Miracles in the Gospel of John
Gospels, Acts & Revelation
Professor - Brandon Evans
April 13, 2017
The Word. Son of God. Light of the World. These are a few of the titles ascribed to Christ in the gospel of John. We see them made manifest in the miracles Jesus performs on various people and in the presence of thousands. Throughout the gospel of John, we are shown that Jesus has the authority to do His Father’s work and has equal authority over all things. Jesus uses these miracles to inspire others to believe in Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. As we go through these miracles, we’ll see not just the wondrous power that Jesus wields, but the complexity of the Father’s plan and intricacies of widespread effect throughout the land of Israel and in the hearts of those He impacted. We’ll go through each of the miracles, but I’ll be devoting a special amount of time on the man born blind, as there are so many treasures to uncover there.
Having drawn a number of disciples to Himself already, we find in chapter 2 that Jesus and His followers are invited (along with His mother) to a wedding feast in Cana. When the house of the master there runs out of wine, Jesus’ mother steps in. G. Campbell Morgan comments:
And now the thought of her heart was, - Oh, if only He would show something and prove!
To that longing He said; Mother, Mine, I know what you want. “Mine hour is not yet come.” What did He mean? That He would not perform the miracle? Certainly not. He did it. He turned the water into wine. It was His first sign, but He said in effect; That sign cannot satisfy the hunger of your heart: it will not produce the effect that you desire.1
Mary tells Jesus’ disciples to follow His instructions, and Jesus begins His first miracle.
Jesus tells his disciples to acquire the jars used for washing and to fill them with water. This was the first act of faith on the part of His disciples, as one can imagine the confusion related to such a request. What on earth does filling washing vessels with water have to do with providing wine for the feast? Nevertheless, they obey and the jars are filled.
Jesus then instructs them to draw out water and take it the master of the house. Here’s the real test. What consequences would befall such a person that delivers washing water to the master of a wedding feast to drink? Not only would the master become upset, but it could be seen as a great violation, as the water in the vessels were meant for ceremonial washing, and thus had a religious purpose. The master likely would have become quite upset over this agregious transgression, and at the very least the disciples would be publicly mocked and scourned. One can see that there is already faith at work here. The disciples obey.
The master of the feast is overjoyed that not only has the wine returned, but it is even better than the wine he had been drinking. His surprise is evident in that he is compelled to address the house publicly in that this was highly unusual behavior (it was common to serve good wine to inebriate the guests, and then once they were drunk, the common wine would be used as no one would tell the difference), but this wine was, in fact, “the best”.
We see here that Jesus exercises power over natural elements, namely in this case, water. We also see that when Jesus turns water into wine, it’s not common wine, but the best wine. John then points out that this miracle manifested His glory, and we can see by this miracle done in the sight of His disciples, did exactly that. What is important to point out before moving on is the end of verse 11: His disciples believed in Him. Having witnessed the power of Jesus at the wedding, His disciples believed in Him. D.A. Carson notes:
John himself insists that his purpose in recording these signs was to convince people that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus2
In chapter 4, we find Jesus right back where He performed His first miracle; in Cana. This time, He is approached by an official of some kind whose son is ill. He requests that Jesus come with him back to heal his son who is at the point of death… and Jesus responds: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”3 Morgan explains:
That is the truth about you in common with others. That is what you are all looking for; and though you have come to Me about your boy, why have you come to Me? Because you have heard that I am performing signs and wonders, and you hope to get something out of it. It was severe, but He was dealing with the whole man. He lay bare the underlying truth about him as He classified him with the crowd. Agony had driven him to Jesus. He will deal with that presently; He will heal the boy; but He will first deal with the man.4
It’s possible that he already has faith in Christ as he once again requests that Jesus come so the boy may be healed, but we don’t see that explicitly in the text. What we do see is that Jesus, having just pointed out that these signs and wonders are what it takes for people to believe in Him, grants the mans request in His own way. Jesus tells the man to go and that his boy is well, and when the man returns to find his son healed it is the connection between the time Jesus spoke and the time his boy was healed that causes him to believe. Arthur Walkington Pink takes it a step further by pointing out:
Here once more, we are shown the Word (John 1:1, 14) at work. This comes out prominently in the miracles described in this Gospel. The Lord does not go down to Capernaum and take the sick boy by the hand. Instead, He speaks the word of power and he is healed instantly. The “words” He spoke were “spirit and life” (John 6:63). And this imparting of life at a distance by means of the word has a message for us today. If Christ could heal this dying boy, who was at least ten miles away, by the word of His mouth, He can give eternal life today by His word even though He is away in heaven. Distance is no barrier to Him.5
In the very next chapter, we see Jesus make His way to Jerusalem as the Feast of the Jews was about to take place. Upon arriving, Jesus finds a man lying next to a pool known all around to provide healing. We see in the text that this man had been here for a very long time; 38 years to be exact. As many people with different ailments frequented this pool for healing, Jesus asks the man a rhetorical question in verse 6: “Do you wish to be healed?”3 The man responds by explaining his plight and how it’s been this long that he has yet to be healed even in such close proximity to a source of healing. Jesus tells the man to pick up his bed and walk, and the man does.
After being healed and picking up his bed, the man is confronted by the “Jews” (likely Pharisees) who question him about it being the Sabbath and his picking up his bed. He replies to them that the man who healed him told him to do so. The Jews ask about this man that healed him, but he doesn’t know, and Jesus is nowhere to be found, as He had already left. Carson points out that:
It is not yet Jesus who is charged with breaking the law (e.g. for healing the man on a Sabbath, as in Mk. 3:1–6), though that will come (v. 18): for the moment, it is the healed man who must face the indignation of the Jews6
Jesus later finds the man in the temple and tells him to not sin anymore, warning him that something worse could befall him. With this new knowledge of who Jesus was, the man returns to the Jews who questioned him and identified Jesus as the healer. The text does not tell us the interaction between Jesus and the Jews mentioned here, but that they were persecuting Jesus because of His work on the Sabbath. We aren’t told how Jesus comes to find this out either, or the ensuing conversation, only that Jesus responds by telling them that His Father has been working this whole time, and so He is also working. Morgan comments:
In that declaration, He interpreted God. To the man, He showed that the healing was in order to right living. To the religions rulers He declared in effect: The reason why you see that man carrying his mattress on the Sabbath day, a healed man, is to be found in the restlessness of God in the presence of all human agony, even though it result from sin. “My Father worketh.”7
In chapter 6, Jesus is on a mountain and looks up to see a large crowd approaching. Jesus’ power is once again on display for us as we see that Jesus already knows the intentions of this group of people, not identifying them as “a mob”, but rather seeking to feed them. He tests Phillip in asking him how they might do this. John tells us in the text that Jesus knew already what He would do, and this is another display of power, as the little boy nearby had not yet been introduced. Phillip fails the test in responding with how much food could be bought and how much it would cost to feed that many people even a small portion. H.A. Ironsides says:
It seemed they were up against an insuperable difficulty. But there are no insuperable difficulties with Christ. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient that every one might take a little. Jesus was not going to give them just a little bit of a lunch, but He was going to feed them a good full meal that would satisfy them.8
Andrew speaks up that he’s identified a small boy nearby with five barley loaves and two fish, but wonders how that could possibly do anything at all in this situation. Jesus calmly responds in verse 10, “Have the people sit down,”3 and John gives us a glimpse into how many people are there, taking their seats on the grass. 5,000 men are numbered here, but no figure is given to the number of women and children. Jesus did not request that the “men” sit down, but the “people”, so it’s quite possible that there are upwards of 7,000 or more people here.
Jesus takes the loaves and fishes (note that no explanation is given as to how this little boy’s lunch was taken), blesses them, breaks them, and the food is dispersed to the people. After eating their fill, (yes, the 7,000+ people were not just fed by these 5 loaves of barley and two fish, but they were filled) Jesus instructs His disciples to pick up the remaining pieces. This proves to be enough to fill 12 baskets. The size of these baskets is irrelevant at this point, as clearly Jesus has just done something that is absolutely impossible. The people who were aware of what had occurred believed and proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah who had come to save the world. Once again, Jesus demonstrates His power, and people believe.
The people believe in people so much that they come to take Him “by force”, says John, to make Him King, and Jesus withdraws to be alone on the mountain. Perhaps the disciples grew tired of waiting for Jesus to return, because in the evening they got into a boat and headed for Capernaum. Along the way, they encounter Jesus… walking on the sea. This frightened the disciples, as one can imagine, and Jesus must calm them down. Here we see that Jesus has the power to calm the hearts of men merely by speaking to them. Carson agrees:
Unlike Mark 6:49, John does not tell us that the disciples were afraid because they thought they were seeing a ghost. He is less interested in dissecting their fear than in portraying its alleviation. Jesus calms their fears by identifying himself: It is I.9
In chapter 9, we find Jesus in Jerusalem, having just finished up with another confrontation with the Pharisees and chief priests. Jesus encounters a man who was born blind. Ironsides provides some insight:
Do you notice this? – the Lord was interested in this man long before he was interested in Jesus. He was there by the temple gate asking an alms and hoping that the people who passed by would have mercy on him. He did not know that there was One there who could do dfar more than give him an alms, - One who could give him his sight.10
The disciples question, as most Jews at the time would, whether it was this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused Him to be born blind. Jesus responds to this, and Morgan expounds on His response:
What Jesus said was, I am not here to answer that kind of question. It may be perfectly justifiable. I am not here to solve these problems. I am here to remove the cause of them. “We must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day.”
Involved in that answer is a revelation that blindness from birth is not the will of God for any man. But the mission of Christ was not that of solving the problem, but that of removing the disability which created the problem.11
After addressing His disciples, Jesus spits in the dirt and gathers some homemade mud in His hands. He applies it to the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash himself in a pool nearby. The man does so and his sight is restored.
People who were familiar with the man saw that his sight was restored and questioned him about how this could happen. After the man explains the miracle that Jesus performed, they inquire as to who did this for him, but the man being blind did not know. At this, the people take the man to the Pharisees. Carson points out:
There is no need to ascribe malice to those who brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. They could not have known that the healed man would be subjected to interrogation and expulsion from the synagogue. In a day when almost all events bore religious overtones, the extraordinary healing cried out for comment by the religious authorities—much more so than the way that, in today’s world, after a significant international event millions of people will expect the Foreign Office or the State Department to express an opinion.12
The Pharisees also question the man concerning his miraculous healing and once again the man must recount the story. The Pharisees do not inquire about his healer’s identity as the people did, but rather begin to condemn the unidentified Jesus for performing a miracle on the Sabbath; discrediting Him.
The Pharisees call the parents of the man to inquire about the condition the man claimed to be born with. The parents arrive before the Pharisees and the interrogation continues. The parents are now questioned regarding the condition of this man and are asked to confirm whether they are the parents of the man or not. They respond in admitting that they are his parents and that he was born blind, but when the Pharisees inquire further as to how his sight was restored, the parents defer to their son, saying in verse 21, “… we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age.”3 The text is clear as to why they respond this way, but C. Marvin Pate explains:
They apparently knew that it was Jesus who healed their son, but they were afraid the “Jews”/Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue…
Emil Schurer identifies three levels of communication from the synagogue at the time of Jesus. First, there was the minor ban of about a week’s duration. Second, there was the more formal banishment lasting about thirty days. Third, there was the solemn curse imposed by the Jewish authorities, permanently cutting off contact between the offender and the synagogue. This is no doubt the type of excommunication referred to in John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2. 13
The man speaks for himself, explaining that he does not know if Jesus is a sinner or not; he only knows that his sight was restored to him. Once again, the Pharisees inquire as to how this happened and the man, clearly agitated by the repeated questioning, responds by asking if they have an interest in becoming one of Jesus’ disciples. The Pharisees are indignant at this and identify the man as Jesus’ disciple, but rather they are disciples of Moses. The man continues to give them a brief explanation as to how God works, and insulted in their hearts by the audacity of this man (who is identified as a sinner – likely that he was born a sinner causing him to be blind) to preach at them, they make him leave.
Jesus later encounters the man, having apparently sought him out, and asks the man if he believes. The man is confused and so Jesus clarifies that He is the “Son of Man” and the man immediately addresses Him as “Lord” and confesses his belief.
Jesus finds out in chapter 11 that a friend by the name of Lazarus was sick. Knowing that Lazarus would die and that it would serve to glorify God, Jesus purposefully waits two days more before departing to where Lazarus was. No one understands why Jesus would tarry instead of coming quickly to heal Lazarus. Jesus is moved by the crying and sorrow surrounding the death of his friend and he, too, weeps.
Coming to the tomb of Lazarus in verse 39, He orders the stone to be rolled away. A friend of Jesus, Martha, warns Jesus that the odor would be bad, as Lazarus had been dead four days now. He reminds her that He told her that if she believed, then she would see the glory of God. Then Jesus prays. He petitions the Father to work through Him that the people around would believe, and when He had prayed this prayer, He called Lazarus out of the tomb.
Lazarus rose and came out, still wrapped in cloth as was customary for burial. Jesus then commanded in verse 44, “Unbind him, and let him go.”3 Ironsides expounds:
“Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” There is a lesson here too – life first, and then liberty. All who hear the voice of Christ have life – “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” But many a believer does not yet know liberty. Many are still bound by the graveclothes of tradition, or of misunderstanding, or unbelief. Oh, how wonderful when Jesus says, “Loos him and let him go.” “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”14
Once again, as in the other miracles, we see in the very next verse that many people saw this miracle and believed in Jesus.
One might think that as God, the Son, Jesus would require something great from people to be saved, but Jesus does the opposite. He realizes that humans are weak, easily confused, and have wicked hearts. We see Him cater to the people by showing them signs and miracles (tangible evidence), explaining Himself to them so that they can understand, and being patient when they doubt Him. Repeatedly throughout the gospel of John, and the other gospels as well, Jesus does what is necessary to prove Himself to be the Son of God and the Messiah, leading others to have faith in Him that will save. Praise God that Jesus went to such great lengths to save us.
1G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John, Studies in the Four Gospels (New Jersey, United States, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979), 48
2D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 167.
3The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016)
4G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John, Studies in the Four Gospels (New Jersey, United States, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979), 83
5Arthur Walkington Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1923–1945), 237.
6D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 244–245.
7G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John, Studies in the Four Gospels (New Jersey, United States, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979), 91
8H.A. Ironside, Addresses on the Gospel of John, The Ironside Collection (United States; Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1982), 232
9D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 275.
10H.A. Ironside, Addresses on the Gospel of John, The Ironside Collection (United States; Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1982), 401
11G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John, Studies in the Four Gospels (New Jersey, United States, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979), 165
12D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 366.
13C. Marvin Pate, The Writings of John, A Survey of the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 116
14H.A. Ironside, Addresses on the Gospel of John, The Ironside Collection (United States; Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1982), 464