Bayou City Women’s 2018 Summer Bible Study Project studied the gospel of King Jesus in his own words. We walked through his statements in the Book of John where he declared himself to be the great I AM. He did so indirectly many times, but also just flat out said he was God. The answer we were seeking was if he is who he says he is, what does that mean for us? What we learned is that Jesus changes everything. I got to be part of a study group, and I thought I’d share some of my notes over the next few weeks from the teaching time for each chapter. This isn’t a synopsis of the study, but rather pieces of my personal research and my testimony and a few fun nuggets I found along the way. You can read previous posts here:(1) The Bread of Life, (2) The Light of the World, (3) The Door & The Good Shepherd, (4) The Way, The Truth, & The Life
Week 5: The Resurrection & The Life
This week’s chapter of the study was one of my favorites. The content and stories were good and really intense. As I was preparing for this week, I knew there would be a lot to unpack in the discussion groups, so I thought instead of adding onto what already felt almost heavy and definitely really rich, I would do something of an overview. This week we’ll walk the book of John and see how the raising of Lazarus was a critical event in a whole gospel focused on the deity of Jesus. John set out to prove the godship of Jesus when he wrote this book, based upon the I AM statements and seven miraculous signs. And since this is a little bit of a review and a peek ahead, I decided to list them out neatly for you.
This summer we studied these statements. Today I want to talk through his miracles.The seven signs that John focused on aren’t the only miracles Jesus performed, or even the only ones recorded in this book, in fact, John concludes his book by saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
Jesus was – and is – a prolific miracle worker. But John chose to highlight seven specific miraculous moments. We call them signs because these miracles had an especially important purpose. This is a book focused on the Godship of Jesus the Man. And Jesus used these signs to reveal his glory, piece by piece.
Too often I stop and realize I’m living as if I don’t believe or maybe even understand that Jesus is God and has all authority in heaven and earth. So if you get distracted from focusing on Jesus, or maybe you’re skeptical or maybe pragmatic. Maybe you’re hopeless at the moment and getting through this week was really hard. Wanting to see and believe in something more isn’t a sin….I’d dare to say it’s a God-given yearning. I’ve talked a lot about how we are living in a world that was originally designed for us, and us for it, but it’s broken. And we’re broken. We need something to hold onto.
The signs of Jesus lead us to belief in him as God, and belief in God brings us to life.
So if you’re searching for a sign, this is for you. We’ll start in John 1. It begins with the prologue that establishes Jesus’s equality within the trinity. He is announced as the Word, Logos, the Creator. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”
Then the narrative starts, and the scene opens with John the Baptist. He announces Jesus as the Lamb of God, and sums up his mission here on earth: The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Jesus is baptized and we see a moment with our Triune God that is so beautiful. God the Son is baptized. God the Father is pleased. God the Spirit descended and rested upon Jesus.
Next we see how Jesus began to gather his disciples, his twelve. At the very end of chapter 1, Jesus promised his followers that they would see signs and wonders beyond imagination. And he told them that he was the stairway between heaven and earth. So you see, from the start, John set out to prove Jesus’ godship and power. He used Jesus’s I AM declarations and miraculous signs as his framework.
Jesus has authority over quality.
We see it in John 2:1-11. This is the first sign performed by Jesus. When the master of the banquet, who was something like the best man of the wedding, when he called his buddy, the groom, aside and told him “this is some good wine.” He called it the best. What God creates is always good, from the very beginning. Genesis 1:31 says, “Then God looked over all that he had made, and he saw that it was very good.”
But did you notice the tension here? Time, timing is provided tension throughout this moment. The best man is surprised about the timing of this new, better wine. “You’ve saved the best til now?” he wonders? Jesus said his hour hadn’t come yet. He was saying not yet. He was saying the best is yet to come. This was the first sign of his glory, just the first.
There were more to come while he was ministering here on earth, which we’re about to get into, but there is more to come for us today. Now, right now at this moment, he is sitting at the right hand of the Father, the one with the name above every other name. And when we finally get to the house of the lord, he’s the one who will wipe every tear from our eye, and give us a drink of living water, and he is the one who makes all things new.
Jesus has authority over space.
This is from John 4:46-54. Why did this man believe that Jesus could heal his son? And why did he take Jesus at his word that his child would live? As we read this story, we have the benefit of seeing the big picture, and looking back on this knowing what would happen. But this dad didn’t. And he was willing to beg for his miracle.
Jesus wasn’t quick to agree. Just like at the wedding, he seemed hesitant to perform a miracle. He said “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” He was addressing the crowd, but maybe humans in general. This wasn’t so much a correction or an insult, but an observation. Jesus knows us. We want evidence. We want facts. We want verification. When he called his first disciples, he said “come and see.” He wasn’t rebuking this dad. He was leading him to believe.
“Go, your son will live.” Isn’t a perfect translation of the original language. Maybe a better translation is “your son LIVES.” It’s in the future, but it’s the immediate future. The gospel’s emphasis is on LIFE, right then, right now.
And it’s not just physical life that we see spring up, is it? A whole family believed in Jesus and so was brought into eternal life. If the first sign revealed his glory, this sign showed how he has the gift of life. The signs and I AM statements of Jesus push us towards belief, and believing and knowing God is eternal life. Jesus and life have gone together since the beginning of creation. From J. Ramsey Michaels: “Within this story, “Your son lives” is a kind of refrain accomplishing the child’s healing, but in the Gospel’s larger framework the association of “son” and “lives” evokes the notion that “Son” and “life” go together. Freed from its immediate narrative context, it becomes a word of praise to God (“Your Son lives!”) proclaiming nothing less than the resurrection of Jesus himself. Is it too much to suspect that such a thought might have crossed the minds of some of the story’s early readers?”
Jesus has authority over time.
Look at John 5:1-9. For this miracle, Jesus took the initiative to show his power. He asks a straightforward question. Basically asking, what do you want? He assumes the answer is “to get well.” The man thinks he’s finally being offered help to get down into the pool for healing. He needed a friend or a servant, but had neither. He was alone. Jesus was having none of it. He ignored the pool and it’s supposed healing powers, and tells the guy, “Get. Up. And take your mat with you. You are free, and you’re never coming back to this place.” (Amen!)
But there’s trouble brewing. There’s a clue in that little phrase at the end “this took place on a sabbath…” When Jesus commanded this guy to pick up his mat, this was in direct challenge to the religious rulers and their sabbath laws. He knew exactly what day it was and what he was asking him to do. When the rulers showed up they wanted to know who was this guy? They didn’t care that he was a healer and a miracle worker. They only cared that he had broken the sabbath law. He had slipped away after healing the man, but later on at the temple, Jesus found him again and warned him to stop sinning, because he was well. He was forgiven and given LIFE. Jesus has authority to give life, always, regardless of what day it was, regardless of religious rules. In John 5:16, he says, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too, am working.”
In the beginning, God worked on creation, and on the seventh day, he rested. But he is still at work in the world, constantly. Jesus puts himself equal with God, because God and God alone could lawfully break the sabbath. He has authority over time. And if you ever think your past will define you no matter what, that your present is overwhelming, or your future is hopeless, our Jesus wants to change that and he can.
Jesus has authority over quantity.
In John 6:1-14, Jesus wanted nothing to be wasted. This wasn’t just about bread. In John 3:16, we find the only previous use of the verb be wasted, or “to be lost” when he said that God gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not die, or be lost, but have eternal life. Our Good Shepherd wants not a single sheep to be lost. He opens the Gate for us ALL. He is God over quantity, in how he provides, and in gathering the nations of the world to himself.
Jesus has authority over natural law.
John 6:16-21. Well. That happened.
A few of the disciples were fishermen by trade and would have been very familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its sudden storms. It seems that the storm didn’t scare them, but seeing Jesus walking to them across the water sure did! This is the first time one of his signs lined up with one of his I AM statements. He identifies himself with the phrase that literally means “It is I.” It’s the same phrase he used combined with the Bread of Life and what that means for us. And he used it in one of his most dramatic declarations in John 8:58: “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!” (They tried to stone him for that one.)
Jesus walked on water towards his followers. They were in trouble. They were afraid. This wasn’t the first the great I AM led his people across the sea. When the children of Israel fled Egypt, he led them through the Red Sea to freedom. Psalm 77 says:
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the might waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
There’s a second, almost implied miracle in John 6. The disciples were barely able to get Jesus into the boat before they reached the shore. Immediately they got to were they were heading. If you were with us two summers ago, our Summer Bible Study Project was on Psalm 107. This scene in John reminded me so much of this passage, Psalm 107:25-30:
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Jesus has authority over natural law. He also fulfills the role of God through the midst of every situation we find ourselves in. He feeds us, he protects us, he rescues us, he guides us.
Jesus has authority over misfortune.
This is from John 9:1-12. We all suffer misfortune. Bad things happen to good people all the time. (And for what it’s worth, good things happen to bad people all the time…) But we know the assumption here was that this man was born blind because he deserved it for some reason. And from Jesus’ answer, we might think God inflicts pain on us for his own glory. However, when we break down the original language, it puts the emphasis (the purpose clause) first, which reveals what Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of him who sent me.”
So it’s not that this man was blind so that God’s glory would be displayed. It’s that God’s glory must be displayed so Jesus did this sign. This wasn’t a punishment from God, but an opportunity for God. You know what this means for us? Here we are, on this broken world, with all our mess, our trouble, our pain. It’s a consequence of sin, yes, but some of it is just our bad luck of being born human. We’re born into sin and trouble. But we’re not stuck in it, not forever. Ultimately Jesus will take this mess and make it right again, to the glory of God. And he offers us a taste, right here and now.
Jesus has authority over death.
The epic seventh sign is in John 11:1-46. Jesus calls Lazarus out from the tomb. Do you remember? From John 10? The Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Jesus, the Life, is God over death itself. Jesus never questioned who he is. All his I AM statements, his signs, his miracles, his teachings, his life were for our benefit. So we would see and believe and enter into eternal life.
When Lazarus walked out of that tomb at the command of his creator, he was still bound up in his death clothes. He had to be freed from those too. How many of us are still walking around in our death clothes today? You know the ones. Those old habits, those old wounds, those old labels. Jesus calls us out of our old, gross self, and into life and life abundant.
Creation, life itself, happened through Jesus, he holds it all together and sustains it. He’s God over life and death. When Jesus called Lazarus out from the grave, it was almost a holy preview of what was to come. Jesus didn’t have to be called out of his grave, he rose through the power of the Holy Spirit, he rose through the power and authority of God over death. And that’s who we serve. And that’s why and how and who changes everything. King Jesus.