Believe the Signs
Topic: English Passage: John 20:24-31
This is probably the last time in our study of John’s gospel, where I will direct your attention to John 20:30-31, which is John’s purpose statement.
Even if you haven’t turned there yet, I’m sure a lot of you would be able to almost recite it from memory. John 20:30-31 says: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John’s gospel, primarily the first 12 chapters, is organized around signs that point to the identity of Jesus. And his objective was that we, as His readers, would believe.
John likes the word “signs,” as opposed to “miracles” or “acts of power” because a sign is something that has significance. It signifies something. It points to something. And in John’s case, the signs point to the identity of Jesus, and they direct us toward faith in Him.
This is the question that everybody needs to answer for their own life, and it’s a question that the world continues to answer wrongly: Who is Jesus Christ? Who is He?
Well, in order to answer that question, John gives us some signs. And those signs, as chapter 1, verse 14 tells us, were a display of His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
So, what we’re going to do for the first part of our time today is go back and review the signs John gives us in the opening 12 chapters of his gospel. John uses the word “sign” 16 times there.
What are the signs John focuses on in his gospel? Take your Bible and go back with me to John chapter 2. John chapter 2. This is the first sign. And if you want, as we go through these, you can even make a note of them in the margin of your Bible.
The first sign John gives us is Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Not everybody got to see it happen, but this was a display of Jesus’ glory as a servant of others, but also as the One with creative power and overflowing joy.
Providing abundant wine was part of what God promised in the Old Testament to do for Israel. And you can go back to our sermon on this and hear about that in more detail. Though it’s not a public sign, Jesus is picturing for His disciples that He is like new wine for the people.
The time of the old Jewish system of purification, represented by the jars of purification, was coming to an end.
And when Jesus does this amazing miracle of providing about 150 gallons of delicious wine, what happened? What was the response?
Look at verse 11. This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Jesus did the sign, and it stirred up the faith of the disciples. The signs led to faith.
Then we have sign number 2. This is in verses 13-22. Jesus walks into the Temple, and without anyone opposing Him, He cleanses the Temple from the wicked men using it for profit. And when that’s done, the Jewish leaders ask Him: “Why are you doing this? What gives you the right? What sign do you show us?”
And Jesus answered: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And John tells us that He was talking, not about the Jewish Temple, but about His own body. He was pointing to His physical death and resurrection, which would be the only true way to be reconciled to God. The meeting place between God and man would no longer be a temple, it would be a person—Jesus Himself. So, Jesus is the new wine, and He is the new temple.
And after Jesus resurrects, the disciples get it. And John records that for us in verse 22—When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
So, again, John connects Jesus’ sign with faith in the disciples.
Next, we come to Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in chapter 4. Jesus crosses cultural boundaries to speak with this sinful woman, and He demonstrates both His omniscience (He knows all things, including her sin) and His compassion. He goes to the ones the Jews rejected and hated.
When the Samaritan woman gets back to her village, look at what she says. John 4:29—Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?
And we know the answer. Yes, He is the Christ. And not only has He come to save the Jews, but to save the Samaritans. He has come for the entire world.
Jesus said to the disciples, “The fields are white for harvest,” even in Samaria. And what happens with the villagers? Verse 39—Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Jesus is the new wine. He’s the new temple. And He’s the Savior of the world. He has come for everyone.
Now, skip down in John 4, to verses 46-54. Unlike the Samaritans, who believed because of Jesus’ word, you get a group of people who simply want more signs. Jesus goes back to Cana, and there’s some official there who wants his son to be healed from a sickness. And clearly, it’s something serious. Look at how Jesus responds. Verse 48—Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.
He rebukes the people because their superficial faith was only based on seeing signs. And in order to avoid giving them the kind of spectacle they want, Jesus just sends the man home. He heals his son from a distance, without even seeing him.
And when the man gets home and finds out about his son, verse 53 tells us: The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.
Jesus has power over disease. And the sign produced faith. The sign led to belief. That’s the point. That’s the goal.
The next sign we get comes in chapter 5. Jesus goes back to Jerusalem and, on a Sabbath day, He heals a man who had been lame for 38 years. What was the point of that?
It showed His mercy. It showed His power. But it showed something else. Jesus used that miracle, He used that sign, to point to Himself as the Son of God, equal to the Father. They’re angry about the Sabbath, but look at verse 17: But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
What did Jesus want the people to know? He is the Son of God. He’s the Son of God. And chapter 5 is Jesus describing and giving evidence for His deity—same authority and same power as the Father.
Next, we come to chapter 6, which includes one of Jesus’ most famous miracles. All the gospels include it. The multitude of people who were seeing Jesus heal people came after Him. The men numbered about 5,000. So, if we add the women and the children, maybe it’s closer to 15 or 20 thousand. Maybe more.
Well, Jesus miraculously feeds them all with just 5 little loaves of bread and two fish. And these poor people, maybe for the first time in their lives, got to eat until they were stuffed. And what was Jesus doing with that miracle? Why did He decide to feed all those people?
That answer comes the following day, after Jesus walks across the sea. The crowd gathers to Him. They’re clinging to Him. And in verse 26, Jesus says: Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
They saw the signs, but they didn’t understand the significance. They saw Jesus as a meal ticket, not for who He really is. That still happens today, by the way. People see Jesus more like a genie than as the Son of God. They want Him to minister to their felt needs, rather than their true need.
And Jesus tells them in verse 29: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
And they don’t get it. Verse 30—So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?”
That’s crazy, isn’t it? They already saw healings and the food multiplied. But for their artificial faith, it’s never enough. They want more. And Jesus explains the truth to them. Verse 35— “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
What’s Jesus saying? “I am the new bread. I’m the one you should be looking to for true joy and satisfaction. I am the One who gives life. Don’t look at what I can give you; look at Me! Believe in Me!”
So, Jesus is the new wine. He’s the new temple. He’s the Savior of the world. He has power over disease. He’s the Son of God. And He is the new bread. He’s the one who provides life for the people.
But no matter how powerful the signs are, the crowd doesn’t believe. That’s the irony and the tragedy of John’s gospel. Jesus was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own people, and His own people did not receive Him.
They would not and they could not understand and accept the message of verse 40: For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Verse 47 says: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
Verse 51: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Jesus is the new bread. He’s the one who gives eternal life, if you believe. But most of the Jewish people and the Jewish officials don’t accept it. Most of them walk away. They leave Jesus.
But His disciples stay. Their faith is authentic. Notice what Peter says to Jesus in verses 68 and 69: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
That’s who Jesus is. But very few understand it. Jesus goes back to Jerusalem, and the leaders are plotting to kill Him.
The next sign comes in chapter 9. There is a man their who is blind from birth. And Jesus heals Him. That’s the sign. But what’s the significance?
That comes in verse 5. Jesus says it Himself: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
I am the Light of the world. The man Jesus healed was a picture of what Jesus will do to every person who comes to Him. He takes them out of spiritual darkness, and He gives them spiritual light. That’s what Jesus does. He turns the light on in your life. He lets you see God, and the world, and your sin for what they really are. He gives you new sight.
The Jews, though, are stuck in their spiritual blindness. They cannot and will not accept Jesus for who He really is—the Christ, the Son of God. The Pharisees don’t know what to make of Jesus. Look at verse 16: Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
The Pharisees are stuck in their confusion. They don’t get more light, because they insist on walking in darkness. But the man whom Jesus healed gets his spiritual eyes opened. Look at verse 35: Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
The signs pointing to who Jesus is are getting bigger and bigger, but the Jews are blind, so they don’t get it. And Jesus’ message in chapter 10 is: “Not only are you blind, but you are wicked shepherds of the people. You are not truly God’s people.
Skip over to John 10:25-26: Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”
No matter what Jesus does, they’re not going to believe in Him, because they are enslaved to Satan. They won’t believe the truth.
Well, Jesus isn’t done giving the people pictures of His power and signs of His identity. There’s one final sign we get in John chapter 11. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus wasn’t sick or paralyzed when Jesus got there. He had been dead four days.
But for the sake of all the people who were present, Jesus calls out to him. “Lazarus, come forth.” Come out of there. And the dead man listens. That is an incredible display of power! What was the point? What did that miracle illustrate? What did the sign point to?
John gives it to us in the interaction between Jesus and Martha—chapter 11, verses 25-27: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Jesus is the new wine. Jesus is the new temple. Jesus is the Savior of the world. Jesus has power over disease. He’s the Son of God. He is the Bread of life He is the Light of the world. And He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the only path to a life of joy after this one. Apart from Him, there is only eternal anguish.
The resurrection of Lazarus caused a massive upsurge in Jesus’ popularity. Word got out. Everybody wanted to be with Him.
That’s why, in chapter 12, when He enters into Jerusalem for the final time before His death, the people are cheering for Him. They’re chanting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”
And verses 17 and 18 of chapter 12 remind us how superficial it all is— The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.
It’s not real, authentic, loving, sincere faith. It’s all external. It’s all earthly. Skip over to verse 37. John 12:37. And we’ll se that this was exactly what God said would happen.
37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
That is John, not just saying “the Jews didn’t believe, and God knew it.” That is John, filled with the Holy Spirit, saying to you and to me: “Don’t be like them.” Don’t ignore who Jesus is. Don’t ignore the signs.
All the signs pointed to Jesus as the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, and how did the Jews respond? With joy? With faith? No, they had Him put to death. They shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
And with that, everything the signs were pointing to came to fruition. How does Jesus give life? How does He save His people? … By dying on the cross.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. He fulfilled God’s promised plan of salvation by dying in the place of sinners. The King of the Jews, the King of Creation died. He laid down His life for the forgiveness of sin.
And if you skip now, all the way to chapter 20, you know, that not only did He die, He demonstrated the reality of who He was and what He came to do by rising from the dead. Jesus rose from the dead.
This is the message of Christianity. If you’re visiting with us, this is the message we preach, because it’s the message of the Bible. Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness of sin. And He calls you now to believe in Him and repent of your sin, so that you would be saved—so that you would be spared God’s judgment and rise from the dead one day too, just like He did.
And if you find that hard to believe, you’re not alone. God wants you to know that. He wants all of us to know that. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not an easy thing, even for the disciples.
And one poor disciple, because He’s the last to believe in the Resurrection, gets special attention. You might have heard him referred to as doubting Thomas. Doubting Thomas. But really, all the disciples doubted. And we saw that last time we were in John.
Thomas wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to the group on the first Sunday. And so, the disciples went out form there and told him. Look with me at John 20, verse 25—So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
This is very strong language. “There is no way I’m going to believe in Jesus unless I see it for myself. I will never believe!”
Maybe you remember Thomas’ words back in chapter 11, when Jesus said He was going back to Bethany, near Jerusalem. “Let’s all go too, that we may die with Him.”
That’s either an expression of devotion or pessimism. Or maybe a little of both. But it’s that kind of heart that leads him to say what he says.
But rather than write Him off, Jesus ministers to Him. He’s a future Apostle, so he needs to see Christ for Himself anyway. And one week later, the following Sunday, Jesus makes a special appearance, just for Thomas.
Verse 26—Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Jesus basically does for Thomas exactly what He did for the rest of His disciples one week earlier—such a gracious and merciful Lord. He comes to meet Thomas. He comes to minister to Him.
And there really isn’t any indication that Thomas actually touched Jesus. He didn’t have to. He knew the truth. He saw Jesus.
And through the words of Jesus, John is speaking to all of us as well. Take note of the signs. Look at the life of Jesus for yourself. Read the Bible. And do not be an unbeliever. Become a believer. Believe in Jesus.
Come to the same conclusion Thomas did in verse 28—Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Now, Thomas has his theology straight. Jesus is his master because Jesus is God. He is God in human flesh, worthy of our praise and our worship.
And maybe your response here, though, is: “Yeah, but I haven’t seen Jesus alive. I’ve never seen any of the miracles we read about today. Why should I believe? Why should I turn my life over to Jesus?”
Here’s the answer. Verse 29—Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That’s most of us here right. We’ve never seen these kinds of miracles. We’ve never seen the resurrected Jesus. But we have received the word of God by faith. And we believe that Jesus says who He says He is.
And because of that faith, Jesus counts us blessed. Believe in Jesus; place your faith in Jesus who died for sin and rose again, and you will be blessed. You will be blessed with eternal, joyous, life, united to the Son and the Father in eternity.
That’s the message of our church. And if you’re a believer, that’s the message he sends us out with to a world that needs to hear. And if you’re not, don’t waste the opportunity you have today. By God’s Spirit, through His word, He’s calling you to faith. Don’t reject Him.
And if you want to talk to someone about that, come talk to me after the service, or talk to anyone you’ve seen upfront today. Or talk to the member that brought you.
God gave us this book so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the only path to salvation, and that by believing you may have life in His name.