The 7 Signs in the Gospel of John

The 7 Signs in the Gospel of John

The 7 Signs in the Gospel of John.

“Truly Jesus did many other signs and miracles in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these were written that you may fully believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that in the act of believing, you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31).

St. John organized His gospel around seven miracles of Jesus, what he called “signs.” At least in the first half of the gospel, everything else seems to either lead up to a sign or develops out of a sign. Sometimes the first twelve chapters of John are called the Book of Signs. John was very clear about why he focused so heavily on these seven miracles. He thought the signs were vivid, God-revealing proof of Christ’s status as Messiah, and that these miracles have a good chance of eliciting faith in the readers of his book. In all these signs, John says, there were eyewitnesses, since they were accomplished in their presence.

The seven pivotal signs, when Jesus “manifested His glory” (John 2:11),  in the Gospel of John are:

  1. Changing water into wine (John 2);
  2. Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54);
  3. Healing the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-11);
  4. The feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-15);
  5. Walking on the water (John 6:16-21);
  6. Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-12);
  7. Resurrecting Lazarus (John 11).

Seven. The number seven was an important number for John, and for all Judaism. It symbolized perfection, completion, fulfillment, wholeness. John’s liberal use of seven is seen in his seven signs, the seven I AM’s, the seven major discourses, and the seven life-changing conversations in the gospel. Seven also implies of course the seven days of creation, when creation was completed and found to be good. Eugene Peterson suggests that John, through his seven signs, has implied that Jesus continued creation through His miracles, that He revealed His divinity as Co-creator. Through the seven signs, Jesus can clearly be seen at work still in creation, He is continuing the work that God began in Genesis.

Wine. For example, consider the very first sign, when Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. In performing this miracle, Jesus continued creation by taking simple water and rearranging its atomic elements, developing a whole new substance. He created crushed grape juice out of mature grapes produced out of thin air. He creatively bypassed the time of fermentation and instantly made a vintage wine that always takes a long time to age. Jesus revealed a God who is not simply a maintainer of what is, but a creator of what was not.

Nature. Through these signs, Jesus proved there were no earthly limits to His heavenly powers. He could instantly create aged wine, He could walk on water, He could heal from a distance, He could multiply foodstuffs. Why, Jesus could do the two things that were deemed impossible in that era: give sight to the blind, and raise a dead person to life. As the Son of God, Jesus could operate within the created world or outside of it, depending on what He wanted to accomplish. The signs of Christ, according to John, proved that Jesus was what He said He was… Messiah, Son of the Father, Co-creator, and Sustainer.

Evidence. Isaiah spoke often of miraculous healings that would be signs of the Messianic Age, astounding pictures of the New Kingdom. Isaiah 26:19‘Those who die will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead!”  Isaiah 29:18-19: “In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah 35:5-6: “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!” Isaiah 61:1-2a: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” The long-awaited Messiah was expected to bring about full health and a restored creation. The Messiah was prophesied to create healthy cells out of damaged cells in broken bodies. The Messiah was to take the sting out of creation’s curse, creating vigorous bodies out of sickened bodies. John wanted to confirm that through Christ’s signs and miracles, He in fact was a fulfillment of Scripture, He was Messiah. His signs authenticated His Messiahship, it certified that He was the Son of God on earth. The signs of Christ were the evidence needed to convince the readers of John’s Gospel that Jesus was the eternal I AM.

ProofRemember when John the Baptist was in a moment of doubt and sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was the real Messiah? It seemed he wanted proof. What did Jesus point to as proof of His Messiahship? “John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask. Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:20-22). The people need look no further, says Jesus, and neither should you, John. These miracles point to who I really am. These are the signs of my divinity, says Jesus.