“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” -John 2:11
It was wonderful wine. However, the bride, groom, and guests may never have known its divine origin. John does not record their reactions to the miracle, only that of Jesus’ disciples: they saw his glory and believed in him.
In his Gospel, John presents Jesus performing a series of miracles, or “signs,” starting with the wedding in Cana. These signs are the light that “shines in the darkness” (1:5). John records them to show how Christ fulfills the purpose for which he came—to reveal that Jesus is the Son of God sent by God so that we can have salvation through him. Christ’s miracles demonstrate that truth both to those who walked with him on the roads of Palestine and for us today.
To Christians, the miracles seem to be obvious proof of Christ’s divinity, but blind eyes cannot see light, no matter how bright it is. John points this out repeatedly, showing how the Pharisees and unbelieving crowds who witness the miracles deny or misinterpret what their eyes have seen.
It may seem unbelievable to us that anyone could see Lazarus raised from the dead and still deny Jesus is God. But when we think this way, we assume salvation is something we can grasp with our minds.
The light of the gospel, the ability to see and believe in Christ, is a gift from God alone. Jesus tells the crowds “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” ( John 6:65). Those who have not been given sight cannot respond to God, even if miracles happen right before their eyes. If we see Christ’s miracles and believe today, we should rejoice, for this means he has given us the right to become children of God.
Still, even the children need help to see their Father rightly. This is another purpose of the miracles. Even after the disciples come to believe in Jesus, they misunderstand who he is. Christ does not just tell them, but shows them.
After healing the lame man at Bethesda, Jesus explains that his miracles reveal the hidden purposes of God: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing” ( John 5:19-21).
Each of Christ’s signs reveal his identity as the Son sent by the Father and demonstrate who the Father is.
In turning the water to wine, Christ reveals the Father who freely provides for his children’s delight. In healing the official’s son and lame man, he reveals the Father who restores what is broken. In feeding the 5,000, he reveals the Father who provides abundantly for his children. In healing the man born blind, he shows the Father giving sight to those who walk in darkness. By raising Lazarus, he shows the Father bringing the dead to life.
The miracles are like facets of a jewel, each reflecting light from a different angle, but all together shining with the beauty of Christ.
They are pictures of God’s redemptive work in the gospel, pointing to the miracle of the resurrection and illustrating the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Today, as we read the miracles, we fearful, forgetful children can see the Father’s love and learn to trust his purposes for us.
The miracles also remind us of the miracle of our salvation, and encourage us to look forward to Christ’s continuing work of redemption. If we have come to know God, our salvation is a miracle—an opening of blind eyes, a raising of the dead. Our redemption is part of the “greater things” (1:50) Jesus promised his disciples: “And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” ( John 5:20-21).
Christ promised the disciples they would participate in these greater works ( John 14:12), and this promise includes us today. Now, as he works in and through his church, he continues to heal the sick and lame, give sight to the blind, and bring the dead to life.
As we go into the world as his sent ones, we can do so with the hope and eager expectation of seeing Christ continue his miraculous life-giving work. Let us ask him to use us in it, that we may see and rejoice in his glory revealed.