Some students count seven signs (a good Bible number usually representing completeness or perfection) that Jesus performs in the gospel of John. Take note of the first one with me:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
There is so much of import in this text, but for our purposes take note of just a couple things. John tells us this is the first sign Jesus performed – verse 11. Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus’ first sign is done at a wedding celebration? Does Jesus care about marriage, and married people? Certainly. On one level, he does what he does in order to save that young couple great social embarrassment – they have run out of drink for the guests! Might seem like a little thing to us, but apparently not to the Son of God.
On another level, though, John tells us what the greater purpose of this sign (and all the signs) was, verse 11: to manifest his glory. Signs recorded in John were to show people then and now the glory of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the signs were to make us see the greatness of Jesus. Jesus is great because he could transform water into wine, yes. That is a power reserved to the Creator. But also, Jesus is great because he cares about people – regular people – even a young couple on the biggest day of their lives, who almost had it ruined but for a compassionate and powerful visitor who blessed them in a glorious way. What a sign!
Signs are intended to communicate something. In as few words or symbols as possible, as clearly as possible, signs are intended to communicate an important message. Here are some signs that didn’t quite communicate what the sign maker intended:
IN A LAUNDROMAT: Automatic washing machines. Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.
IN A LONDON DEPARTMENT STORE: Bargain Basement Upstairs
IN AN OFFICE: Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday kindly bring it back or further steps will be taken.
IN ANOTHER OFFICE: After the tea break, staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.
ON A CHURCH DOOR: This is the gate of heaven. Enter ye all by this door. (This door is kept locked because of the draft. Please use side entrance.)
OUTSIDE A SECOND-HAND SHOP: We exchange anything—bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain?
QUICKSAND WARNING: Quicksand. Any person passing this point will be drowned. By order of the District Council.
NOTICE IN A DRY CLEANER'S WINDOW: Anyone leaving their garments here for more than 30 days will be disposed of.
IN A HEALTH FOOD SHOP WINDOW: Closed due to illness.
SEEN DURING A CONFERENCE: For anyone who has children and doesn't know it, there is a day care on the first floor.
MESSAGE ON A BROCHURE: If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.
ON A REPAIR SHOP DOOR: We can repair anything (Please knock hard on the door—the bell doesn't work.)
SPOTTED IN A TOILET IN A LONDON OFFICE BLOCK: Toilet out of order. Please use floor below.
Signs that failed to do their job: communicate clearly an important message. Jesus employed signs in his ministry. All were exquisitely designed and executed flawlessly. They all communicated quickly and clearly. Let’s study some of these signs together in this space. I invite you to check back regularly for new postings.