the foreground. He was in the “beginning”. All things were made by Him. He is co-equal with God, the Father. And He became flesh and dwelt among us. (vss. 1-3, 14). And as the Son of God in our flesh He dwells (tabernacles) among us and reveals His glory, glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Although no one has ever seen the Father, yet this Son has declared, exegeted Him unto us, revealed Him in His word and “works”. It is true, the final work of Christ is that He makes the Father have His abode in us, yet in His works, signs, we see portents, evidences of this great coming of God to make His abode, to change the sinful world into a holy temple, and to change the earthly, temporal form of this present world in the heavenly and the abiding.
Thus is the perspective of the “book” of John.
Into this perspective all the “Signs” performed by Jesus are arranged by John. In these “Signs” we see the Son of God in His great power, clearly manifesting that He is the sent one of God, the mighty Worker performing the work of God. By them He convicted men that He is indeed the Prophet, already spoken of by Moses, that should come into the world. None need to doubt. Curiously enough, when John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus asking Him whether He is the one to come, or whether he must look for another, the answer that is forthcoming is virtually this: Look at the things you both see and hear!
(To be continued)