Signs and Miracles of Contradiction

In Luke 2 the baby Jesus is presented in the Temple. There the prophet Simeon speaks about the future of the child. Simeon calls Jesus a "sign of contradiction":
Luke 2.34
And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted... 
This is from the Douay–Rheims translation. Most translations have "a sign that will be opposed" or "a sign that will be spoken against."

The word "sign" here is the Greek word σημεῖον (sémeion). Sémeion occurs 77 times in the NT and it has a few different meanings. But its basic meaning is that which makes something distinctive, salient, noteworthy or different. This could be a token or a mark that sets a person apart from others. Circumcision, for example, is called a "sign" (Romans 4.11). Signs can also be portentous events. Signs are those events that suggest that something is coming down road, the first rumblings of thunder, for good or ill. Thus we speak of "signs of the times":
Matthew 16.1-3
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign (σημεῖον) from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs (σημεῖα) of the times."
Because sémeion refers to events or things of a distinctive or noteworthy nature sémeion is also the word that gets translated as "miracle" or "miraculous sign" in the gospels.

The observation I'd like to make with all this is that "miracle" isn't a biblical word. The gospel writers use other words like sémeion and we, the English reader, describe these signs as "miracles." But that shifts the frame a bit. The word "miracle" shifts the focus to causality. To be sure, Jesus is described as doing things that defy the normal laws of cause and effect. But the "miracles" are, fundamentally, signs. The actions of Jesus are portents. The signs are pointing and gesturing toward something.

Something was happening in Jesus that was noteworthy, distinctive and set apart from the normal manner of the world. Jesus was a portent, an omen. A warning even. Jesus was a sémeion. Jesus was a sign, a wonder, a miracle.

A sign of what?

A sign, according to Simeon, that would be opposed, resisted and spoken against. A sign of contradiction.

In Mark 8 the religious authorities ask for a miraculous sémeion, a "sign from heaven." Jesus says they ain't gonna get one. Not, at any rate, the sort of sign they were hoping for. Because there is a sign standing right in front of them. They just can't see it, see him. Instead, they will contradict, fulfilling the oracle of Simeon. As Jesus goes on to describe in Mark 8:
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed... 
But there is more. Jesus goes on.

Just as Simeon foretold the future of Jesus, Jesus now foretells the future of his followers:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Like Jesus, we are to become signs of contradiction. We are to become tokens, portents and omens that speak, enact and dramatize the contradiction with this "present evil age."

Like Jesus, we are to become signs.

We are to become...miracles.

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7 thoughts on “Signs and Miracles of Contradiction”

  1. I have long thought that the most direct interpretation of these verses--Jesus' rejection in the Passion narrative--isn't "big" enough: that narrative transcends its time and place or it can't be everything Christians claim about it. You did it. Thanks for pointing the way!

    Following your lead, "miracle" has another tie-in, as one notion of the "contradiction" involves interrupting the flow of nature. That's in line with "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (That is, it's our human nature that we are "contradicting.")

  2. So I can't "go along to get along" as a disciple....I've got to stick my neck out and risk some flack...? Ouch!

  3. It is quite common, at lease in some theological circles, to mention miracles as being fundamentally signs, and I agree with that. At the same time it is worth to notice that the greek word for sign, σημεῖον (semeion), is not the only word that it is used to refer to miracles. For what I know, the use of semeion is characteristic of the gospel of John. While Luke uses it in 2:34, in most cases the synoptic gospels would use "dunamys", this is, act of power.

  4. What could be more miraculous, and more of a sign, than life from dying? In other words, becoming by becoming nothing.

  5. amazing post. Thank you, "Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty," -Isaiah 8:18


    What is the purpose of miraculous signs? Are miraculous signs occurring today?

    John 2:1-11.....11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

    The first miraculous sign Jesus performed was turning water into to wine. It confirmed His glory. He was the Son of God.

    John 6:2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He performed on those who were sick.

    Jesus healed the sick to confirm that He was the Son of God.

    John 3:1-2....this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

    Jesus performed signs to confirm that He came from God.

    John 20:30-31 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

    Jesus performed signs to confirm that He was the Son of God. The Bible has been written so men might believe and have life in the name of Jesus. Jesus is not coming back to earth to perform more signs. Jesus has already proved He the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Savior of all who believe and meet God's terms for pardon. Signs were to confirm that Jesus was the Son of God and that the Bible was God's message about salvation for mankind.


    Mark 16:16-20......17 These signs will accompany those who have believed in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them, they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover."......20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirm the word by the signs that followed.

    Those who believed and were baptized performed miraculous signs to confirm the word of God. Are Christians today performing miraculous signs to confirm the word of God? NO, THEY ARE NOT. We have the written word of God to confirm that Jesus was the Son of God. We do not need miraculous signs today. The church of Christ was well established by the first one hundred fifty years. We have a completed Bible.

    If miraculous signs were available today these things would be occurring in every church of Christ congregation.
    1. Some would be casting out demons.
    2. Some believers would be speaking with new tongues.
    3. Some would pick up poisonous snakes and not be hurt.
    4. Some believers could drink poison without being affected.
    5.Some could lay hands on the sick and heal them.
    Is this happening in every single Christian congregation in the world? No, it is not occurring in any of the Lords churches anywhere.

    Hebrew 2:1-4....3...if we neglect a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs, and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

    God has already confirmed (past tense) our salvation by signs, wonders, and miracles. It is recorded in the Bible so we can believe and be saved.

    God is not going to send Jesus to reconfirm that Jesus is His Son. God is not reconfirming His church and the gospel by using the contemporary churches with miraculous signs. We have a completed Bible with all the miraculous signs to confirm that Jesus is the Son of God.The Bible has the gospel plan of salvation.



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