At the close of the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, we read “Many came to Him and began to say, ‘John performed no miraculous sign, but everything John said about this man was true!’ And many believed in Jesus there” (10:41-42). This is prefaced by a reference to the fact that “Jesus,” following his time spent specifically in Jerusalem, where the author presents His dealings in the time periods of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication, “went back across the Jordan River again to the place where John had been baptizing at an earlier time and He stayed there” (10:40). This mention of John is mildly intriguing, as it obviously calls attention to the words and work of John the Baptist. It re-identifies Jesus with John and the exodus-themed movement that he had begun at a place not terribly distant from Jerusalem.
Clearly, by making mention that it was being said that “John performed no miraculous sign,” the author wants to hang a substantial amount of weight on the miraculous signs performed by Jesus, as reported in his Gospel. The miraculous signs are what, in the author’s mind, set Jesus apart from all those that had come before Him. With the Resurrection from the dead, following His crucifixion, being the ultimate miraculous sign, it could be said that the church was fully agreed that Jesus was quite unique. The uniqueness of the miraculous signs does not simply lie in the fact of the miraculous. It could also be seen that Jesus gained a following, with people believing in Him, His message, and His movement, through the witnessing and reporting of miraculous signs.
Others had gained substantial followings as well. However, in contrast to Jesus, their followings often grew with reports of their rebellious and subversive activities, their incitement to violence against their oppressors, or their military exploits against the vaunted Roman military machine. Jesus’ following achieved no growth along such lines. He certainly did not go about achieving His popular support in the usual or expected way. Though John the Baptist is reported to have been caustic in his speech (though not in John’s Gospel), the same could be said to be true of him, as he did not gain his following along by the usual means. How could he? Had he engaged in overtly revolutionary activities, he certainly could not have heralded himself or have been heralded as preparing the path for the messiah that Jesus presents Himself to be, nor would Jesus have aligned Himself and identified Himself with John’s movement (the signaling of a new exodus for Israel, and through Israel for the world) by undergoing baptism at John’s hands.
The regular references to Moses, both explicit and implicit, are both an adjunct to the mentioning of miraculous signs and a reminder of the way in which Moses went about proving that he was God’s representative. It must be said that Moses gained a following, though the following was not gained, as he perhaps expected, when he raised his hand to kill an Egyptian that was abusing one of his fellow Israelites. That action merely sent Moses into his own period of exile, possibly delaying God’s plan to deliver Israel from their Egyptian bondage. Moses gained his following, initially, through miraculous signs, which is what he was instructed to do by God when he returned to Egypt with the demand to “let My people go.” When Moses had questioned God as to how he was going to convince Pharaoh and Israel that he spoke for the God of Israel and that he was the vessel through which God was bringing about the deliverance of His people, God provided Moses with a series of miraculous signs to perform. The book of Exodus records the performance of these various signs. We shall return to this shortly.