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From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-11-14-1Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin‘ out the scenery, breakin‘ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?


In 1970, Five Man Electrical Band released Signs as a defiant anthem of an era of social and political revolution. It captured the spirit of a generation that refused to accept the world the way it was.

“Everywhere a sign” also describes the backdrop of the biblical narrative. The Scriptures are sign-saturated. In the Old Testament, signs of the covenant include the rainbow (Gen. 9:13), circumcision (Gen. 17:11), and piles of stones (Josh. 4:6). Isaiah 7:14 contains the most well-known Old Testament reference to a sign: “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

The Gospels tell of a Jesus who was clearly in the sign-planting business. John bookends his gospel with references to Jesus’ sign-planting: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn. 2:11) and “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31).

On many occasions, Jesus was asked to demonstrate a sign to the religious authorities. The irony is that each request interrupted Jesus’ diligent work of creating them. For the better part of three years, Jesus plastered the landscape of Galilee with signs. Each of his teachings, healings, and miracles were more than simple demonstrations of His authority—they were signs.

The purpose of a sign is to provide direction, to point the way to a greater reality. When I drive along an interstate and spot the image of a giant, luscious-looking hamburger on a billboard, the advertiser intends to direct me to enjoy the real thing. In the same way, each of Jesus’ signs points the way to a greater reality that He wants me to enjoy: the consummation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ joyous sign at the wedding in Cana foresees the "marriage supper of the Lamb." Each instance of giving sight to the blind anticipates a day when “faith shall be sight.” Each physical healing foreknows a time when there will be no more “mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Of course, Jesus’ greatest sign was an empty tomb. Jesus’ resurrected body points to a day when resurrection becomes the order of all things. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and, like Christ, we will have glorious, resurrected bodies.

The signs did not stop with Jesus. The Book of Acts tells of God’s signs through the apostles and the Early Church. In fact, Peter’s Pentecost sermon declared “signs on the earth below” (Acts 2:19).

To this day, God still litters the landscape with signs. When hungry people are fed, a stake is driven into the ground. A sign points toward a day without hunger when we will gather at the banquet table of the Lord. Each newborn baby is a sign from the God who makes all things new. Life-long, thriving marriages point to the consummation of the covenant between the Church and Christ. Jail ministries point to a day when bondage will be no more. Mission trips point toward the time when the work of God will be complete, and there will be nothing but Good News.

The ongoing work of God is the work of planting signs. He calls on the Church itself to plant His signs through our acts of love, justice, and healing in this broken, bad-news riddled world. We refuse to accept the world as it is and in a spirit of defiance against the evil, we point the way to the greater reality of the Kingdom to come.

“Can’t you read the signs?”*

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

*”Signs” Copyright © 1971 by Les Emmerson.

(All scripture references NIV.)

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