Why is there so much repetition in nature?
Because one Creator did it all.
And why, though there are
66 books in the Bible,
written over many centuries,
from many continents,
often by those who had no contact with one another,
is there so much repetition?
Threads of weddings,
lambs, vineyards, Babylon and so many more
appear and re-appear from Genesis to Revelation.
Because one God is the author of it all.
Seeing repetition in Scripture also is key to unlocking
the secrets of God.
Let me tell you a story.
The first Bible study I ever wrote was Proverbs and Parables, for I became entranced with the parallels I saw between the proverbs of the Old Testament and the parables of the New Testament. The same themes, proclaiming the same truths, threaded their way through both. (The fear of the Lord, the transitory value of riches, the humble versus the proud, the fool versus the wise…) Seeing these parallels not only gave me confidence in the validity of Scripture, but unlocked mysteries.
Likewise, when I began to study prominent friendships in Scripture, I was again entranced by patterns: God zoomed His camera in on the meeting and parting of friends; on “hesed” (unfailing love), on words of blessing, on sacrifice… God was unlocking secrets of friendship through his repetitive patterns.
When we begin to see a pattern in Scripture,
it is the Spirit of God speaking to us,
opening our eyes to mysteries.
We are in John’s gospel for Lent,
where there are seven miracles that are called signs.
I see patterns God wants to proclaim.
Last week we looked at the first miracle:
turning water into wine.
There was so much good input, for this is a rich group. And indeed, I believe God has layers of meaning.
So this week I want to dig deeper, endeavoring to glimpse repetitive patterns in John’s miracles, which are also called “signs.”
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Can you give an example of either a striking pattern in nature or in Scripture?
Monday: An Obvious Pattern
3. One pattern in all of these miracles is not so hard to see. What is one reason for the miraculous signs given in John 20:30-31?
Miracles may produce faith, as we see happening often in John. Yet we also know that miracles do not always produce faith. People explain them away all the time. Remember how Jesus said, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, that even if one were to rise from the dead, they would not believe?
4. Were the miracles of Jesus influential in bringing you to faith? Explain.
Tuesday: Religion versus The Gospel
Last week we looked at the miracle of turning water into wine. I want to share with you Philip Yancey’s insight, from “The Jesus I Never Knew.”
Even a wedding feast had to honor the burdensome rituals of cleansing. Jesus, perhaps with a twinkle in his eye, transformed those jugs, ponderous symbols of the old way, into new wineskins, harbingers of the new. From purified water of the Pharisees came the choice new wine of a whole new era. The time for ritual cleansing had passed, the time for celebration had begun.
5. Why might these water jars represent religion?
6. Why might the miracle represent the gospel?
7. What thoughts do you have on the above?
8. Do you see a pattern in John of Jesus addressing the religion of the Pharisees versus the
freedom of the Gospel? If so, share an example.
Wednesday: Other Patterns of the First Sign
You may see other patterns with this miracle as well. Let’s see if you see what others have seen with these “riddles.” I realize it is possible to go too far with this, so it will be good to discuss this here, and be like iron sharpening iron.
9. Last week I mentioned a parallel between Jesus first command when He came out of the
wilderness with the first sign. What was it, and do you agree or not? Explain.
10. The Bible begins with a wedding and ends with a wedding, and is shot through with
pictures of a faithful bridegroom loving an unfaithful bride. Tim Keller sees a pattern here and
believes that at this first miracle, Jesus was thinking about His own wedding, and what it
would cost Him to win a bride. Thoughts?
11. Many see a parallel between the wine and the blood of the covenant, between this first “supper” and the last “supper.” Thoughts?
Thursday: Returning to Cana & The 2nd Sign
12. Read John 4:46-47
A. Where did Jesus return?
B. How do you think turning the water into wine impacted this nobleman?
C. What was the nobleman’s need?
D. How, despite his standing, do you see humility?
Early on in John we see the contrast between the pride of the Pharisees and the humility of those whom plead with Jesus for help. Matthew Henry says, “The greatest men must come to God as beggars.”
13. Do you see a link in Scripture between pride and religion? Between humility and the
gospel? If so, share some illustrations.
14. Read John 4:49-54.
A. What did the nobleman think was necessary for his son to be healed? (v. 49)
B. What did Jesus tell him?
C. How did he respond to Jesus’s words?
D.What happened at home?
15. Name one instance in your life, preferably a recent one, where you were convinced that God was moving mercifully on your behalf. What made you think so?
16. Humble yourself before God and ask Him to search you. Then listen. Then ask for help.
I see a pattern of faith in the seven miracles in John’s gospel. It often was as simple as expectation. Mary told the men at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you to do.” And they did fill the water jars. Here the nobleman believes, yet still comfirms it by asking when his son was healed. (I liked that, for it reminds me of “I believe, help my unbelief.”) I jumped ahead to the feeding of the multitude in the first week of Lent, because I thought this dialogue which followed the miracle was so significant:
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
17. Ask God to help you walk by faith today, to see Him in the mundane, in the least of these,
and to believe He is working in your life, hearing your prayers, and eager to show you that
He is the rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.
Friday: Keller Seminar or…
18. If you are listening to the Keller seminar or reading an extra book, or whatever for Lent, share here what you learned.
19. What patterns are you seeing emerge in the “signs of Jesus” in John?
20. How might you apply this to your life?