The Significance of the First Sign in John’s Gospel -- By: Stanley D. Toussaint

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:533 (Jan 1977)
Article: The Significance of the First Sign in John’s Gospel
Author: Stanley D. Toussaint


The Significance of the First Sign in John’s Gospel

Stanley D. Toussaint

[Stanley D. Toussaint, Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The miracle of Christ’s turning water to wine, recorded in John 2:1–11, tells much about the Lord. It indicates, for instance, that the Lord hallowed marriage and family life. The well-known words of The Book of Common Prayer refer to marriage as a “holy estate” which “Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that He wrought in Cana of Galilee…. This miracle also manifests the fact that Christ approved of festivities. More than once this aspect of the Lord’s ministry is seen and misunderstood (Matt 9:14; 11:19; Luke 15:2). This miracle is commonly viewed as a sign which reveals the Lord Jesus as the Creator. In this miracle He “created” wine—the whole process of growth, bearing fruit, harvest, and production of wine is compressed into a minuscule fragment of time.

While all of the above are true, do any or all of them reveal the real significance of the miracle?

Of course there are many attendant difficulties and problems that must be answered. Did Jesus make actual wine? Why did Jesus speak to His mother as He did? Why is this the first miracle? Interestingly, all these attendant questions are answered when the basic problem is solved: What is the significance of this first miracle?

The fact that John calls attention to this miracle as being first is enough to indicate its primacy among the wonders Christ performed. That he should describe it as a sign also indicates its importance and consequence. The word σημείον looks at a miracle as proof of a point or as a means of teaching something. The crucial thing is not the miracle, as genuine and important as it is,

but the lesson to be learned from the miracle. The fact that John uses only σημείον in his Gospel to refer to Christ’s miracles does not detract from the purpose of the miracles to teach something about the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact it enhances this truth.

The Situation

The situation is described in John 2:1–2. The time is the third day. It is obvious John is emphasizing the first week of Christ’s ministry. Just as the last days were crucial, so also the initial hours of the Lord’s earthly work were important. The first day ...

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