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The Gospel of John: Manifesting God’s Glory Book 2

Jesus manifested God's glory through 8 miraculous signs in the gospel of John. These are a revelation of the feast of tabernacles.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 1

Signs and Wonders

At the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus manifested His glory by proving that He is the Lord of Creation. More specifically, when Jesus turned water to wine, the miracle showed His ability to overturn the sin of Adam and to make people a new creation.

We see from the supporting stories and discussions that this involves raising these “temples” from the dead (John 2:19) and cleansing our temples. The story of Nicodemus tells us that this is done by a spiritual rebirth, as opposed to physical, and the story of the Samaritan woman tells us that this transformation is not limited to Jews and is therefore not conditional upon one’s physical genealogy.

The second sign manifesting Christ’s glory proves that Jesus is the Lord of space and time. We will see later how it relates to the seventh sign, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

The Setting

John 4:43-46 begins with the setting:

43 And after the two days [in Sychar, Samaria] He went from there into Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. 46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine….

Cana was 14 miles due west of Capernaum and just a few miles north of Nazareth, where Jesus had lived prior to His ministry. After turning water to wine a few weeks earlier, Jesus was welcome in Cana. Nazareth was a different story and perhaps serves as a contrast to Cana. When Jesus had been invited to Nazareth, His message of the universal love of God angered them so much that they would have thrown Him off the cliff. So His ministry headquarters was set up at Capernaum.

After attending the feast of Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus spent two days in the Samaritan city of Sychar, where He was welcomed. He then continued His journey to Cana, bypassing Nazareth, because, as the apostle tells us, “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” This statement makes little sense unless we know that Jesus bypassed Nazareth to go to Cana.

This statement should also be viewed in connection with John 1:11, 12, which John wrote earlier, saying,

11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

Both Nazareth and Jerusalem rejected Jesus. The priestly leaders in Jerusalem “did not receive Him,” and those who were in submission to their authority followed in their footsteps. On the other hand, Cana, representing Galilee in general, “received Him” because of the miracle at Cana and because they admired His courage in casting the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem.

This established the setting for the second miracle-sign in John 4:50, where the glory of God was manifested for the second time in the sequence of eight miracles.

The Certain Royal Official

John 4:46 says,

46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

The apostle reminds us that Jesus had turned the water into wine at Cana, because no doubt this was how the “certain royal official” had come to believe that Jesus could heal his son. We are told almost nothing about this official, but we may surmise that he was married and obviously had at least one son.

His home was Capernaum, where he must also have been serving under Herod the Tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”), nicknamed Antipas. Herod was ruler of Galilee and Perea (on the east side of the Jordan) and had built the city of Tiberius as his capital on the west side of the sea of Galilee. It was south of Capernaum, which stood on the north shore.

Herod Antipas was also the one responsible for executing John the Baptist just a short time earlier. With Jesus’ ministry headquarters set up in Capernaum, there is little doubt that this official attended the synagogue there which also had accepted Jesus.

Chuza, Herod’s Steward

I wonder if this official was in fact Chuza, Herod’s steward, whose wife, Joanna, was one of Jesus’ supporters (Luke 8:3). Chuza himself worked full time for Herod, so he was not able to take much time off from his duties. Yet if this “certain royal official” was indeed Chuza, it is plain that his son’s illness was urgent enough for him to take off for two or three days to seek Jesus’ help.

John 4:47 says,

47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee [by way of Samaria], he went to Him and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

No doubt he too had heard how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. It is likely that this news spread quickly through Herod’s palace and that this gave Herod a good laugh. It certainly did not cause him any ill will toward Jesus. In fact, when Jesus was about to be crucified, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, hoping to avoid having to sentence an innocent man. Herod showed no animosity toward Jesus but only sought to see for himself if Jesus could perform miracles (Luke 23:8). It was only when Jesus refused that Herod assumed that He was just another fraud and treated Him with contempt (Luke 23:11).

Dependence upon Signs

John 4:48 says,

48 So Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you people see signs [semeion] and wonders [teras], you simply will not believe.”

This rebuke was obviously addressed to the crowd that was watching rather than to the royal official specifically. After all, the father of the sick child had traveled fourteen miles, perhaps on horseback, not to follow after signs and wonders but from a sense of urgency to obtain healing for his son. The situation was dire and urgent.

So it is certain that Jesus was referring to the people in general, not to the official in particular. Apparently, many had gathered in hopes of witnessing with their own eyes a miraculous sign that might convince them that the Messiah had indeed arrived. Later, the apostle Paul too would mention this national characteristic, saying in 1 Cor. 1:22, “indeed, Jews ask for signs.”

Signs serve as confirmations but are in themselves inadequate in producing faith. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), not by seeing signs. If one refuses to believe unless he sees a miracle, he may be persuaded and may think that he has faith, but in actuality his faith is mere persuasion. Persuasion does not endure, for in the end, it is soulish and therefore mortal. This is why many people who followed Jesus during His ministry ultimately rejected Him at His crucifixion.

Owth and Mowpheth (Signs and Wonders)

The Hebrew word for “sign” is owth. It is spelled with an aleph and tav with a vav in the middle. The aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the tav is the last; and the vav is a connector (“nail or peg”) that joins two things. As a connector, it also means “and.”

So owth literally refers to “the beginning and the end.” In Greek terms, it refers to Christ as the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 21:6). Such is the Hebrew concept of a sign (owth).

A “wonder” is from the Hebrew word mowpheth, which comes from a root word that means “conspicuous, bright, beautiful.” The implication is that a wonder is something that looks awesome.

So when Jesus said, “unless you people see signs and wonders,” He was implying that the people needed to know the entire truth (from beginning to end) in order to believe something, and that they would believe only if it looked good in their own eyes. The problem was that without hearing the word they were viewing signs and wonders through the carnal mind and eyes blinded by an Old Covenant veil.

By contrast, Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Faith comes by hearing; persuasion comes by seeing with carnal eyes.

The Israelites under Moses saw many signs and wonders (Deut. 6:22), yet they lacked the faith to enter the Promised Land. Their eyes saw only giants opposing them, and they believed their eyes, rather than the promise of God. Not even the parting of the Red Sea could instill faith in their hearts. Miracles are not the answer, even though they can certainly be useful in confirming the word.

The problem in Jesus’ day is the same as the problem today. Signs and wonders are useful in confirming the word that we hear from God, but when they are expected to instill faith, the same signs may become detrimental to our spiritual growth.