In last Sunday’s Gospel text I was intrigued by how often in John’s Gospel miracles are referred to as “signs”! I count 17 times. The use of this word is instructive.
Now a sign is something that points beyond itself. When we use our hands to signal someone, we are trying to point them in the right direction. When we use letters, the letters as they form words, point to some thought or some object. When we sign our name, our name represents us and hopefully our integrity. When we encounter a billboard or traffic signal along the highway, it points to something up ahead.
So when our Lord worked a great wonder, what is often called a miracle, to call this a sign should help us to understand that this is pointing us to something, or someone, beyond itself. And John the Evangelist, the writer of the fourth Gospel, is very clear as to what the miracle points. He writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31).
To put it succinctly, faith in Jesus is the point of all the signs! He is the one who can forgive, restore, and give us Divine life in his name.
If we are not careful we can think that the purpose of the miraculous in Scripture is so that we can learn the art and perform miracles ourselves. Or we might think that if we have the right kind of faith we might have an endless line of getting whatever we ask for. But with both of these options we take center stage and our Lord Jesus becomes a supporting actor. Miracles, as signs, remind us that we have bit parts in the drama in which God stars!
Miracles point to our Lord Jesus so that we might put our trust in him, and by so doing find life in his name.
Since You Asked…
Why do we say in the Creeds that Jesus Christ “is seated at the right hand of the Father”? Does this mean that our Lord is far away from us?
This has little to do with Christ’s physical location. Instead it has to do with the authority he assumes. For a King to be seated on a throne is a symbolic gesture of his rule and authority. Heaven itself is a reality that transcends time and space. It is the unseen and timeless realm that underlies the visible and temporal world. We confess Christ to be seated at the right hand of the Father because we believe him to be the rightful King of the universe. Indeed, Jesus is Lord!