It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The two Signs of John's gospel

page: 1

log in


posted on Jul, 23 2021 @ 05:02 PM
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee” (John ch2 v11).
"This was now the second sign that Jesus did, when he had come from Judea to Galilee” (John ch4 v54).

The function of a sign is to point towards something else.
So the healing-miracles of Jesus can be called “signs”, because they point towards his Father as the source of his authority and power.
The Pharisees were rebuked for demanding signs, but this must have been because they had already been shown enough signs to convince anyone who was willing to see. It was just another excuse for resisting his words.

John’s gospel is strong on the importance of proving things by witnesses and testimony. So it is hardly surprising that John should have an interest in signs. The only real puzzle is that he stops counting after two of them. Why are the feeding of the Five Thousand, and the healing of the blind man, not being counted as signs? Indeed, we are told “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did” (ch2 v23), and this happens between the two numbered signs. The second Sign was not literally the second sign that he ever did. And it was only the first, not the second, miracle recorded "after he returned to Galilee".

I think there is a simple answer.
The first Sign is for the Jews.
The second Sign is for the Gentiles.
Since those two categories cover the world between them, there is no need for any more Signs in that special sense.

These two stories are normally discussed as episodes in the life of Jesus, but I want to look at them now from a different angle; How do they work as Signs?

First Sign

We must look for a double meaning in these words. For example, Jesus says “My hour has not yet come” (ch2 v4). In the immediate context of the story, this appears to mean that he should not be demonstrating his powers before the time has come to show them as part of his mission. In the event, he gets round that objection by making the act of power as private as can be managed.

But the gospel also talks about the coming of his hour on later occasions;
“My time has not yet fully come” (ch7 v6).
“No one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come” (ch7 v30).
“No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (ch8 v20).
“The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (ch12 v23).
“Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world” (ch13 v1).
“He lifted his eyes to heaven and said; Father, the hour has come” (ch17 v1).

In all these references, “the hour has come” means that the time of crucifixion has arrived, and “the hour has not yet come” means the time of crucifixion has not arrived.

We may see ch2 v4 as part of this sequence. Then the meaning of “My hour has not yet come” would be “This Sign relates to the time before my crucifixion. In other words, it relates to my mission among the Jews. In other words, it belongs to the Jews, in the first instance.”

It is very appropriate that this should be happening at a wedding feast, because the Old Testament keeps giving us the picture of God and his people Israel as husband and wife. In the Song of Solomon, for example.

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them” (Matthew ch9 v15)

Six huge stone jars are filled to the brim with water, which then becomes wine. The quantity is extravagantly excessive, much more than the thirstiest party of guests could be expected to drink. Though Westcott offers the suggestion that the water did not become wine until it was drawn out of the jars to be taken to the guests, which would have been much more economical.

However, we get more out of looking at the symbolism of these jars. For one thing, they are of the kind intended for “the Jewish rites of purification”. Doesn’t this point us towards the cleansing of sin as part of the meaning of the Sign?

Then the extravagant abundance of the gift would be a message in itself; “It is not by measure that he gives the Spirit” (ch3 v34).

We are told that nobody knew where the wine originated, “though the servants who had drawn the water knew”. I don’t think those additional words are just an afterthought, amending the statement for the sake of greater accuracy. The point is that the servants are potential Witnesses. Even if the miracle is to be kept secret, it is important, in the atmosphere of John’s gospel, to have people who could, in principle, testify to the fact that the wine used to be water. That is why the water had to be transferred from somewhere else first, instead of being transformed where it was. Otherwise the reader could say “How do we know that Jesus did not just discover a forgotten cache?”

The final verdict on the event is “You have kept the good wine until now” (ch2 v10). Further symbolic meaning. We know from the synoptic gospels that Jesus the bridegroom brings “new wine” (Matthew ch9 v17), and this new wine is immeasurably better than what was available previously.

Second Sign

At first glance, the second story seems almost unworthy of being singled out as a Sign, compared with the great miracles which come later. But we learn in the synoptic gospels that the Capernaum “official” was actually a centurion. In other words, a Gentile (Matthew ch8 vv5-10). There is a Greek word which can mean either “servant” or “son”, which may account for the apparent difference between the two versions recorded by Matthew and John.

Surely that is the point. The message of the second Sign is that everything available to the Jews in the message of the first Sign is now available also to the Gentiles. That is, the purification from sin, the generous abundance of the Spirit, and the new wine. They don’t need to be Jews, to be treated as part of God’s people Israel. They just need to have faith, like the man in the story.


edit on 23-7-2021 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 25 2021 @ 09:06 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

1Co 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
The church is not the nation of Israel nor does the church seek signs.

Just a reminder.

posted on Jul, 25 2021 @ 09:09 AM
a reply to: ChesterJohn
Why should God limit himself to giving people what they are looking for?
The sign is for the benefit of those Gentiles who are not yet in the church. It is a sign that says "You should join the church", and once they have joined the church they don't need it any more.
Just like tongues, in fact, which are "a sign for unbelievers" (1 Corinthians ch14 v22).

edit on 25-7-2021 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 26 2021 @ 10:03 AM

originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: ChesterJohn
The sign is for the benefit of those Gentiles who are not yet in the church.
And this stametment alone denies the very words of God.

top topics

log in