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The Seven Signs in John: An Introduction

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The Seven Signs—seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel of John: An introduction

Text: Hebrews 2:1-4
Theme: The Seven Signs—seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel of John: An introduction
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hebrews 2:1–4, NIV84)
Tonight I want to introduce you to the doctrine of semiotics—the study of “signs”. OK, this is not the study of road signs or billboards, although in the broader field of semiotics those might be included. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning to the person reading the sign. We encounter signs regularly in our daily lives. It would be difficult to function without them. The meaning can be intentional. In our culture signs are used to communicate instructions (like a stop sign) or they can be used to communicate important information (like a Cracker Barrel ten miles ahead). Some signs are unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. You might sneeze several times, and someone will say, “That’s a sign that a cold is coming on.”
The bible is a book full of signs that have theological significance. Biblical signs often involve the miraculous, but not always. The cross of Jesus was a “sign” though the crucifixion itself was not a supernatural event. In his conversation with Nicodemus years before Jesus told him, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:12–15, NIV84). Jesus is referring to the event in Numbers, chapter 21 where Moses fashions a snake from bronze and places it on a pole so that all who look on it may be healed of venomous snake bite. Jesus is clearly telling Nicodemus that what Moses did was a “sign” that pointed to Jesus’ redemptive ministry.
Just as all Old Testament signs served to authenticate God’s appointed divine messengers so that those who heard them and saw the sign would believe, so it is with the signs of the New Testament. The are meant to authenticate the words of Jesus so that we might believe.


1. they convey truth about God’s character, truth about His will and ways, and truth about His redemptive plan
a. there are two areas in the Old Testament that are rich in “signs” ... the book of Exodus and the Prophets
1) in Exodus the most obvious signs are the ten plagues sent by God to punish Pharaoh and the Egyptians for not freeing the Hebrews
ILLUS. These are “shock and awe” signs from God. They represent miraculous displays of God’s power to demonstrate that God is more powerful than all the false god’s of Egypt.
a) these signs are similar to a modern big-budget, special-effects laden blockbuster movie
b) there’s certainly a “wow” factor in these signs that are described in Exodus as signs and wonders
2) in the Prophets we see these men of God sometimes doing strange things that serve as signs to Israel
ILLUS. We see God command the Prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her. The name of one child means Not Loved, and the name of another means Not My People. God is attempting to communicate the seriousness of Israel’s spiritual adultery in her worship of foreign idols. Then there is Isaiah the prophet who, in his old age, walked around naked for three years as a sign of God’s judgment against Egypt. In Ezekiel, God uses an iron skillet as a symbol representing the strength of the siege wall the Assyrians will throw up against Jerusalem. There will be no escape for anyone who sallies forth out of the city.
a) these are not “shock and awe” kind of signs ... they’re more mundane, but just as effective in communicating truth
2. signs in the Old Testament had two purposes
a. 1st, they were used by God to authenticate his human messengers as His instrument of revelation
b. 2nd, they were used to communicate a spiritual truth through a physical event


1. one of the chief criticisms Jesus leveled against the Jews—especially the Jewish religious leaders—was their constant demand for “signs” that he, was indeed, God’s Anointed One as he claimed, and others claimed of him
a. in Matthews gospel the Pharisees come to Jesus saying, “ ... “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”” (Matthew 12:38, NIV84)
b. Jesus, of course, regularly provided the “signs” they were demanding, they just chose to reject them ... they didn’t perceive the signs as signs even though they were signs
1) Jesus, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, tells us why
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:15, NIV84)
ILLUS. This is still man’s problem. Until the Spirit is ready to open their eyes to truth they’ll never understand it. I think we’ve all been there ... you explain the gospel to someone as simply as you can. So simple that a child could understand, but when you’re done, they look at you and say, “I don’t get it.”
2. the greatest sign of all is cross of Jesus, which they also rejected, and which remains a “stumbling block” for so many
ILLUS. The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16). In the end the rich man is told that even if one came back from the dead, they would not believe.
3. the Apostle John is clear why God give us signs concerning Jesus
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30–31, NIV84)
a. To Authenticate the Ministry of Jesus and Reveal His Glory
1) they “scream” Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God
b. To Point People to the Spiritual Truth Behind the Miracle That Teach Us about the Redemptive Ministry of Jesus
ILLUS. For example, when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, the point wasn’t about enjoying a good glass of wine. But it is about Jesus being Lord of the Feast.” ... the one who gives new wine that is the best wine.


1. everyone who reads John’s gospel will recognize that it is different than the three synoptic gospels
a. John is not so interested in providing an orderly account of Jesus ministry as he is in helping people see the glory of his divinity
1) some New Testament scholars conclude that John’s Gospel is essentially “two books” ... the Book of Glory (chpts. 1-11), and the Book of Passion (chpts. 12-21)
2) all “seven signs” appear in the Book of Glory
b. these seven signs that Jesus performed that are meant to reveal the glory of his deity ... hence “the Book of Glory”
2. the first one of these “signs” occurs at a wedding where Jesus changed water into wine
a. at the end of that verse John describes the purpose of that event ...
“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:11, NIV84)
b. what are the seven signs?
1) Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
a) Jesus is Lord of the Marriage Supper
2) Cleansing the Temple (John 2:12-17)
a) Jesus is the Suffering Servant who builds the new temple of the Church
3) Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
a) Jesus is Lord of Time and Distance who grants life by his word
4) Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15)
a) Jesus is Lord who makes broken people whole
5) Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-14)
a) Jesus is the Bread of Life and Lord over eternal life
6) Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-7)
a) Jesus is the Light of Life, and Lord of Future Judgment
7) Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45)
a) Jesus is Lord who rules over Death
3. six of these signs are undisputed, but New Testament scholars debate over two other events and which of those two events should be included
a. they are the Cleansing of the Temple or Walking on the Water
1) I go with the Cleansing of the Temple though it’s one of those issues we should lose any sleep over, or divide over
So there you have it. An Introduction to the Seven Sign in John.
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