Reason for giving miracles.
“I have testimony weightier than that of john. for the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”
C.S.Lewis speaks of the one person whom he had met who had seen a ghost. “The interesting thing about the story,” he writes, “is that that person disbelieved in the immoral soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. In life seeing is clearly not believing. It is rather the other way around.
Here, of course, we come to our first difficulty in our study of the fifth chapter of John. For here Jesus appeals to miracles in defense his extraordinary claims. We are right to ask: How do Christ’s works bear witness to him?
The problem becomes even more acute and complex when we remember the story which Jesus told concerning the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16) Apparently Jesus taught that even so great a miracle as a resurrection would not persuade the unrighteous. Moreover, if we want proof that this is so, we need only to turn to the story of that other Lazarus who was raised by Jesus but thereby provoked not faith but hatred from the Jewish leaders.
The question is clearly: why and that sense did Jesus himself appeal to them?
The best answer to these questions begins with the term “signs” or “signs and wonders.” originally the word “sign” (semeia in Greek) meant “a distinguishing mark” or “token.” A sign is a symbol. It is a pointer to something signified. It is obvious that a miracle may become a sign by pointing to the unusual ability or character of the one performing it.
What do the miracles point to in John? The answer is that they point to Christ’s glory.
The signs are also more than mere symbols. In some cases they actually contain Christ, are a part of him, just as his words are a part of himself. This means that they are actually part of the revelation.
Moreover, Christ’s words and works belong together. This is made clear in two important texts. First, in John 15:22-24 Jesus speaks of his words and works together, showing that they are one in regard to their source and their effects. We can see the point best if the verses are printed as follows:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.
He who hates me hates my Father as well.
If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.
The second text is John 14:10, that: words” and “works” appear as interchangeable concepts: “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
Christ’s works are signs, not just his miracles, and so are his words. Everything he does is done to reveal God. In the nature of the case, however, some of the things that Jesus says and some of things he does are more significant than others, with the result that John is compelled to choose from the many works at his disposal those that are most helpful for the church and that is most central to a true understanding of Christ’s person.
What are the signs that John chooses? Among the many that reveal Christ’s nature and character, John pays particular attention to the following:
1. the transformation of the water into wine (2:1-11). What did this sign reveal? For one thing, it revealed Christ’s unity with God the Father in creative power. This is an illustration of John 1:3 that says that “through him, all things were made.” For another, it shows Jesus to be the bringer of Christian joy. John’s point is that Jesus alone makes life joyous and abundant.
2. The healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54). It is a sign of healing, and thus shows the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to overcome sin and heal illness.
Even more significant than this is the fact that it also shows Jesus’ ability to calm a troubled spirit and instill faith. we remember that the nobleman who came to Jesus did not have a strong faith originally. he was fearful, anxious, afraid that his son would die. Jesus he actually went on calmly about his business and did not check on his son’s condition until the next day.
3. The healing of the disabled man (5:1-18). The point of the miracles is that we are like the disabled man spiritually. we have sinned, and spiritual inability to seek Christ has come from our sin. we cannot rise to meet him. we cannot even believe in him. Nevertheless, it is when we are disabled spiritually -blind, lame, and paralyzed- that Jesus comes to us to save us and to free us from sin’s bondage. The miracle reveals God to be a God of great grace.
4. The feeding of the five thousand (6:1-14). This miracle is the first of three miracles whose significance is explained by Christ himself. The point is that he can satisfy the hunger of the soul. jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (6:35).
5. The walking upon the water (6:16-21). The point of this miracle is that nature and all the great and small powers of the world submit to the Lord, the Creator of all things, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord of the world.
6. The healing of the man born blind (9:1-41). this healing is actually a double miracle, involving the restoration of both physical and spiritual sight to one who had been born both physically and spiritually blind. Jesus tells us when he describes himself ad the “light of the world.” In the same story, the faith of the man who had been born blind but who had come to both physical and spiritual sight is contrasted with the unbelief of the authorities who, although confronted with the true spiritual light, prefer to live in darkness.
7. The raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1-46). In the last of the public signs, Christ’s progressive display of power over nature, sin, and sickness comes to a climax in the total victory of life over death. “I am the resurrection and the life” (v.25). The miracle shows that Jesus is the source of eternal life, that it may be enjoyed here and now, and that the same power that assures it now will also, after the death of the body, raise the dead to a new and better existence beyond.
Then, we come to a summation of our answer to the question, what is the purpose of the miracles? The answer, on the negative side, is simply that the supernatural in itself does not prove the divine origin of the one performing it. Presumably even the devils can do miraculous things. the value of the miracles consists in their nature; that is, that they reveal about God the Father and the Lord Jesus. This is the answer on its positive side. The miracles of Christ, as indeed all his works, both miraculous and nonmiraculous alike, show us his nature. They disclose his ability to fill the vacuum of the heart.
Let me state it in a slightly different language. In John, the signs are not occasioned by faith. They are occasions for faith. They are given to provoke faith and strengthen it.