Signs Pointing To Faith

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Sermon Notes and Audio

Scripture Focus- John 2

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Signs are important. We have global navigation systems and tools today in our vehicles and on our phones. Yet road and traffic signs are still very important. Traffic is everywhere, and signs control vehicle and pedestrian traffic. You see them also at construction sites and places where traffic needs to be controlled like in hospitals, schools, and other public places. Signs notify of regulations, warn of potential hazards, and guide us safely to our destination.

The purpose of signs/miracles in the NT, was to authenticate the person of Jesus: Jesus is God; Jesus was sent by the Father; Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins; in Jesus the Kingdom of God has come; Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. Signs/miracles also authenticated the message of Jesus. The Bible says the Lord confirmed His Word by the signs that accompanied it.

Jesus’ signs/miracles were performed by His own authoritative Word. They were inevitable results of who He was. Some were in response to direct human need and were not intended to draw attention to Himself. Yet not all were acts of mercy or healing, some were acts of judgment, and still others were designed to draw His disciples to Him, and teach them about Him.

The first sign pointing to faith is when-

 Jesus displays His glory. Vv1-12

This is the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John. It is the first of 35 recorded miracles Jesus performed. It took place on ‘the third day’ which is probably is a reference to three days after the calling of Philip and Nathanael to come and follow Jesus. It would have taken a couple of days to travel from Bethany near Jericho of Judea, to Cana in Galilee. Cana was near Nazareth but we are not exactly sure where. Jesus’ mother was there, but John doesn’t name her in the text.

Wedding feasts in those days would last for seven days. In the narrative, the supply of wine ran out, and Mary looked to Jesus hoping He could solve the problem- she said, ‘they don’t have any wine.’ She had not seen any miracles performed by Jesus yet. Jesus replies, ‘What has this concern of yours to do with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come.’ Mary’s response to the servants, reflects her submission to Jesus- ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ She did not have full revelation, but she trusted Jesus.

There were six stone water jars that had been set probably outside, for Jewish purification, each containing 20 or 30 gallons. They were used by the Jews for purification before and after meals. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water so they filled them all the way up to the top. He then instructed them, ‘Draw some out and take it to the chief servant.’ So they did. The chief servant tasted the water (that had become wine) and didn’t know where it came from. So he called the groom and told him, ‘Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.’ The significance of this was that it was a sign of God keeping His best gift, His Son Jesus, until then.

John explains the purpose of the miracle as a display of the glory of Jesus.

 “Glory” in the Bible (Hebrew- Kabhod, Greek- Doxa) has three aspects in the OT & NT:

One focuses on God’s presence- (a manifestation) so God’s glory is His immanent manifestation to his people, often in visible form as in the OT (cloud, fire, radiant light). His glory led Israel through the wilderness, His glory dwelt on Mt. Sinai, His glory was in the Tabernacle, and His glory filled the Temple. In this sense, Jesus was the manifestation of the glory of God among the people, the Word had become flesh and dwelt among men.

Another speaks of God’s glory in the greatness of who He is- (an attribute) The Psalms praise God’s glory for His work of creation, and also His acts of salvation. The OT also gives glory to God for His righteousness and justice in relating to people. In this sense, ‘Jesus’ means God is salvation, He came to manifest the grace of God to people.

A third speaks of God’s glory to refer to what believers will experience after the final resurrection. God will raise up the bodies of believers in glory and every child of God will live in the presence of God’s glory forever. The glory of Jesus was being revealed to the disciples, pointing them to their ultimate hope in Jesus.

Israel did not obey the God in their midst. They denied the glorious presence of God and exchanged His glory for idols made with human hands. Judgment came upon Jerusalem. God’s presence in the glory cloud departed the Temple and Israel went into exile. God determined to bring an exile to rebuild the city and the temple. The Shekinah glory of God never returned to the Second Temple- until John 1:14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 Peter spoke of the glory of Jesus at the Transfiguration-

2 Peter 1:16-18 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

The glory was Christ’s before the foundation of the world. His unique splendor and honor was seen in His life, miracles, death, and resurrection. This was “the glory of surpassing grace, love, tenderness, wisdom, purity, spirituality, majesty and meekness, richness and poverty, power and weakness, meeting together in unique contrast.” (Commentary Critical- Jamieson & Fausset)

At the end of World War Two, a prisoner of war spoke to his American colleagues through the fence of a German concentration camp, where they were prisoners. He had to speak in Gaelic, since English was forbidden. He told them the news that the war was over. Germany was defeated; the Allies had won. It would still be three days before the Germans learned that news for themselves. During those three days, the Americans were still prisoners. They still suffered the poor food, the mistreatment, the confinement, and all the other hardships of being in a prisoner-of-war camp. Nothing had changed except the news that the war was over. But that news spread throughout the camp and transformed the response of the prisoners to their situation. Suddenly there was hope! Germany had been defeated. Victory was assured. They could endure the trials because of the truth that they were on the winning side.

The manifestation of the glory of Jesus gave a preview glimpse of the fact that He is the victorious Lord who is coming again in great power and glory. Jesus will reign and His truth will triumph over evil. If we can gain a vision of the glory of Christ, it will enable us to follow Him in the way of the cross.

Jesus displayed His glory as a sign pointing to faith.

The second sign pointing to faith is when-

 Jesus exercises His power. Vv13-17

John tells us about a cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Synoptic Gospels tell about a cleansing of the temple toward the end of his ministry (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45-46). Most likely there were two occurrences. The first cleansing seems to have taken people by surprise, the second cleansing was leading up to the death of Jesus.

It was the custom for Jewish people to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was a reminder of God’s grace and provision for them when He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The Temple Courts was a large courtyard area of the Temple, the Court of Gentiles. Gentile proselytes could worship in that area but were threatened with death if they went beyond a four and a half foot dividing wall. Animals were bought and sold, and they evidently rationalized it as being convenient for the travelers coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jesus found people ‘selling oxen, sheep, and doves.’ The usual sin offering was a lamb or goat (Lev 5:6). Oxen are mentioned specifically in connection with the burnt offerings of Numbers 7. The pigeons or doves, were for the sin offering of the poor (Lev 5:7).

 Rather than the Temple being a place of worship, it had become a marketplace for commerce. Abuses, and corruption developed and the people coming became a major source of income. They were making money and worship became corrupted. They were missing the point of it all.

Jesus also encountered ‘money changers sitting there.’ The money changers were a supposed convenience to the travelers as well. Temple dues had to be paid in acceptable coinage, and they were charging high fees for changing the money. Each Israelite was expected to provide a half-shekel tax/offering to the Temple (Exodus 30:13). Those who came from further away, instead of bringing offerings of animals or birds could bring money and purchase them from the temple staff.

The payments could not be made in foreign currencies, like Roman denarii which had pagan symbols and images of emperors. The money had to be exchanged for Temple currency. So the Temple became a major exchange bank of sorts. Kind of like the high priced exchange places in some foreign airports.

Jesus was not happy with what He saw. ‘After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables.’ Jesus causes a stampede of the animals and turns the tables over. He objected to what they were doing. ‘Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!’ Jesus had no problem with the sacrificial system. He had a problem with them losing sight of the purpose of the sacrifices and turning it into something else.

 Jesus made a whip of cords. It may have come from materials used to tether the animals in the Temple Courts. Weapons were forbidden in the Temple Courts so He made the whip of cords. I think He used it on the animals and the merchants. He overturned the tables. Then He told the people selling doves- ‘Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!’

The disciples remembered Psalm 69:9 Zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult You have fallen on me. The Psalm pointed to the fact that the Righteous One, the Messiah, would pay a price for His commitment to God’s Temple. This zeal would lead to His death. Commerce in the Temple was an act of desecration. Jesus purified the Temple, showing ‘He had come to remove all barriers to the true worship of God’ (E.F. Scott, The Crisis in the Life of Jesus, 19). Jesus came and exercised His power, and opened up the true worship of God.

Leon Morris pointed out (The Gospel According to John) that it was not so much Jesus’ physical force that drove these merchants out of the temple, but rather His moral power.

Jesus is the power of God- 1 Corinthians 1:24 To those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom.

Jesus is power as the Son of God- Romans 1:4 Declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.

Jesus has power to forgive sins- Mt 9:6 So you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Jesus has power to execute judgment- John 5:27 He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

Jesus is seated at the right hand of power- Mark 14:61-62 “The high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”  And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”

 Jesus has power over our lives as Lord over all! Jesus exercised His power as a sign pointing to faith.

The third sign pointing to faith is when-

 Jesus communicates His authority. Vv18-25

The Jews, most likely the presiding authorities, wanted proof for the right of Jesus to challenge the situation.

V18 What sign of authority will You show us for doing these things?

They were basically saying- Who do you think you are? Rather than physically arrest or restrain Jesus, the authorities challenged His authority or right to do what He did. They wanted to know what sign He would show them to reveal His authority.

Authority in the Bible usually refers to the rightful and legitimate exercise of power. Jesus has authority because He is God. He has sovereignty and dominion over all things. Jesus was not afraid of the question thrown at Him and  He didn’t give in to their request. He would say certain things that puzzled people, to cause them to think about what He was communicating.

V19 Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days. At the trial of Jesus He was accused of saying He could destroy the temple and raise it up again in three days (Matthew 26:60-61). The Jews replied- v20 This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and You will raise it up in three days?

Herod the Great ordered the replacement of the Temple of Zerubbabel because it was not of the same glory of Solomon’s. The Jews meant either the Temple was rebuilt in 46 years or at least a phase of it had been in that amount of time. They spoke the words to Jesus with contempt, and in jest. Jesus was not referring to the Temple building. He was referring to the sanctuary of His body, which after His death on the cross, would be resurrected in three days. Jesus was communicating the ultimate sign of His authority, victory over death and the grave!

 V22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. This is a forward look of it all coming together for the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus has absolute authority and sovereignty over this world and has an unstoppable mission to gather His sheep from all the peoples of the earth. Matthew 28:18 All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

All authority has been given to Jesus by the Father. John 17:2 You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. He always had authority in heaven and on earth. When the work of redemption was completed, God exalted Him to His right hand in Heaven and put the rule of the universe, and the mission of His church into His hands.

Knowing this should cause faith inspired prayer to God to do only what He can do- save sinners and send out workers into His mission. V23 indicates there was a lot that took place during Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, much more than is recorded. Jesus was performing other signs than the ones that are specifically recorded here.

Many trusted in His name when they saw the signs Jesus was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them since He knew them all, and because He did not need anyone to testify about man, for He Himself knew about man. Temporary excitement about the work of God is not enough. Many of the early followers turned back because Jesus did not take up the role of a political king. They saw Him perhaps as a great prophet, or even the Messiah, but they had not surrendered their hearts to Him. Not all faith is saving faith. Jesus didn’t see themselves as true believers because He knew what was in their hearts. Jesus can see into our hearts!

The signs of Jesus point to faith and inspire genuine belief!

 V11 His disciples believed in Him. . .At the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus’ disciples believed in Him.

 v22. . .they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made. After the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus’ disciples believed in what He said and who He was.

Do you believe in what Jesus said and who He is?