John Part Two: Dive
THE BOOK OF SIGNS
The book of John is an incredible composition with a purpose. It is completely different to the other gospels, the miracles and things that Jesus did are not in chronological order but John has placed them in the order of his purpose. Don’t panic this is not manipulation of the text but a common way of writing in the 1st Century.
So let me explain to you why John was writing such a different account from the other gospels. When you read the gospels you can see that each had their own purpose for writing them. Matthew writes a book of Jesus’ teaching to show everyone what Jesus said and did in fulfilment of the Old Testament as the Messiah. Luke – Acts was written as a close chronological account of everything that Jesus did and then what the disciples did. Mark, the first gospel written, is a book of activity, you are going to hear terms like immediately, he is showing Jesus was a man of action, a powerful minister and a suffering servant.
So what is John’s purpose? John clearly outlines his purpose or program in John 20:30-31
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
There are two things I want to highlight to you in the above ‘program’ of the book of John, firstly the word ‘signs’. Some translate this as ‘miracles’ but ‘signs’ is the better translation for the purpose that John intended for the book. John highlights all the ‘signs’ that point to Jesus being the Messiah the Son of God. Like walking along a road, John directs the reader to STOP at every point and reflect on how what Jesus did showed that he was the Messiah. The word sign is our reflection point. Now we are going to look at this a little further below but let me first finish with the above ‘program’ of the text.
The second thing I want to highlight in the above verses is the fact that John is writing so you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and by believing you may have life in his name. John is purposeful about people believing and he uses this term over and over again to highlight the miracles that you can rest on and believe, and how the people of Jesus’ day came to believe. Just to get you started highlight the below verses that contain the word ‘believe’, they include 1:7, 1:12 (this is a key verse) 2:11, 2:22, 2:23, 3:12, 3:15, 3:16, 3:18, 3:36, 4:41, 4:48, 4:53 and it continues – can you see how understanding the key terms shows you the purpose of the book? John 12:37 is one of the saddest verses: “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”
So as you can see, John’s purpose is to present a book of signs that show that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that you might believe, and in believing have eternal life. So with this purpose in mind, this book is not going to be chronological, the miracles are not going to be in the same order as the other gospels, no John has selected key points in Jesus life, out of the things he saw jesus do, that point to Jesus being the Messiah, and presented them in a narrative.
Look at John 21:35
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
In other words, out of all the stuff that Jesus did I am going to give you a selection of the ones that show my purpose. By the way don’t you wish someone did write it all down whether it took up a million books or not? Perhaps we will find out in heaven all the things that Jesus did that we don’t have in our gospels.
So, let’s jump back to the first thing in our prologue, the word ‘signs’. When you look at the structure of the book of John as mentioned in the Snapshot, the three sections of this book are Prologue, The Book of Signs and The Book of Glory. As you read the book I want you to highlight where it says ‘sign’, here are a few to get you started:
2:11, 2:18, 2:23, 3:2, 4:48, 4:54, 6:2, 6:14, 6:26, 6:30, 7:31, 9:16, 10:41, 11:47, 12:18, 12:37, 20:30
So why does he keep repeating this term ‘sign’? The book of John is a book of signs that point to Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, so you will believe and in believing you will have eternal life (the gospel!). You can see in John’s account that some see the signs and believe, some see the signs and don’t believe. Let’s have a look at one now.
This first sign seems confusing but when you understand it in light of the Jewish culture it is really quite amazing. The first sign we find in John 2:1-11. Have a read of it and highlight the below:
John 2:11 “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciple believed in him."
If you were like me when I first read this in the light of the signs, I was totally confused how does Jesus turning water into wine become a sign that he was the coming Messiah, but the key is found in the vessel he used for the miracle. 2:6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Let me give you a quick background to this text. The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, a King like David, Commander of the Armies of the Lord. The Messiah will usher in the Age to Come, bringing the Kingdom of God. The Jews believed that the present evil age, or the Age of Water, will be reversed to an Age of Wine, where wine will flow from the abundance of the land and they will be celebrating at a wedding feast with abundance when the King returns to his throne and brings the Kingdom of God. Now read John 2:1-11, this is Jesus at a wedding, where he turns water into wine. Can you see how big this prophetic declaration was to say that the Kingdom of God had come?
Jesus brings the best wine flowing into the old traditional ceremonial jars, used for washing. He was giving a significant symbol of the declaration of the Kingdom. The Kingdom they were longing for had come, the Age of Water had become the Age of Wine. How cool is that!! See how a little bit of study can make the whole text come alive.
Another incredible study that you can do is to look at John’s purpose as he goes through the Festivals and shows how Jesus fulfils them all (6:25-10:42). At the Festival of Light – Jesus stands up and says “I am the Light of the World”, at the Festival of Water – Jesus stands up and says “I am the living water”, at the celebration of Manna from heaven Jesus says “I am the bread of life.” Study what these were in the Old Testament and Jewish History and you can see how John is saying you no longer need to go to these festivals to wait for the Messiah to come - Jesus declares “I am” over every Festival. And don’t forget John, with his detailed writing style, adds these incredible little insights, so don’t miss them, look at 7:1-13 - Jesus sends his disciples on to the festival to go and “show yourself to the world” and then in 7:10 Jesus goes to the festival in secret. Imagine Jesus undercover walking around just listening to the conversations about him, hearing their whispering. So cool!
When you study the Bible there is so much just beneath the surface. So today perhaps take a journey through your Bible and study all of the signs or perhaps study how Jesus fulfils the festivals. There is so much treasure that you can find if you just go digging a little deeper. Enjoy your time in John!
Have a great time discovering the book of John! Don’t forget send us any questions you have as you journey. This week we have two Deep Dives - everyone loves a two for one!