The Second Sign

Bulletin TL 1-27-2019 YC E3

Scriptures: Luke 4:14-21; John 4:43-54

Let us pray:

Gracious Spirit, illumine these scriptures and increase our faith; we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today I have chosen to depart slightly from the revised common lectionary to continue taking a look at John’s gospel – specifically the other six signs used to illumine who Jesus really was. I hope a creative connection in conversation with the Revised Common Lectionary texts for the next six weeks leading up to Lent will also provide us with a deeper appreciation of Jesus in our own lives today.

I indicated last week that the Gospel of John is a window into the life of our Lord with the added benefit of hindsight riddled with interpretations of events not understood closer to the time of their happening. The first central question we asked ourselves last week was: do we, like the disciples, believe in Jesus? Yes? So what does that mean? Travelling further into this labyrinthine journey, we are faced with a second sign John’s Gospel chronicles for the Johannine community. Jesus heads toward home, through Cana in Galilee, and meets an official from Capernaum who begs him to heal his son. Jesus says, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The first thing we can note here is the Greek word for “you” is plural. Therefore, Jesus is addressing everyone present, not just the official.

We also heard last week from commentator Linda Bridges; she wrote: “The purpose of Jesus’ miracles, or signs, is to reveal the person of Jesus. The result of the sign will be that some who see the sign will understand it and some will reject it.”[1] I have to confess I am a little uncomfortable with that. It begs two questions, “How much responsibility do I have to help others understand the signs of Jesus without shoving the Bible down their throats?” And, “Do I actually understand these signs or do I reject them by my actions in the world?”

Hermeneia commentator Ernst Haenchen writes, “John teaches the incarnation of the logos, but understands the miracles, of which he relates seven in detail, only as pointers to something entirely different (Jesus the light of the world, the way to the Father, etc.); he does not understand them as credentials to be discovered by every man.”[2]

Again, I have to confess to a bit of discomfort. Shouldn’t we be about helping others discover the truths of the gospel? Aren’t we the hands and feet of Christ in the world today? It puts a slightly different sense of urgency to an old nemesis of Presbyterians – which is, of course, Evangelism. Perhaps it is worth noting that to the Johannine community, the Beloved Disciple, by tradition the Apostle John, is often referred to as “The Evangelist.”

I pointed out last week that the gospel itself, after its redaction to the final form we have today, is an exquisite chiastic work, which means there are corresponding verses on each end framing its central message. This passage is another example. Other than this second sign is named as such, the key word hinging this one to the first is belief. However, the key word linking this passage to both the first sign and a central message in John’s gospel is life. Haenchen writes:

“The Evangelist repeatedly uses the verb záao (záh-oh), “to be well, to live,” yet he [also] permits the reader to recognize the deeper significance….” [3]

When we move in the larger chiastic structure to John 11:25-27, we find a fascinating corresponding story of Mary, Martha, and Lazaras. On his way to their house, but just outside of town, Martha comes out to meet him and they talk. He says to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”” With that, we will leave John for a bit and return to the lectionary for today.

In Luke, we note Jesus is on his way home to Nazareth, in the region of Cana, in the governance of Galilee.

“14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.”

Galileans have heard and seen Jesus both in and around Galilee and even in Jerusalem at the Passover feast just celebrated. Jesus has been on the move, preaching and teaching as he has felt called to do.

16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

When Jesus sits down, he is assuming a traditional Rabbinical posture for teaching and providing commentary on what was just read.

What do we make of this? Is he simply reporting all that has gone on in Galilee with that one sentence, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing?” Or, is he making a much deeper claim for himself? One that is also perhaps better understood in hindsight? Or both?

Next week, Luke takes up where this passage leaves off, and a startling turn of events challenges all who have heard, and all who believe.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ; Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

The Old Testament “year of jubilee” to which Jesus refers in his first sermon—what some have called his “mission statement”—was a time set aside every fifty years to forgive financial debt and redistribute the land among the people.

  1. Why do you think God envisioned a year of jubilee, and what might that look like in our world today?
  2. What word of the Lord do you long to hear this week?
  3. How do we understand the Scripture to be fulfilled when so much suffering still exists in the world?

Household Prayer: Morning

Holy One, thank you for the gift of this new day. Help me to stay attentive to your creation
and mindful of your teachings
as I travel through it. Empower me to see and spread
the good news of your grace for all people. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Holy One, thank you for the gift of today. Thank you for all the ways that I saw your glory and learned your teachings,
beyond speech and words,
in the course of this day.
As I drift to sleep this night,
draw me closer to you,
my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


[1] Linda Mckinnish Bridges, “Exegetical Perspective, John 2:1-11” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Ernst Haenchen, “The Son of the Royal Official John 4:43–54in Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (New Testament vol. 20) (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2007). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 1.5

[3] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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