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THE MIRACULOUS – ANALYTICAL STUDIES

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007

IN JOHN’S GOSPEL

Note: the word dunamis [miracle] is not used in John’s Gospel. John uses semeion – sign, and ergon – work [a normal word for any action or deed.].

 

A. MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS IN JOHN’S GOSPEL

 

From an analysis of John’s Gospel [see table below] we learn:

 

About the kinds of miracles and signs done by Jesus:

John recorded a very small number of the following kinds of ‘signs’:

From John’s Gospel we also discover:

 

About the role and purpose of the miraculous:

 

About the relationship between ‘faith’ and miracles:

Yet even this reported ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ was not always genuine. Among those who did not respond to Jesus’ miracles [‘signs’] with real belief in his real deity, the following is evident:

If all of this happened in response to the miracles of Jesus, the perfect teacher, the exact representation of God, the One who does all things right and well, how much greater potential do ‘miracles’ done by imperfect, ego-centric sinners have to generate these and other inappropriate responses? And how much less potential to generate true faith?

 

About demon possession:

 

About on-going signs and wonders:

 

B. ANALYSIS: MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS IN JOHN’S GOSPEL

John 2:11

[semeion]

Jesus changed water into wine. As a result the disciples ‘put their faith in him’. This ‘miraculous sign’, however, though seen by others, did not have the same impact on them. It revealed his glory only to his disciples.

Explained as Jesus revealing his glory

Faith is the result of the sign, not the cause.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 2:18

[semeion]

The Jews demanded a ‘miraculous sign’ to prove his authority to cleanse the temple. Jesus referred to his death and resurrection.

Similar to Matthew 12, Mark 8, and Luke 11.

Jesus refused to give a ‘miraculous sign’

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 2:23-25

[semeion]

The ‘miraculous signs’ Jesus did resulted in non-genuine belief.

Jesus did not accept this false belief.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 3:2

[semeion]

Nicodemus stated that Jesus’ ‘miraculous signs’ were proof that God was with Jesus, and that Jesus came from God.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus to a deeper faith than that generated by the miracles.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 4:48-54

[semeion]

[teras]

Even though he responded to the official’s request, Jesus rebuked the crowd generally for their need to see ‘miraculous signs and wonders’. [The word ‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text.]

Faith mentioned as a result of the healing miracle.

Need for signs and wonders a negative thing.

[The word for ‘wonder’ is teras = something strange.] This is the only use of teras in John’s gospel.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 5:1-15

Healing at the pool. No faith mentioned. In fact it’s mentioned that the man was a sinner [verse 14]

[No record of Jesus healing the ‘great number of disabled people’ who were there.]

Jesus saw this miracle as doing the Father’s work [v16-19].

The fact that Jesus addressed and healed only one of the many sick and disabled who were present raises questions about contemporary perspectives on healing.

John 5:36

[ergon]

The work Jesus did [that is, his miracles] is testimony to his true identity

Miracles [Christ’s ‘works’] are a testimony to Christ’s deity.

John 6:2

[semeion]

Many people follow him because of the ‘miraculous signs’ he had performed on the sick.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

This is most probably a reference simply to physically following.

See comment on 6:30ff below.

John 6:14

[semeion]

The feeding of the five thousand makes the people wonder if Jesus is ‘the Prophet who is to come’. [Jesus’ response is to reject this conclusion, it meant they saw him as a national political hero]

False deduction from signs

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 6:16-24

Walking on water

John 6:26-29

[semeion]

Jesus pointed out that those following him were responding to the feeding miracle on the physical level rather than seeing the spiritual level of his real identity revealed by this miracle.

Failure to see beyond the physical sign.

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 6:30 - 69

[semeion]

The people ask for a ‘miraculous sign’ that would cause them to believe that he is the one sent from God. They demand something greater than Moses’ manna. Jesus’ reply, that he is the bread of life, the bread of God, the bread from heaven, in whom they must believe in order to have eternal life, offends them so much that they all stopped following him except the 12 disciples.

The misapplication of the signs had resulted in a false following that stopped when Jesus spoke of his deity and incarnation.

[Compare John 2:23,24]

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

It could be concluded from Jesus’ teaching in this passage that the incarnation is the sign greater than the manna – he is the ‘bread from heaven’. If this is so, it is an ultimate sign, like the resurrection, and one the Jews vehemently rejected.

John 7:3-5

Facetious reference to his miracles by his brothers.

[ergon]

John 7:21

‘I did one miracle, and you are all astonished’

[ergon]

John 7:31

[semeion]

Many ‘put their faith in him’ as the Messiah, because of the great number of ‘miraculous signs’ that he did. Clearly, they were expecting a miracle-working Messiah. ‘Faith’ reported as a result of the miracles.

Signs understood as a pointer to Jesus’ identity as Messiah

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

John 7:39

Holy Spirit not given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Indicates the Holy Spirit could not be given to the church until Christ was glorified [that is, until he returned to the Father]. This is important in understanding what happened on the Day of Pentecost.

John 9:1ff

[ergon x 2]

Healing of man born blind – this healing described as ‘the work of God’ No faith mentioned prior to the sign.

Jesus refers to what he did as doing the work of him who sent him.

John 9:16ff

[semeion]

The fact that Jesus did ‘miraculous signs’ caused some of the Pharisees to state that Jesus could not be from God because he healed on the Sabbath. Some, however, could not believe that a ‘sinner’ could do such miracles. The once-blind man affirmed his belief that Jesus was ‘from God’. Later is conversation with Jesus his belief gains more specific focus. Faith reported as a result of the sign.

Miracles associated with deciding whether or not Jesus was ‘from God’

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

Note that the sign, without teaching, was not sufficient to generate faith.

John 10:25

[ergon]

Jesus’ miracles [works] which he did in his Father‘s name speak for him.

Miracles testify to Jesus’ identity.

John 10:37-38

[ergon x 2]

Jesus challenged the Jews to believe in him on account of his miracles [‘works’], which he refers to as ‘what my Father does’.

Miracles pointed to Christ’s divine identity and confirmed his claims about his identity.

John 10:41

[semeion]

John the Baptist did no ‘miraculous sign’ but all he said about Jesus was true. [‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

Miracles not necessary to validate teaching.

John 11:4, 40-43

Jesus raised Lazarus – so that people would see the glory of God and believe that God sent him. Faith reported as a result of the sign.

Purpose was to generate true faith in Jesus Christ and to bring him glory

John 11:47

[semeion]

The Jewish leaders are concerned that the amount of miraculous signs Jesus was doing, and especially the raising of Lazarus, would cause everyone to ‘believe in him.’

[‘miraculous’ is not in the Greek text]

The Jews’ fear indicates their understanding that faith could be generated by miracles.

John 12:17-18

Impact of the news of the raising of Lazarus

[semeion]

John 12:37

[semeion]

The Jews continue in unbelief despite all the miracles. [This puts a qualifier on previous statements about many people following him or believing in him. ‘Many’ did – see verse 42 -, but the majority did not.]

John 14:10

[ergon]

‘The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.’

Jesus calls what he says the ‘work’ of the Father.

When we realize that Jesus calls what he says ‘work’, and that the word ‘miracle’ does not occur in this passage in the Greek, it raises questions for those who use this passage to teach that believers are supposed to do greater ‘miracles’ than Jesus did.

John 14:11

[ergon]

‘… at least believe on the evidence of the miracles [Greek = works] themselves’

John 14:12

[ergon]

‘anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these ...’

John 14:15-26

Jesus described the role/work/impact of the promised Holy Spirit whom Christ will send from the Father as follows:

[1] ‘another Counsellor to be with you forever’

[2] ‘he lives with you and will be in you’

[3] ‘the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’

The coming of the Holy Spirit is also in this passage described as the coming of both the Father and the Son to live in the believer.

The Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father in the name of Jesus.

Nothing is said here of anything spectacular accompanying either the initial or on-going fulfilment of this promise.

Key concepts about Holy Spirit: indwelling, identity and equality with Father and Son, teaching what Jesus taught.

John 15:24

[ergon]

‘If I had not done among them what no one else did … but now they have seen these miracles [= works] and yet have hated both me and my Father.’

Failure to respond appropriately to Christ’s ‘works’.

John 15:26

The promised Holy Spirit – the ‘Counsellor’, the ‘Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father’ will testify about Christ.

Key concepts about Holy Spirit: deity, teaching about Jesus.

John 16:5-16

About the promised Holy Spirit Jesus taught:

He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.

He is the Spirit of truth

He guides you into all truth – he takes what is Christ’s and makes it known to you.

He brings glory to Christ by this teaching.

Key concepts about the Holy Spirit:

In relation to the world – conviction and judgment.

In relation to believers – teaching the truth about Jesus Christ.

In these three sections about the Holy Spirit there is nothing about the Holy Spirit generating miraculous or ecstatic activity.

John 17:4

[ergon]

‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.’

Net result and purpose: God’s glory.

John 20:22

‘Jesus breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit”’

Context: Christ’s commission of his disciples: ‘as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. [Not all the disciples were present.]

John 20:30-31

[semeion]

John recorded the miracles of Jesus with the express purpose of convincing people of his deity so that they would believe that he is the Son of God, and through that belief have life in his name.

Jesus miracles identify him as the Son of God – they validate his verbal claims.

John 21:1-7

The miraculous catch of fish, and the strengthening of the net.

A post-resurrection miracle.