The Sign

There are no miracles in the Gospel of John. Well, at least he does not call them as such. John seems to assiduously avoid calling them miracles, preferring to call them “signs.” In fact the first part of the Gospel of John is called the “Book of Signs” – and there are seven.

  • Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
  • Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
  • Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
  • Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
  • Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24
  • Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
  • Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

Each sign is meant, not only to grab your attention, but to serve as a pointer, not that which has just transpired, but to the person of Jesus. The signs also serve to point to a choice.
That has been the motif in the Gospel of John all along. At the end of the first sign, the words of the Blessed Virgin Mother in the story from Cana make it evident. Her last words in the Gospel of John are the clearest and most poignant sign: “This is my son, do what he tells you.” She points to the person of Jesus and points to the choice each will have to make: do what he tells you. Every disciples, every reader, each one who hears this Book of Signs is brought to that moment where choices are made to follow, or not, the one who is the Living Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

From the sign at Cana, turn the page. When Nicodemus encountered Jesus, he was given a choice to be born ańothen. He can understand it to mean be born again or be born from above. Nicodemus misunderstands the sign within the conversation and thinks it points to him. Hence the question: “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” (3:4) In this encounter, Nicodemus does not choose well, but there are more signs, other opportunities. It works out, he eventually becomes a believer.

In gospel from the 3rd Sunday in Lent, when the Samaritan women encountered Jesus who tells her if she knew who she was speaking with she could ask for hydor zon. Like Nicodemus there is a sign within the conversation. She can understand hydor zon to mean flowing water or living water. The Samaritan women understands the signs points to Jesus and she slowly begins to understand who he is: a holy man, a prophet, and eventually that he is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. She follows the signs, it leads her to truly see Jesus, and she in turn she again chooses to leave everything behind and becomes the Apostle to the Samaritans. Many come to encounter Jesus because of her testimony – and they believe.

In last week’s gospel, in the healing of the man born blind a whole cast of people are brought into the conversation and into the sign. Not just the man, but his parents, the neighbors, the Pharisee, the disciples, and the onlookers. Everyone has a choice. Some cannot let go of the way they understand the law of Moses and never see the sign, others deny, some run and hide, and others equivocate. All are witness. Even in not choosing a choice is made. But one chooses to believe. The man born blind encounters Jesus, is given the gift of sight and called before the Pharisee – led to another choice. Will he testify that he has encountered the Living Word of God and it changes his life. He chooses and in the course of the dialogue, like the Samaritan woman, he looks at the sign and to truly sees to one to whom it points: the Christ, the Living Word of God.

Today we have the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus. The disciples, the local people gathered, Martha, and Mary, all are witnesses and they will all face the choice to believe or not. Jesus asks Martha point-blank: “Do you believe…?” She replies, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah.” She understands the sign, sees that it points to the person of Jesus, whose message is clear: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Many see the sign and believe – others don’t.

What about us. We all know and have heard these stories from the gospel according to John. The gospel whose opening words are so familiar, whose opening words are themselves a sign: “In the beginning was the Word…” The same Word (dabar in Hebrew) that the Old Testament texts describe as the agent of creation at the beginning of the world. The same Word that was the means of making covenant with the people of Israel. The same Word that came as a light for all men and women. The same word that was life-giving. The same Word that carried the power to heal. The same Word that was with God, was God and became the revelation of God to the people. The same Word that shines the light judgment. The same Word that came to the prophets like Hosea and Joel and challenged them to choose: to turn away or to accept the Word and go forth and give it to others. That same Word came and “pitched his tent among us” as one of us.

That Word came to us as Jesus. The signs of Johns Gospel all point to him. Have pointed to him since you first heard the stories as children. Have pointed to him to each time these accounts in John’s Gospel were proclaimed. Pointed every time in your hearing.

But… have you chosen?

Have you chosen to trust the stories, that Jesus is exactly who he says that he is: the resurrection and the life.

And in the choosing to become the Samaritan women who told others, or the man born blind who testifies when challenged, or the disciples, the Martha’s, the Mary’s, the Lazarus’ who have been raised from what entombs them in this world, or even the modern Nicodemus who did not get it the first time around. But today, this today, will you choose to trust, to follow, and to listen to the Living Word of God, to Jesus? Because the sign points to the person of Jesus, the One who, at the end of the Gospel according to John, will say, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21). And then you will have to choose again.

Choose to pitch your tent among the people, to lead them to covenant with God, to be a light in the life of others, to be a source of life and to heal. To be the revelation of Christ to others that they may choose. In their own way, their own time, and to begin their own journey to faith. Maybe they will be Nicodemus. Maybe the Samaritan woman. Maybe Lazarus. That is for them to choose.

Today your choice is whether you will let your manner of living, speaking, and loving, become a sign for others. Will you point to Jesus? Will you be the Sign?

It is your choice.


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