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.


  1. Hi Dave and Co.

    Really interesting read, and quite different to my post. BTW the link to my post on the second sign doesn't work! This is the correct address:

  2. Sorry, Tony!

    fixed it..

    keep up the good work


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