The Identity of the Messiah

I-am-JesusReflection: John 1:1-5; 20:31.

John’s Gospel explicates the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah: for “in the beginning was the Word…He was in the beginning with God…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:1-2,14). The testimonies of John the Baptist and Jesus’ first converts of their initial encounters with the Lord followed this revelatory introduction. Then, he launched us into the Lord’s first sign in Cana of Galilee. This Gospel records six of the 37 miracles that are not mentioned in any of the other three Gospels (2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-47; 9:1-10:21; 11:1-57; 21:1-44), but John chose to focus us on seven, calling them ‘signs.’ These signs have a religious significance, pointing to a truth beyond the events. Its rendering can mean ‘a powerful work which teaches,’ or ‘a miracle that tells something.’ In these instances, it was related to His manifested glory, as these signs showed how God was at work (2:11). Here are the seven signs in the Evangelist’s Gospel.

JESUS’ FIRST SIGN IN A FAMILY SETTING

Jesus turns water into wine (2:1-11). On the third day after speaking to Nathanael, the Lord, with His mother and disciples, were wedding guests at Cana when this miracle took place. Specifically, this demonstration of His power over the transformation of an element was for His disciples’ benefit, as their faith as disciples had to be established promptly and decisively at the commencement of His ministry. They believed Him (2:11).

JESUS ENCOUNTERS FAITH & CONFLICT

Jesus heals an official’s son (4:46-54). The Lord was passing through Cana, on His way to Jerusalem, when He healed the dying son of a Capernaum royal official in Herod’s court, resulting in his entire household believing (4:53-54). This was a sign of the power of His words to give life even at a distance.

Jesus heals an invalid at Bethesda (5:1-47). This Sabbath healing at the Bethesda pool, anathema to law abiding Jews, stirred up a hornet’s nest that caused an awesome divine confrontation with the decrepit national religious hierarchy. This sign substantiated His authority to forgive sins (5:14), and as He revealed Himself to be the Son of His Father (5:18).

Jesus feeds the 5,000 (6:1-15). After His confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee, and a huge crowd gathered around Him because of His healings of the sick. Ostensibly, this miracle of 5 loaves and two fish illustrated His power to multiply limited available food to meet the people’s need, a possible reference to Him as the Bread of Life (6:35). This must have shocked His disciples as the meal progressed, and elicited a somewhat misplaced public response (6:14-15).

Jesus walks on water (6:16-21). The disciples sailed ahead across the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, and met with very rough waters. The Lord’s sudden appearance on the water initially frightened them, but He reassured them. Today, we would have concluded that His power turned the density principle over on its head.

Jesus heals a man born blind (9:1-10:21). Healings of the blind predominate Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels, a Messianic symbol of the new kingdom, where the spiritually blind will see. Incidentally, it was again on a Sabbath, which opened the way for controversy, as the Pharisees unsuccessfully attempted to discredit the man’s testimony. The Lord used this incident to affirm His deity and authority as the Good Shepherd, and His intimate relationship with His Father. And for the first time, He referred to His coming sacrifice (10:17).

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (11:1-57). John has the longest account of this event. More believed as Lazarus became a living public testimony of the Lord’s power over Death, four days after he was buried. However, this life giving sign by the Lord brought Him into the final confrontation with the chief priests and the Pharisees (11:45-57).

The aim of the Gospel of John could be summarized in his penultimate chapter when he wrote, “these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name” (20:30-31). I often wondered how the Pharisees, the most learned religious group within the Jerusalem establishment and the most conversant with the Scriptures, could have regarded Jesus as an imposter when He performed so many signs publicly. Was it their skewed perception, as they viewed His power in competition to their own? A prejudiced perception can certainly blind and completely colour one’s perspective beyond the will and purpose of God! Nicodemus, who belonged to the Sanhedrin, was one who was exemplary: observing Jesus closely, pursuing the appropriate questions, and assessing the replies, before committing himself (3:1-21).