|THE PATH OF THE SEVEN SIGNS
Tone of the commentary
This commentary is an entirely new and original reading of the first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John, which cover the entire public life of Jesus: His encounters, His teachings, His struggles and finally His miracles.
Its strength lies in its simplicity, a very Johannine simplicity, which relies on the invisible link between the 7 miracles related by John, who himself called them "signs" (the Greek word "semeion" means both sign and miracle).
The commentary unveils the secret of John's Gospel to our human eyes. The Gospel is an itinerary, a march and the 7 signs are the interpreting key that the beloved disciple is giving us in a symbolic way. One of the main themes of the Gospel of John is indeed Faith.
The reader can see the book as a long and intense Lectio Divina, in other words a rigorous, well documented theological commentary, written with simple words, easy to read, and very spiritual.
Structure of the work
The author is telling us: "Jesus' seven miracles, chosen and narrated by St. John in his Gospel, represent the seven stages of the initiating path of man toward God; a teaching of Christ directly received by St. John, the beloved disciple".
In his book, Philippe Plet follows each stage symbolically for each one of the miracles. Quite soon, the reader understands that each miracle - from Cana to the healing of the crippled man, the walk on water and the raising of Lazarus - is yet another of Godís calls to the soul. The author explains that all believers (first cycle of the first three miracles) are called to become disciples of the Lord (second cycle of the three following miracles), and finally friends of God (third cycle, represented by the seventh miracle, the raising of Lazarus, Jesus' friend).
The Gospel of John is rich in symbols: light, darkness, water, bread, vine, etc. This observation led the author to his vision that surely the symbolic message of John could go even further, and give us through an interpretation of the seven miracles a path toward faith.
St. John's seven secrets represent a very educational progression of the believer in his/her ascent toward the supreme summit: being a friend of God!
A new perspective
Faith in Jesus Christ is the fundamental theme of the four Gospels. John, however, pays a special attention to the successive stages of the faith, as he underlines the differences between the first years and the last years of Jesus' ministry, even if, of course, it remains the same faith.
Seven miracles thus give a symbolic structure to the seven parts of the Johannine narrative: the water changed into wine at Cana (Jn. 2, 1-12), the healing of the royal officer's son (Jn. 4, 46-54), the cure of the crippled man at the pool (Jn. 5, 1-18), the multiplication of the loaves (Jn. 6, 1-15), the walking on water (Jn. 6, 16-21), the healing of the man born blind (Jn. 9, 1-38) and the raising of Lazarus (Jn. 11, 1-44). At first sight, there is nothing in common between these seven signs, but together, thanks to their symbolic reality, they form a coherent whole.
First sign: the initial alliance
Jesus is calling the soul to follow Him, by instilling a sweet drunkenness into the heart of the believer
Faith has always a starting point. Even for those who were baptized immediately after being born, there comes an age when their faith becomes a truly free and meaningful act. The wedding at Cana is a symbolic illustration of that first call, when the person becomes a believer. He/She realizes that God really exists, that He is alive and that He wishes to manifest Himself to the souls. The sweetness of the new wine at Cana illustrates the sweetness of this first God experience.
Second sign: the learning of humility
Jesus teaches the soul how to receive the free gifts of God without asking for them.
The believer has to take the first steps to install his/her faith within. He/She must learn how to enter in a relation with God in a manner which is pleasing to God. Worried about his sick child, the royal officer presses Jesus to come to his house, even before knowing how the Lord will intervene. This is the meaning of Jesus' teaching to the royal officer: he should not see Jesus as being at his service; on the contrary, he should accept to be led by God in full confidence.
Third sign: the healing of the will
Jesus heals the soul, which is paralyzed by its excessive dependence on the world. Faith now relies on Godís authority (strength).
For 38 years, the crippled man at the Bethesda pool has been afflicted by his disability. He did all he could do, given his condition, to remain in the faith. But he is lacking the strength coming from God, a strength that he was unable to welcome because he lacked trust, being too much influenced by the earthly realities of his daily life. However his hope is not dead. It is that moment that Jesus chooses to make him stand up and give him that strength that he was lacking to live his faith fully. This is the healing of the will. This third sign thus symbolizes the maturity of the faith.
Fourth sign: the food coming from above.
Jesus leads the soul to the contemplative life.
The multiplication of the loaves is a Eucharistic symbol. This miracle illustrates the entering into a new understanding of God: God as the source of life. As in Cana, this sign is a call. But we are now being asked to make a leap into the faith, a decisive leap that engages the believer in a fundamental manner. Jesus is asking him/her to become a "disciple", that is to devote his/her life to God. The soul receives the invitation, but does not quite know how to respond to it, which is to be expected.
Fifth sign: Getting out of Egypt
Jesus shows us how to free ourselves from the waters of this world and all its agitation.
Jesus walking on water gives his disciples the example of how to behave from now on in the world. The bread of life, offered with the last sign, now gives us the ability to walk on the moving sea of human contradictions, insuperable conflicts and human limitations. God, known as the source of life, perfects the soul and give it a new freedom. The disciples, however, are frightened by this vision of the future. The next sign will enable the believer to become a true disciple of Jesus.
Sixth sign: Seeing what was hidden
Jesus cures the soul from its spiritual blindness, which prevented it from acknowledging the struggle between light and darkness.
The healing of the man born blind is an image of the healing of the eyes of our soul. The eyes of the believer open up to the mystery of the fight between light and darkness. There is a true "power of denial" of the truth in this world! His pursuit of the truth pushes the former blind man to progressively take Jesus' side. The Pharisees end up seeing him as a disciple of Jesus and expel him from the synagogue. The former blind man now walks on water: he has become a true disciple of the Lord.
Seventh sign: to be raised to a new life
The believer reaches a stage of love, which enables him/her to go beyond his/her own limitations as a creature. It is his/her birth in God through faith.
The raising of Lazarus illustrates the last stage in the journey of the faith: the death to self and the birth of a new life into God. Lazarus, Jesus' friend, is the image of the disciple who is invited into an intimacy with the Lord. He becomes a friend of God! The dominant theme of this stage of the faith is the approaching Passion of Christ. The spirituality of the Passion takes root in the soul of the believer, who is also admitted to participate in the redemption of the world. The Pharisees and the High Priests plan to kill Lazarus. The destiny of the believer thus becomes the one of Jesus himself!