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John 2:11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.

John 4:54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

Does "signs" means supernatural miracles?

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  • Second sign can mean relative to the first one he did in Galilee, unless you would have John to contradict what he said nine verses earlier in verse 45.
    – user21676
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 11:54

4 Answers 4

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The four Gospels record about 35 miracles of Jesus. However, there are numerous other miracles that are alluded to that are not specifically described, eg, Matthew 4:23, 24; 9:35; 12:15; 14:14, 35, 36; 15:30, 31; Mark 1:32 - 34; 6:5; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 6:17 - 19; 7:21; John 2:23; 3:2; 4:45; 6:2; 20:30; 21:25. This final reference says:

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.

Thus, we can be confident that there were many more miracles/signs that Jesus performed that are not described in the Gospels.

The Gospel of John specifically lists seven miracles or "signs" before the crucifixion in his Gospel:

  1. Turns water to wine (John 2:1-11)
  2. Heals a Royal official’s son (John 4:43-54)
  3. Heals a disabled man at Bethesda pool (John 5:1-47)
  4. Feeds ~20,000 people (John 6:1-15)
  5. Walks on Water (John 6:16-24)
  6. Heals a blind man (John 9 & 10)
  7. Resurrects Lazarus (John 11:1-57)

The first two in this list are explicitly described as the first and the second sign/miracle of Jesus.

John uses the Greek word, σημεῖον (sémeion) = "sign". BDAG gives two basic meanings for this words, the second of which is: "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendental powers, miracle, portent", eg, Matt 12:38, 16:1, Mark 8:11, John 2:11, 18, 23, 3::2, 4:54, 6:2, 14, 26, 30, 7:31, etc.

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The ‘Signs’ were ‘supernatural’. Had to be. Signs were ‘miracles’ that were prophesied. To be a ‘sign’, there had to be a ‘link’ to a prophecy. That is,not ‘just’ a miracle to reflect or demonstrate deity.

John 4:48, NIV: "Unless you people see signs and wonders,' Jesus told him, 'you will never believe.'"

Signs were to announce that ‘he’, Jesus, was the prophesied Messiah, or put another way, verify that ‘he’ was the prophesied Messiah. So yes, the signs were all supernatural miracles. Signs were all ‘happenings’ that only the promised Messiah would be able to ‘perform’.

John 2:11 NIV: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

John 2:11 is saying that his disciples recognised this ‘water into wine’ as a prophetic sign. Something the Old Testament (Tanakh) talked about.

Jeremiah 31:12 “They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, And they will be radiant over the bounty of the Lord— Over the grain and the new wine and the oil… And they will never languish again.

And elsewhere, example, Psalm 4:6-8. So the answer to your question ... Does "signs" means supernatural miracles? is yes.

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  • Can you substantiate your statement To be a ‘sign’, there had to be a ‘link’ to a prophecy.. I am not contradicting it. I am just interested to see if you can support it.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 13:08
  • Bit difficult in a comment. Nevertheless, an overview - A ‘sign’ is a ‘pointer’. It has to ‘point’ to something, a Messianic sign had to point to Torah. When manifested, that manifestation becomes ‘evidence’. The frequent use of the phrase, ‘by these things you will know’. - it comes down to the sovereignty of Gods word. Even God can’t violate his word. But it’s deeper than that. Nothing will ‘happen’ unless God speaks it. This includes ‘through’ a prophet. Example, the virgin birth couldn’t have happened, unless it was prophesied. Signs are crucial.
    – Dave
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 20:05
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Let me propose, first, that "sign means more than "miracle". It means "miracle with a purpose". A "sign" points in a particular direction. Jesus complains elsewhere that "this generation" wants to see "a sign" (e.g. Matthew ch16 v4), and what he means is that they are demanding the kind of miracle that will "prove" what he claims about his authority.

I suggest,then, that the Cana episode is meant as "a sign for the Jews", and the Capernaum episode is meant as "a sign for the Gentiles".

The first suggestion is based on the implications of "wedding".The covenant relationship between God and his people Israel is identified as "husband and wife" at many points in the Old Testament, including the prophets (e.g. Hosea ch2, Ezekiel ch16), and also (arguably) the Song of Solomon.

The rationale for the second suggestion is more oblique, I'm afraid. In the equivalent story in the Synoptics (Matthew ch8 vv5-13) the anxious request comes from a centurion.

So my suggestions cannot be proved absolutely. But if they are on the ball, the answer to your question is that "Jews" and "Gentiles" cover the whole world between them, so no more than two signs are necessary. The message, in each case,is that "Faith" is the answer.

P.S. It is possible to imagine that in the original arrangement of the material the two stories came in quick succession, averting the need for the remark about "returning to Cana".

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  • Please elaborate further more. Jesus said in Matt15:24 “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”; the miracle in Matt 8:5-13 was done to a Jew servant of a Roman Centurion, can it be taken as a miracle to the "Gentile"? Also it's link to Jn 4:46-54 is doubtful. Disregard the difference, one was called servant and the other was a son, the Centurion did not need Jesus to go with Him that Jesus called him a man of faith, whereas the royal official begged Jesus to go with him to heal his son, and Jesus comment "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe" (Matt 4:48 NIV). Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 15:36
  • @Vincent Wong I did say that the connection was oblique, which was why it is proposed only tentatively. The one advantage is that it does offer a plausible explanation of the fact that John counted two signs and then stopped counting. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 15:40
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Read all four gospels together, the Wedding of Cana took place not long after Jesus' Baptism. His Baptism was happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing (John 1:28). At this location, we can imagine that Jesus should have visited Jerusalem, likely for the Feast of Tabernacles, and October is a good season, not too hot, not too cold for Baptism and Wedding taken place.

Immediately follow the Wedding of Cana, John's gospel immediately jumped to the next visit to Jerusalem, for the Passover (John 2:13). A few events happened before he went back to Cana, Galilee, include;

  • Jesus teaches Nicodemus (John 3:1-15)
  • Jesus and His disciples baptized people in Judean countryside (John 3:22-36)
  • Jesus left Judea and talks with a Samaritan Woman, and stayed in Samaria for two days (John 4:1:41)

Then finally, Jesus arrived Galilee and visited Cana again, where a "certain royal official (NIV)/ certain nobleman (KJV)" whoes son lay sick at Capernaum, begged Jesus to go to Capernaum to heal his son (John 4:46-54).

Now, the OP had asked a good question. In between these two signs, there is a significant time lapse. Did Jesus perform any miracles during the time?

My answer is "Yes", but in John's perspective he did not call them a sign. Then why was it?

After the wedding of Cana, Jesus went to Capernaum with his disciples (John 2:12). Reading all four gospels together, it is quite clear that Capernaum was a base of Jesus' Ministry. A few healing, exorcism were happened in Capernaum and its surrounding, below were likely happened in between these two signs

  • Jesus drove out a demon on Sabbath in Capernaum (Mk 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37)
  • Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law in Capernaum (Matt 8:14-17; Mk 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41)
  • Jesus healed a paralyzed man on sleeping mat in Capernaum (Matt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)
  • Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand on Sabbath (Matt 12:9-14; Mk 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11)
  • Jesus healed the multitudes (Matt 12:15-21; Mk 3:7-12; Luke 6:17-19)

So why was John not taken the above as signs?

It is because the healing of the "certain nobleman's son" was done without the presence of Jesus.

Reviewing the seven signs of John, all indicate a status of impossible becomes a status of possible, a sign of undisputable divine intervention.

  1. Turn water to wine is a change of substance state, illustrated God's almighty power
  2. Healing a nobleman's son remotely illustrated the power of divine word.
  3. Healing a man disabled for 38 years at Bethesda pool shocked the Jewish leaders. Jesus proclaimed His authority on Sabbath.
  4. Feed the five thousand - an allusion of Manna
  5. Walked on Water - a requirement of Faith
  6. Heals a man who was blind since birth - as Jesus corrected a tradition bias of the Jews; John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (NIV)
  7. Lazarus resurrection - an allusion to salvation.

These seven signs were specific chosen by John, to affirm Jesus is God, a meaning much more significant than the miracles itself.

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