Signs in John’s Gospel


There are several words in Scripture for what we might call “miracles”:

  • mighty deeds emphasizes the power behind the unusual occurrences
  • wonders emphasizes the effect what is happening has on witnesses
  • signs emphasizes that the event indicates something/someone of greater significance

The preferred word for “miracles” in the Gospel of John is the word “signs”, in keeping with John’s theme of building faith. The miraculous is intended to point observers toward faith in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God. There are seven such signs recorded before Jesus’ death, and an eighth after his resurrection–which is itself a most important sign! There are also references to other signs, and occasional mentions of their significance.

  1. Water to wine at Cana wedding 2:1-11 (“the first of his signs” 2:11)
  2. Healing official’s son at Capernaum 4:46-54 (“the second sign” 4:54)
  3. Lame man by Pool of Bethzada 5:2-15
  4. Six thousand fed on 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes 6:1-14
  5. Walking on water 6:16-21
  6. Healing man born blind 9:1-17 (-41)
  7. Lazarus raised 11:38-45 (-54) & 12:17-19
  8. Resurrected Jesus aids fishermen 21:1-14

John 20:30 says that Jesus did many other signs which were not recorded, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Some who saw these signs did believe: many in Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:23); those who ate of the loaves and the fishes (John 6:14); many in Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:31); and those who were with Mary and saw Lazarus raised (John 11:45). Others came to see Jesus because of his signs (John 6:2), but still did not believe (John 12:18,37). Jesus’ signs caused a division among the Pharisees (John 9:16) with some saying that he was a sinner for healing on the Sabbath and others that a sinner could not have done these things. The chief priests and Pharisees did not challenge his signs, but they feared more people might believe because of the signs and so became more determined (and more cautious in planning) to kill him (John 11:45-53).

Jesus challenges those who seek a sign (John 2:18; 4:48; 6:29-36) and yet gently leads them on toward faith (2:19-22; 4:50; 6:37-40). The question remains for each of us today, “Do you believe…?” (John 9:54; 11:26; 14:10; 16:31) Believe because of what Jesus said (John 14:11), because of what he did (John 10:25), or because of the testimony of others (John 19:35). We have not seen for ourselves these miraculous signs, but Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” (John 20:29)

AD 6/2018

Mosaic from San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna shows Jesus multiplying five loves and two fish to feed a multitude; four apostles are witnesses. 



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