The Gospel Story: The Miraculous Signs of Jesus
John 2:1-11, 9:1-7
Rev. Sandy Johnson
August 13, 2017
Our series continues this morning on the gospel story. We can’t tell the story of Jesus without spending time learning about the miraculous signs he demonstrated during his 3-year ministry. Our stories this morning both come from the Book of John, which is less an eye witness account of the life and times of Jesus and his followers; and is in fact, more a book that leads us to understand how “Jesus embodies the Word of God.” If we approach this scripture only as a historical lesson that tells what Jesus did on any particular day, who he healed and who was out to get him, we miss the deeper meaning, the opportunity to be drawn into the mind of Christ.
“The Word of God comes to us most completely, most clearly, and most compellingly, not in a book, but in a person, the person Jesus Christ. Thus, everything John will say about Jesus points to who God is and what God is like. When we pray to God, we picture Jesus Christ. We come to know who God is by looking at Jesus. We abide in God by abiding in Jesus. The invisible God is made visible to us in Jesus Christ.” The Book of John invites us to step into the theological framework of the life of Jesus and to dig deeper into the meaning behind his lessons, going past the reporter’s blog and into the meaning behind it.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. “When I consider the way John portrays Jesus, I think of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gough and his postimpressionist style. John’s portrayal of Jesus is a bit more postimpressionist that representational. “With that in mind, let’s take a minute to consider Van Gough and one of his most famous paintings. Van Gough had a deep love of God. He felt called to be a pastor and served briefly in England as an assistant to a Methodist pastor. He sought to enter seminary, but was unable to pass the entrance exam, so he went on to serve as a volunteer missionary, but he seemed to rub people the wrong way. Whether it was due to his mental illness or as a result of his actions, the church told him he couldn’t serve anymore.” Understandably Van Gough was upset with the church, and in spite of it all he maintained a deep faith in God.
“Some think both his love for God and his struggle with the church are captured in his remarkable painting, The Starry Night. The painting shows a town and a church at night, above them is the most amazing sky: the moon and stars whirl like pinwheels overhead. Many see the lights in the sky as representing Christ, the light of the world, or the light of God’s love. Some houses in the village have this light in them as well, perhaps signifying the light of Christ in the hearts and lives of people. But there is no light at all in the church, which is the very center of the painting. This may be Van Gough’s way of venting his frustration with the church of his day – a cold building without the light of Christ in it. You can bet that the lights are not on the church by accident. A deeper meaning was intentional.
“I’ve looked at this painting my whole life and only recently did I begin to see its possible message about the life of Christ. How did I miss that? It was because I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t paying attention. “When you read a story in John, part of what makes it interesting (and even fun) is asking: is there more to the story than meets the eye? Does this or that detail mean something? There are always at least two levels at which these stories can be read: the straightforward level, in which water is changed into wine or the eyes of a blind man are opened, and a deeper level, a deeper meaning which answers questions such as “Who is this man Jesus? How does he affect my life? What is required of me?”
“John’s descriptions of Jesus’ miracles provide good examples of these multiple levels. John calls the miracles “miraculous signs.” A sign points toward something else. Scholars often refer to John chapters 2 to 12 as the “Book of Signs.” These chapters contain seven of the signs – miracles that point to the identity of Jesus and the nature of life in Christ. Some believe the fact that John records seven of these signs is also significant, since in ancient times the number seven was seen as representing wholeness or completeness.”
Coincidence? Perhaps not! Let’s look at the details of our first miracle story. Jesus was attending a wedding, which was quite an affair. Jewish wedding banquets in the first century were seven day affairs. Lots of drinking, eating, dancing and time spent celebrating together with friends and family, the new family that is created with the marriage. Weddings are so joyful that many times the bible associates heaven with a wedding banquet. Remember, there are deeper meanings to the story beyond Jesus tapping a keg for a party! This story is also indicative of the life that Jesus offers to each of us, it is meant to be a sign of the messianic time to come. Even at the end of the Book of Revelation, we see Jesus preparing the “wedding banquet of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).”
At this wedding, the wine had run out which would be an embarrassment to the host. Water at this time was not always safe to drink so wine was usually drank at every meal. Being out of wine meant being out of drink. So, Jesus mother stepped in, telling Jesus that the wine had run out. Then expecting Jesus to do something, she tells the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. I have to wonder if she has seen Jesus do this before. “Note that when the servants did as they were told, a miracle occurred – water changed to wine; the ordinary was converted to the extraordinary. John may have been saying, similarly, that if all of us do as Christ tells us, then our ordinary lives can become extraordinary.”
Approaching the next section in the same manner, we see that “nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.” Why all this detail? Does it matter what the jars were made out of or what they were used for? They were going to become wine vats! “it seems likely to me that this detail takes us back to the Old Testament, where, in Ezekiel God says, “I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one” (Ezekiel 36:26). John’s story is not just about Jesus changing water into wine, but it is instead about how life in Christ is richer and more joyful that the ritualistic religion of first-century Judaism.”
The jars were filled by the servants to the brim. Jesus then tells the servants to take a sample to the headwaiter, which they did. Tasting a fine wine, he is surprised that the groom has saved the best wine for after the guests had been drinking a while. Usually the best wine was served first. Note that the servants didn’t just fill the jars, they were filled to the brim. I suspect that “John is telling us that Jesus wants to fill us up completely. We’re meant to be overflowing, as a cup “runneth over.” Remember, the overarching theme of this Gospel is that we might have life in Christs name,” and abundant life at that.
“In the Hebrew Bible, wine is often used as a metaphor or a sign of blessings and goodness and joy. Here it represents the life Jesus offers, a life of joy, peace, and hope. When you choose to come to Christ, you find a life filled with those qualities. It’s better than the life you had before. When Jesus took water, and turned it into wine, he showed us that he can take what is ordinary and make it extraordinary. In this story, John is showing the rich, full life offered by Jesus, as contrasted with the sometimes empty religious rituals of first-century Judaism.” The wine in this story may also point to the wine Jesus shared at the last supper, although the wine represents Jesus’ blood, shed for us, it is reasonable to think that “John may intend the wine at the Eucharist, viewed through the lens of this story, to represent the source of joy and life that we find in Christ.”
The second story is the sixth miraculous sign told in the Book of John. This story is so important, that the entire chapter 9 is dedicated to the story. Approaching Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples came upon a blind beggar. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?” This was a common belief, if something bad happened to you, or of you were ill or disabled in any manner, it was believed that you were being punished for something you had done wrong. Certainly, this man’s blindness was the result of his or his parents sin.
Jesus replies in the contrary, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” This isn’t a punishment at all, in fact it is an opportunity for God to display his mighty power, for God’s work to be revealed. This reminds me of Jesus words in Matthew 5:16, “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” “So, our daily mission is to look for opportunities to reveal the work of God, to be living signs pointing to the love of God.”
Getting back to our story we see Jesus spitting into his hands, mixing enough dirt to make mud and putting mixture onto the eye lids of the blind man. Then he told the man to go to the pool at Siloam and wash. Why didn’t Jesus just speak a healing over him? Why the drama of telling him to go and wash? “There are several ways to make sense of this story. One way points back to the creation story in Genesis. John has already given a nod to the creation story in the opening words of the Gospel, “In the beginning…” You’ll recall that in the story of Adam and Eve, God took the dust of the earth and from it formed the first human being (Genesis 2:7). Here in John 9, Jesus, who is the Word of God enfleshed, takes dust, mixes it with spittle, and heals a blind man. In this “miraculous sign,” Jesus is shown to be the one who heals what is broken in God’s world and in ways that mirror what God did at creation in the Old Testament.
“In Genesis, brokenness and pain came into the world when the first humans disobeyed God and ate of the fruit; in John 9, brokenness and pain were healed when the man obeyed Jesus and went to the pool to wash. The miracle would not have happened if the man had not trusted Jesus and done as he had said, just as the water would not have been turned into wine if the servants had not done as Jesus had commanded them at the wedding banquet.”
We are all blind beggars, barely managing to find our way, walking in the darkness. That is until we come face to face with the light of the world, until we allow Christ to enter our life and until we trust him and begin to follow him. “Our eyes are opened when we hear his voice, trust his words, and do as he commands.” John basically is asking us, “Are you blind, or can you see?” When we trust in Christ, seek to do his will, and are washed in the waters of baptism, we find our eyes opened, in the same way that Paul’s was blinded and his eyes opened when he was baptized.
“Both the healing of the blind man and the changing of water into wine ultimately point to the same message: Christ offers life. This life is richer and more meaningful than the ritualistic Judaism of his day. Christ is the light of the world. As you trust him and do as he asks, your eyes are opened to see life as it is and to see God as he is.”
Let us pray: Lord, we want the joy and life that you offer, to drink of the best wine as we put our trust in you. Help us to choose your way over the ways of the world. May our suffering and adversity be an opportunity for your works and glory to be revealed. Please use us to alleviate the suffering of others. And I pray for you to open our eyes that we may truly see. In your holy name, Amen.
 Hamilton, Adam. John. The Gospel of Light and Life. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN 2015. Page 18.
 Ibid, 32
 Ibid, 32-33
 Ibid, 34
 John 2:6
 Hamilton, 35
 Ibid, 36
 Ibid, 37
 John 9:2
 Hamilton, 41
 Ibid, 41
 Ibid, 42