Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
A Nobleman’s Son Healed
He [Jesus] left Judea, and departed again to Galilee.
But He needed to go through Samaria . . .
Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
. . . and He stayed there two days.
And many more believed because of His own word. . . .
Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. . . .
So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. . . .
Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed . . .
And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” . . .
This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:3, 4, 29, 39, 40b, 41, 43, 46, 47, 50a, 51, 54)
The second of eight signs recorded in the gospel of John has to do with Jesus healing a nobleman’s son while in Cana of Galilee, at a particular time. Jesus had left Judea in route to Galilee and had spent time ministering in Samaria, the region lying between Judea and Galilee (John 4:4-42).
Jesus remained in Samaria and dealt with the Samaritans for two days. He then left Samaria and continued His journey into Galilee, where He was received by the Galileans, who had previously witnessed His performance of miraculous signs at the feast of the Passover in Jerusalem (vv. 43-45; cf. John 2:13, 23).
Once in Galilee, He returned to Cana, the site of His first sign. And it was in this village, in Cana, that Jesus also performed the second sign recorded in the gospel of John (vv. 46-54).
A nobleman, whose son lay sick at Capernaum, heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee. He sought Jesus out, found Him in Cana, and requested that He come down to Capernaum to heal his son, who was at the point of death. Jesus, rather than going to Capernaum — after emphasizing a point surrounding “signs and wonders” and hearing the nobleman again request that He come down to Capernaum to heal his son — simply told the man, “Go your way; your son lives” (vv. 46-50a).
The nobleman, believing that which Christ had said, began his return journey to Capernaum. Then, before reaching Capernaum, he was met by his servants who told him, “Your son lives.” The father then inquired about the time of day that his son had begun to improve, and he was told that the fever had left his son the preceding day, “at the seventh hour.” He then knew that healing had occurred at the exact time Jesus had told him, “Go your way; your son lives”; and this resulted in belief on the part of not only the nobleman (who had previously expressed belief) but his family as well (vv. 50b-53).
(The Greek word translated “nobleman,” basiliskos, is a diminutive of the Greek word for “king” [basileus], denoting a “royal official” [ref. NIV].)
To provide a proper setting for this second sign in the gospel of John, the entire sequence of events leading into the sign must be viewed. This sequence of events has to do with a two-day period, and it has to do with both that which had occurred preceding the two days and that which was about to occur following the two days.
Preceding the two days, Christ had spent time with the Jewish people in Judea. Then, coming out of Judea, Christ spent two days with the Samaritans (a mixed race, Jew and Gentile), who were generally despised by the Jewish people throughout the remainder of the land. And, following this two-day period, Christ left Samaria and went into Galilee, where He was received by the Jewish people, where the nobleman’s son was healed, and where belief was expressed because of this man’s son being healed.
The events depicted by the two-day period spent with the Samaritans foreshadow God’s dealings with the Gentiles during the present dispensation. The present dispensation is a two-day period, a 2,000-year period, lying between God’s past and future dealings with Israel (dealings foreshadowed by time spent in Judea before the two days and time spent in Galilee following the two days).
And, accordingly, Christ’s actions at the end of the two days spent in Samaria — returning to the place where He had performed His first sign, returning to Cana in Galilee, being received by the Jewish people, healing a nobleman’s son, and those in the family believing on Him — depict that which will occur following the present dispensation.
Christ, after spending two days, 2,000 years, with those foreshadowed by the Samaritans (the Gentiles), will return to the place where He performed signs 2,000 years ago. He will return to the land of Israel, be received by the Jewish people, provide healing for the Jewish people (divine healing for God’s son, typified by divine healing for the nobleman’s son [cf. Hosea 5:13-6:2]), and the Jewish people in that day will believe on the One who will have provided this healing (cf. Isaiah 1:5, 6; 53:1-5).
(It is evident from Christ’s words to the nobleman in John 4:48 that this man was a Jew, not a Gentile:
Christ told the nobleman, “Unless you . . . see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
It is the Jew who requires a sign [1 Corinthians 1:22], not the Gentile. Words of the preceding nature, surrounding the type signs being performed, would not only have held no meaning for a Gentile but they would also have been out of place being performed among Gentiles [cf. Matthew 10:5-8].)
Thus, the whole of the account surrounding the second sign in the gospel of John has to do with the Jewish people, as do all of the signs in this gospel. They were performed for and among the Jewish people, for a divine purpose; and they were then later recorded by John for the same Jewish people and the same divine purpose, which is something clearly stated near the end of John’s gospel:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written that you [the Jewish people, those requiring a sign] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30, 31)
Signs were manifested during the time of the offer of the kingdom to Israel (during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, covered by the gospel accounts), and they continued to be manifested during the subsequent re-offer of the kingdom to Israel (following Christ’s ascension, during time covered by the book of Acts [a time during which part of the epistles were written]). And these signs were manifested for the Jewish people in relation to the proffered kingdom.
These signs showed that which Israel could have within the kingdom that would be established, contingent upon the nation’s repentance. There would be supernatural healing and provision for the nation, along with supernatural blessings flowing out to the Gentile nations through Israel.
These signs had nothing to do with a message surrounding eternal life, or with what is often termed today, the gospel of grace. These signs were manifested in the presence of a people who were already saved, both in the original offer and in the subsequent re-offer. They were manifested in the presence of a people capable of spiritual perception, a people to whom the kingdom could be offered, and then re-offered.
(The kingdom that was taken from Israel [Matthew 21:43], the heavenly sphere of the kingdom [not the earthly, which can never be taken from Israel] is presently being offered to Christians. And, with this in mind, note a parallel between the offer of the kingdom to Israel two millennia ago and the offer of the kingdom to Christians today.
Unsaved individuals today, whether Jew or Gentile, are estranged from this offer. The offer of the kingdom can come into view only after a person has been saved.
And exactly the same situation existed in Israel 2,000 years ago. Christ came to a saved people, manifesting signs. And these signs were being manifested for two inseparable reasons: Israel was being dealt with, and the kingdom was in view.
Israel was dealt with in relation to the kingdom during both the offer and the re-offer of the kingdom, during time covered by the gospel accounts [the offer] and the book of Acts [the re-offer].
Then, beyond the re-offer [ending about 62 A.D.], God, relative to the proffered kingdom, dealt solely with a new nation separate from Israel, comprised of the one new man “in Christ” (Ephesians 2:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
And the one new man “in Christ” did not/does not require signs. In fact, signs, after the manner in which they are introduced in the Old Testament and continued in the New Testament, would be completely out of place with this new man, who is neither Jew nor Gentile.
In the preceding respect, signs of the nature seen throughout the gospel accounts and the book of Acts existed as long as God dealt with Israel in relation to the kingdom. But beyond this time, throughout the remainder of the dispensation, from a biblical standpoint, signs could no longer exist.
For more information on the preceding, refer to chapter 3 in this book, along with the author’s book From Acts to the Epistles [much of this book deals with this overall subject, particularly the first four chapters].)
Two Days in Samaria
In the account at hand — events surrounding the second sign in the gospel of John — signs were in evidence only during time covering part of the overall account seen in the text and context. Signs were in evidence before Christ went to Samaria (John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:45), they were not in evidence during the time Christ was in Samaria (John 4:4-42), but they were once again seen as part of Christ’s ministry after He had left Samaria and returned to the Jewish people in Galilee (John 4:45, 54).
Within the dispensational scheme of the matter (that foreshadowed by events surrounding the second sign in the gospel of John), signs were in evidence when Israel was being dealt with in relation to the kingdom at the time of Christ’s first coming; signs continued to be manifested for about the first thirty years following His ascension, because God continued to deal with Israel in relation to the kingdom; signs then occupy no place in God’s work throughout the remainder of the dispensation while He removes from the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14; Romans 11:25); and signs will once again be in evidence after God completes His purpose for the present dispensation and resumes His national dealings with Israel (Acts 15:15-17; Romans 11:26).
(Note the exact wording of the text in John 4:43-54 in relation to “signs.” It is “. . . out of Judea into Galilee [vv. 45, 47, 54]. There is no mention of Samaria simply because Christ’s activities in Samaria, unlike His activities in both Judea and Galilee, had no connection with “signs.”)
In that future day, when God once again resumes His national dealings with Israel and signs come back into view, both Israel’s reappearance in this respect and the emergence of the final form of Gentile world power under Satan are seen as signs (Revelation 12:1, 3). Then, in that day, signs will be in evidence within both camps (Jew and Gentile). And these signs will be manifested after the same fashion and for the same purpose as that previously seen during Moses’ day when Moses appeared before Pharaoh, at the time when signs in relation to Israel and the kingdom were introduced in Scripture.
(During Moses’ day, God allowed signs to be performed by Gentiles during a time when He was dealing with Israel in relation to the kingdom; during the days of the Apostles, God allowed signs to be performed among Christians in the Church in Corinth, [to provoke Israel to jealousy], during a time when He was dealing with Israel in relation to the kingdom; and yet future, God will allow signs to be performed by Gentiles once again during a time when He is again dealing with Israel in relation to the kingdom.
But, since about 62 A.D. until today, God has not been dealing with Israel, in relation to the kingdom or in any other manner. Israel has been set aside for a dispensation, and any manifestation of signs, exactly as any continuance of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy as seen in Acts chapter two [which had to do first and foremost with Israel], would have to be set aside as well.)
Moses performed miraculous signs before Pharaoh. And these signs were performed relative to the deliverance of God’s firstborn son, Israel, with a view to a theocracy in another land (Exodus 4:22, 23).
Then Pharaoh’s magicians performed miraculous signs as well. These magicians, through their miraculous works, sought to counter that which God had decreed concerning His firstborn son and the theocracy (cf. Exodus 7:9-13, 20-22; 8:6, 7, 16-19).
Then, during the coming Tribulation, the two witnesses in Revelation chapter eleven — who will prophesy for the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation, apparently in and around Jerusalem — will manifest signs (vv. 3-6). And drawing from the type in Exodus, these signs can only have to do with the same thing seen during Moses’ day. They can only have to do with that which God has decreed concerning His firstborn son and the theocracy.
And, as in the type in Exodus, there will also be a counterpart to Pharaoh’s magicians in the latter days. Antichrist’s false prophet will perform miraculous signs (Revelation 13:13-15; 19:20); and so will demonic spirits, who will appear after this fashion, performing signs before “the kings of the earth and of the whole world” (Revelation 16:14). And the purpose behind a manifestation of signs by both the false prophet and the demonic spirits will be the same — the utter destruction of Israel, seeking, through any means possible, at all costs, to counter God’s purpose concerning His firstborn son and the theocracy (Psalm 83:2-8).
Then note how the whole of the matter will end. It will end in exactly the same manner as seen in the type. It will end on the one hand by the One greater than Moses leading His people out from a worldwide dispersion, with the theocracy in view; and it will end on the other hand by the destruction of Gentile world power (as Pharaoh and his armed forces were destroyed in the Sea), by the destruction of the very power that had sought to prevent that which God had decreed concerning His people, Israel.
(The signs performed by Moses and the magicians in the type and those that will be performed by the two witnesses, the false prophet, and the demonic spirits in the antitype are of a different nature than those seen in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts. Nonetheless, all of the signs have to do with the same thing — a manifestation of supernatural power, with both Israel and the theocracy in view.
The signs seen in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts had to do with divine healing and provision for the Jewish people, with the theocracy in view; the signs that had previously been manifested during Moses’ day [by both Moses and the magicians] and those to be manifested yet future [by the two witnesses, the false prophet, and the demonic spirits] present the other side of the coin, so to speak.
These signs had/will have to do with God-allowed supernatural powers. And yet future, as in the type from Exodus, these signs will be a precursor for the divine destruction of Gentile world power, allowing the Jewish people to then occupy the position for which they had originally been called [a position that healing portends] — Israel placed at the head of the nations within a theocracy, with all of the Gentile nations occupying a subservient position.)
But prior to that future time, God has temporarily suspended His national dealings with Israel. God, so to speak, has stopped the chronometer marking off time in Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy; and during this time when Israel has been set aside, God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for His name.”
God has set aside an entire dispensation to accomplish His purposes surrounding the Gentiles in this respect, which, as the other two dispensations during Man’s Day, will last exactly 2,000 years. And, according to the clear teaching of the type in Genesis chapter twenty-four, along with related Scripture, God’s central purpose surrounding the Gentiles during the present dispensation has to do with the Spirit’s search for and acquisition of a bride for God’s Son.
At the beginning of this time, on the day of Pentecost in 33 A.D., God sent His Spirit into the world to accomplish this purpose. And today, very near the end of the 2,000 years, the search is almost over. Christians will shortly be removed from the earth; and the bride, for whom the Spirit has searched throughout the dispensation, will be revealed at the judgment seat.
(As in God’s dealings with Israel, the Spirit’s search for a bride for God’s Son, has to do with the theocracy as well. In keeping with the divinely established order at the time of man’s creation, the man could not rule alone. The woman had to rule with him, he as king, and she as consort queen.
The woman was removed from the man. She was part of his very being, bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh [Genesis 2:21-23]. And she was presented back to the man not only as a helpmate for the man but also to complete the man.
The man apart from the woman was incomplete; and an incomplete individual could not occupy the throne. “Dominion [Rulership (Genesis 1:26-28)]” had to be exercised by both the man and the woman together [a divinely established order, seen in the opening chapters of Genesis], which was the only way one complete person could hold the scepter and rule.
In this respect, Christ must have a wife to reign with Him when He takes the scepter, something that He does not presently possess. Not possessing a wife though will no longer be the case following the present dispensation, the removal of the Church, the revelation of the bride at the judgment seat, and the redemption of the inheritance through the judgments of the Tribulation [in the antitype of Boaz’s actions at the gate of the city in Ruth chapter four].
Then, in that day, following the acquisition of the bride, the revelation of the bride, and the redemption of the inheritance [through which the bride will automatically become the Son’s wife, exactly as Ruth became Boaz’s wife in this manner in the type], the Son can occupy the throne and reign.
For more information on the preceding, refer to the author’s books, Search for the Bride and Ruth.
The Son, in that day, with the bride removed from His body and then presented back to Him, will ascend the throne. And because of the Spirit’s preceding work [during the present dispensation], the Son, in that day, will be able to ascend the throne as one complete person [Hebrews 2:10]. He will be able to ascend the throne in the antitype of Adam, with the one typified by Eve [Genesis 1:26-28; Romans 5:14], as the second Man, the last Adam [1 Corinthians 15:45-47].)
In events surrounding the second sign in the gospel of John, it was necessary for Christ to go through Samaria and remain there for two days (4:4, 40). And seeing that which these events foreshadowed, the reason is obvious.
Then note that Christ, after two days, left Samaria and returned not only to Galilee but to Cana in Galilee (4:43-46). And signs were again seen within His ministry.
In short, Christ’s ministry in Samaria came to an end, and he then returned to the Jewish people. And, in like manner, God’s present work among the Gentiles is going to come to an end. Then, God will turn back to and complete His national dealings with Israel during Man’s Day, with the Lord’s Day in view, which is depicted in the remainder of the account from the gospel of John.
Then, in Cana of Galilee
It is only fitting that Christ is seen returning to the site of His first sign in order to heal the nobleman’s son. It is here, through the meaning of the word “Cana” (the thought of “jealousy” [see chapter 6 of this book]), that the jealous nature of God toward Israel is seen through both the location and the signs performed at this location.
A jealous nature exhibited toward an individual would portend expected exclusive devotion on the part of that individual, which is the picture Scripture presents of the Husband-wife (or God-son) relationship existing between God and Israel. God expects exclusive devotion on the part of His wife (or firstborn son), something that does not presently exist.
But, because of the nature of God seen in the name of the village where the first two signs in the gospel of John were manifested, He has decreed in His unchangeable Word that matters will not continue indefinitely as they presently exist.
The present dispensation will come to a close. Christ’s time spent in Samaria (two days) came to an end, exactly as the 2,000 years comprising the present dispensation will come to an end. Then that which is foreshadowed by these first two signs in the gospel of John will occur.
Both signs provide time-lines concerning that which will occur in the camp of Israel through the outworking of God’s jealous nature toward the Jewish people.
The first sign showed the restoration of God’s adulterous wife, after six days, on the seventh day, through a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
The second sign shows the healing of God’s firstborn son, after two days, on the third day (which would be the last three days seen in the complete time-line in first sign, i.e., after six days, on the seventh day), through the healing of a nobleman’s son. And events surrounding the Jewish people’s reception of Christ and belief on Him are seen inseparably connected with His return to Galilee and the exhibited sign.
That revealed in these two signs cannot change. That which is seen in and surrounding these two signs will come to pass.
That is to say, God’s jealous nature relative to Israel cannot change; nor can it ever fail. And that would be to say, the things revealed in God’s Word cannot change; nor can they ever fail.