John has an agenda, and his agenda is that you would believe in Jesus. That’s why he writes. He wants to initiate faith in Jesus in all who would read or hear his gospel. Toward this end, he structures the narrative of his gospel around seven signs. They are miracles, but John calls them signs. He uses seven miracles he calls signs to structure the narrative flow of his gospel. This is in stark contrast to Matthew, Luke and Mark. They have many miracles. Mark in particular just backs up his truck and unloads every miracle he can think of and throws them at you. And we can be overwhelmed by the wonder worker who is Christ.
For John, he sees that that’s been done. That’s not his agenda or what he’s trying to do. He doesn’t want to just impress us that Jesus can do miraculous works. He wants to use an economical number of miracles to point people to how we should believe in Jesus. Because John isn’t so much interested that we believe that Jesus can do miracles, but John wants us to believe in Jesus. Hello! And there is a difference between believing what Jesus can do and believing in who Jesus is.
So John uses seven signs. He told us the first one was the first one, at the wedding in Cana where he turns the water into wine. Now we are going to look at the second miracle, and again he tells us it’s the second sign. He’s not going to keep doing this, he’s an artist. He’s not going clutter up his artistic gospel with a bunch of numbers. But he’s got to start it, here’s the first, here’s the second. And he hopes we catch the clue, after this we are just going to have to figure it out for ourselves. Which we do, and we find there are seven signs John places in his gospel to point and direct our faith in Jesus.
The first two happen in the same place, Cana of Galilee. A few weeks apart, maybe a couple of months. This second one is a far more serious kind of miracle. A young boy in Capernaum, 25 miles from Cana, is going to be healed as Jesus speaks a word in Cana. It’s healing at a distance. All of this is not merely an account of a miracle, but John uses it as a sign to direct your faith, because John says that if you can believe in Jesus, in his identity, in his name in the right way, it will give you life. John wants you to have life, but he knows that you have to believe in Jesus in a certain way to have that life, and he’s using these signs to direct your faith toward Jesus.
But before we look to this sign, lets lay some groundwork. Centuries before Jesus, maybe as much as a thousand years before, an anonymous psalmist was meditating on the history of Israel in God’s care, god’s provision for israel, especially during their wilderness wandering. He writes psalm 107, and in this psalm is this lyric – “He sent out his word and healed them…” Psalms 107:20 ESV. The psalmist is meditating upon a particular time in the wilderness wandering when a great plague had come upon the Israelites. The psalmist says God spoke a word from heaven to Israel as they wandered in the wilderness and it brought healing to those who were ailing and sick. So we have a picture of God’s word as a healing agent, a word spoken. He sent his word and healed them.
So now we go to how John begins his gospel in his poetic prologue. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1, 14 ESV. In the beginning was the Word…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the beginning was the word, or the logos. The logos was with God, and the logos was God, and logos became flesh and dwelt among us. Logos is a Greek word, it can be translated word, it means that. But logos is bigger, more robust than just word. It could also be translated wisdom, we could say that in the beginning was wisdom, wisdom was with God, wisdom was God, wisdom came and dwelt among us.
In proverbs 8, wisdom is commending itself. Wisdom is speaking. Wisdom towards the end of Proverbs 8 says to us ““The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Proverbs 8:22-31 NIV. Wisdom was with the Lord before anything, wisdom was daily his delight, wisdom worked with God as a son with his father, worked with God in the creation of all things…
This sounds very much like the beginning of Johns gospel, does it not? In the beginning was the logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The logos is the wisdom of God, you might even say the logic of God. In the beginning was the [logic], and the [logic] was with God, and the [logic] was God. But this is not any logic. There is human logic. But this is divine logic. The longer we spend studying scripture, one of the themes that is recurrent is that there is a difference between human logic and divine logic. Human logic, as James will tell us, skews toward the demonic. Towards scapegoating, blame, self preservation, economic self interest. The divine logic moves all the time, steadfastly toward love, love, love.
John says that in the beginning was the logos, the logic, the wisdom of God. He was with God, he was God, he became human flesh. The theme John wants us to catch is that Jesus is what God has to say. Jesus is the word that God speaks into his own creation that we at long last might know what God is really like. Jesus is the word of God translated into human flesh so we can understand it, so that it doesn’t remain, abstract, ethereal, theoretical, distant. Jesus is the word, the logos, the wisdom of God translated into a human being so we can understand him.
“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”
John 4:46-54 ESV