Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Seven Signs: part 2

(Note the previous post:

The Seven Signs: part 1),

and for those dying to hear the song "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band, video is included!

We had a great time today exploring the second sign of John,
but first we reviewed the concept of "signs"in John,
noting they are all about their sign-ificance and sign-ature place in the gospel.

I make the case that the whole gospel is embedded in what John calls the "first"sign (water into wine at Cana). They way the word "first" works in Greek is not necessarily to feature first as in "first of a series," but "first in order of importance,or maybe best translated "only," not first."

This becomes clear in Matthew 6:33, famously translated and put to song and memory as"Seek (ye) FIRST the Kingdom of G0od...all all these things will be added to you."

But that translation doesn't add up, and does not compute with the context.

Notice we rea not told to seek the "other things "second" and "third," In fact, it's clear in context we are not to seek them AT ALL...they are given to us as a by product of seeking the ONE THING (=the ONLY thing), first (that is, foremost)....or EXCLUSIVELY.

"The Kingdom of God is not the first item on our priority list,"Joel Green says (in a great little book), "it IS our priority list."

So in a sense the first sign is the only one we need.

And the other signs are all commentary on;differing angles and windows on it.

Study it well.

Yet the other six signs are also a key part of the puzzle-picture John has embedded in the book for us.

We compared the seven signs to the Burma shave signs (read upon these here, here,and a postmodern version of them here ), where each sign is part of a series, and the last one is the punchline, revelation,or climax.

This is true in John's case as well. The definitive seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus.

Which is the same as the first sign of wine.

We noted that is common to connect the first sign of John to the first plague of Exodus
(water into wine vs. water into blood) and the last sign of John with the last plague of Exodus (death of the firstborn vs.death of Lazarus)..... the Old Covenant plagues are undone in the new.

In a way parallel to Pentecost reversing Tower of Babel, the signs of Jesus in John reverse the curse of the plagues.

The Greek word for sign John uses is σημεῖον / semeoin (Nowadays we talk about studying semiotics...People (semioticians) like Leonard Sweet (and our former 3d webmaster, Chris McDonald) have reminded us how crucial semoitics is to our day and age).

We often think "We are not supposed to ask for signs."
True, the synoptics cast a negative spin on following signs and not Jesus. But John uses sign in a very different and sign-ificant way. The signs are revealers of who Jesus is, and a summons/challnge to enter them and find deeper faith and meaning. Jesus even chews out those who followed him just because he fed them., and not because of the signs (John 6:26).

The whole point of signs is that they are moments when heaven and earth intersect with each other. (That’s what the Jews believed happened in the Temple.) The point is not that they are stories which couldn’t have happened in real life, but which point away from earth to a heavenly reality.
– N.T. Wright John for Everyone, 21.

We talked today about the fact that the word "mission" or"misionary" appears nowhere in the Bible..


In fact, contrary to what we often hear, the church does not have a mission..

It's the mission that has a church!

Or as Len has..better..said: "It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world — it is the God of mission who has a Church in the world."

Mission is so fundamenhtal and inextricable to who we are..that it is assumed.

Len posted a wonderful series "Do you think missiology precedes ecclesiology, or it is the other way round?"

More on that here.

And froma great book, "Delighting in the Trinity":
The word 'mission' comes originally from the doctrine of the Trinity. The word mission comes from the Latin word mission which means 'to send.' It was the word Christians used to talk about the sending of the Son and the Spirit into the world. Only in the sixteenh century did Christians start using the term to describe sending people to spread the gospel.

The mission of the church has its roots in the missionary character of the triune God. God is not only God in himself (the 'immanent Trinity), he is also God-for-us (the economic Trinity..)

We experience the Trinity through the sending of the Son and Spirit..the Trinitarian community is not exclusive.
-Delighting in the Trinity
(More posts on the Trinity here.)

It's often been said"God only has one son..and he was a missionary". But all who are in Jesus are in the Trinity, and thus inevitanly sent,missioned co-missioned and commissioned.

Jesus was sent into the world as a sign of God, and we are sent by the Spirit as a sign of Jesus.

It's semiotics , baby.. read the signs.

We rea the signs, as Isiah says.

And we are sent signs.

We spent some time comparing the first and second (Healing of the nobleman's son, John 4:39-54) signs as John has gone out of his way to link them ..
they are the only two signs he has enumerated for us, and they are interlinked and hyperlinked in multiplex ways.

We noted several fascinating relationships between the first two signs, as we:

The first was in a Jewish setting, the second gentile.

The first was a miracle while Jesus was present, the second while he was absent.

The first involved ordinary people, the second nobility.

We pause here to suggest part of the sign-ificance of the signs is to remind us that Jesus came for Jew and gentile, poor and rich...that is for all...

Both the first two signs are followed by folks becoming believers...hmm.

Both were in Cana after a return from Judea..

We notice an intriguing similarity in both signs in that Jesus seed reluctant to perform signs but when pressed and pressured by a persistent person ( Mary in the first, the nobleman in the second), he relented and repented. (Be sure to check out the Brother Andrew book we mentioned,"And God Changed His Mind") Of course part of the reason is as Leon Morris has "Once he performs a a sign, he is on the the road to the cross." It wasn't technically his time yet, but he cannot not respond to persistevering, bold, chutzpah, hutzpah and faith.
Chronos seems to become kairos when we pray like Mary and the nobleman.

We have been following our UK brother Tony Maude's sermons and blogs he is a few weeks ahead of us in his own series on seven signs :

We might think of the signs in John's gospel as signs of the kingdom. In turning water into wine, Jesus shows us the abundance of the kingdom of God. He shows us its joy. He shows us its richness. He shows us that God's kingdom is much, much better than the best that our earthly kingdoms can provide.

In this second sign we see the power of God's kingdom – power to give life and to heal our sicknesses. But we see much more than that. We see the response that we should make when God's kingdom breaks into our world. We are invited to respond with faith, to take Jesus at his word:

"... these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31) In this way, we enter into the kingdom of God, become part of it and receive a treasure of immeasurable worth.

Tony Maude

Tony covered lots of helpful ground that we didn't have time to, particularly about the meaning of the second sign and its connection to his whole post (excerpted below) ponder it and post him a comment here.

Oh, two promises I made. First, the video from the George Stroumboulopoulos (the Oprah of Canada) show.
Maybe The Shack was written just so author Paul Young could go on TV to tell Stroumboulopoulos what God thinks about him! See the amazing moment at 12:20ff:

Secondly,I also promised to follow up from two weeks ago, and link you to this next story.

It's found on page 234 of "Floods Upon The Dry Ground,"one of my texts for my upcoming Church History class at the Bible College(join us as an auditor, course website here):

"(It happened) nduring the annual Muslim pilgrimmage to Mecca in 1991, when a number of Nigerian Muslim mullahs were praying inside the Grand Mosque, the holiest place in all Islam. Suddenly, 'Jesus appeared to them and declared he was God.' {George Otis quote}.The Mullahs were converted to Jesus.

George Otis and the Sentinel Group and its "Transformations" videos are the most accessible sources for keeping updated on this amazing season we live in..

Related: bee sure to read this story (click)" from "Stories from the Front Lines" has to do with a n ine year old girl raised Lazarus -like from the dead (How's that for a sign?)

We spent the rest of the morning praying for physical (and other types of healing).

Stay tuned for the updates...Post them below..

It's a sign.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Seven Signs: part 1

picture credit

I am excited about our new series on the 7 Signs of John's gospel; Sunday we introduced the first: water into wine.

I will aim to actually post some follow-up afterthoughts each week. The audio will be on the podcast box; right hand side of page.

We talked Sunday about the uniqueness of John's gospel, when compared with the synoptics (Matt, Mark and Luke). It seems that anytime four people are in a room, three may have affinities, but the fourth may be on a different page altogether (maybe the John of the Beatles is an example..or me in my birth family (or married family) of four. One way John is different in that he is a deep theologian/philosopher and a mystic-heart. He rearranges..sometimes radically...the Jesus material. Here he is literally"on another page altogether." We found this Sunday in that all three synoptics place Jesus' "temple tantrum" towards the end of Jesus'public ministry; while John intentionally framejacks it, and drops it at the beginning of his book.

Right after the first "sign." On purpose. Folks shared some thematic reasons this might be.

This paragraph below is lifted from the Wikipedia article on John; it is helpful, but the last sentence is bunk/basura/skubala (I may edit it, and see if it my edited get edited. For a response to this kind of "all or nothing scholarship , see "'Interrupting Jesus,' Interrupted")

Seven Signs

This section recounts Jesus' public ministry.[2] It consists of seven miracles or "signs," interspersed with long dialogues and discourses, including several "I am" sayings.[3] The miracles culminate with his most potent, raising Lazarus from the dead.[3] In John, it is this last miracle, and not the temple incident, that prompts the authorities to have Jesus executed.[3] Jesus' discourses identify him with symbols of major significance, "the bread of life" (John 6:35), "the light of the world" (John 8:12), "the door of the sheep" (John 10:7), "the good shepherd" (John 10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and "the real vine" (John 15:1).[3] Critical scholars think that these claims represent the Christian community's faith in Jesus' divine authority but doubt that the historical Jesus actually made these sweeping claims.[3] The teachings of Jesus are so different in John from those found in the synoptic gospels, that since the 1800s scholars have understood that only one of the two traditions could be authentic, and they have unanimously chosen the synoptics as the source for the teachings of historical Jesus.[11]

If you want John's "number," it's 777.
His gospel is embedded with seven signs, seven "I am" statements, and seven narratives. This kind of structural analysis can be overdone; but here it would seem vital to John's purpose and theme...especially the signs and "I am"s:

Seven Signs:

1. Turning water into wine (2:1-12)

2. Healing the noblewoman's son (4:46-54)

3. Healing the man at Bethesda (5:1-47)

4. Feeding the 5000 (6:1-4)

5. Walking on Water (6:15-21)

6. Healing the Blind Man (9:1-41)

7. Raising of Lazarus (11:1-57)

Seven "I AM" Statements:

1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35)

2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12)

3. Before Abraham was, I AM (8:58)

4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11)

5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)

6. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)

7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)

What's intriguing is the signs are found in the first half of the gospel (The word 'sign" is used dozens of times in the first half, and only once in the second half (and then, only to summarize the purpose of the signs..20:30-31). The seven "I am" statements, and the seven narratives rea more evenly distributed throughout John's work of art. This is so obvious that noted scholar has called John 1-12 "The Book of Signs," an chapters 13-21 "the Book of Glory":
The first of these is a series of sign-miracles, coupled with discourses, which reveal to us something of who Jesus is. The second is an extended treatment of Christ’s death and resurrection, together with his final teachings related to the topic of his death and the glory which should follow.


NT Wright helps us grasp John's vantage point:

I feel about John like I feel about my wife; I love her very much, but I wouldn't claim to understand her. I didn't get the job.

In style, emphasis, structure — in all the things that make a book what it is — John stands out from the rest. With Paul we are in the seminar room: we are e are arguing the thing out, looking up references, taking notes, and then being pushed out into the world to preach the gospel to the nations. Matthew takes us into the synagoguewhere the people of God are learning to recognize Jesus as their King, their Emmanuel. Mark, as we shall see, writes a little handbook on discipleship, Luke presents Jesus to the cultured Greek world of his day. John, by contrast, takes us up the mountain, and says quietly: 'Look — from here, on a clear day you can see for ever.' We beheld his glory..'

John does not describe the transfiguration, as the other Gospels do;in a sense, John's whole story is about the transfiguration. He invites us to be still and know; to look again into the human face of Jesus of Nazareth..with our awe and bewilderment reaching its height, to the point where we realize that the face is most recognizable when it wears the crown of thorns...When John says, 'We beheld his glory', he is thinking supremely of the cross...

I want here to explore three out of the dozens of strands which go to make up this extraordinary tapestry. The first one is all about signposts. John is a canny writer; he gets us to do half the work. In one of the early scenes in the Gospel, a passage much beloved of preachers at weddings, he tells the story of the wedding at Cana, and of Jesus changing the water into wine. John's comment, at the end of the story, hooks into the prologue, and at the same time points us forwards into a sequence of signposts.

...John starts off as though he's writing a new Genesis, a new creation story. And so he is. He is talking us through the seven signs of the new creation...
-NT Wright,link

Elsewhere, Wright says:
The whole point of signs is that they are moments when heaven and earth intersect with each other. (That’s what the Jews believed happened in the Temple.) The point is not that they are stories which couldn’t have happened in real life, but which point away from earth to a heavenly reality.
– N.T. Wright John for Everyone, 21.

We talked quite a bit about running out of wine at a wedding was a huge problem in tht biblical culture. Jesus's "frivolous"miracle really kept the family from shame and restored their honor.
Some helpful background info on this is in the Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John,
and The Bible Background Commentary, two vital resources, both readable online.

Some other fascinating, but sometimes farfetched, resources for grasping the symbolism and strucure are "The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center" and "Mystical Christianity: A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John"

Oh, here is the section from "The Brothers Karamazov" where the Cana wedding scripture is read at the priest's funeral.

Bonus: I found that Tony Maude in the UK is a few weeks ahead of us in his series on the seven signs, and he too has been posting us he goes. His post on the first sign is here.

"Insanity of God" Showing for third day fresno!

Special Showing of The "Insanity of God" Day , June 4 for third day fresno. Special Day, Special Place! Invite a special f...