In John 2, John says turning water into wine was Jesus 1st miracle. In John 3, Nicodemus says he knew that Jesus had done signs. In John 4, John says Jesus did his second miracle. The question is, was it really only his 2nd miracle?
I appreciate this question. It shows that someone is thinking about the Bible and what it says. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). This means that everything in it is true because it is impossible for God to lie (Heb.6:18; Titus 1:2). As a result of having a book of complete truth, it is impossible for one part of that book to contradict another part of that book. If one part of the Bible contradicts another part of the Bible, then the Bible contains a lie and it cannot be the product of God. It really is as simple as that. So the Bible must contain absolutely no contradictions within its pages in order to be God’s word.
Now, in order for one statement to contradict another statement, certain conditions must be true of both statements. First, those statements must be talking about the same thing. That is, the definition of the words of both statements must be in reference to the same things. For example, if someone from South America were to say to me, “Football is a sport that uses a round ball,” I might disagree and say that football is a sport that uses an elongated ball. In my mind there is a contradiction because I may not understand that he is discussing what we call the game of soccer, but what in South America is called the game of football. Our definitions of the word “football” were different and so we thought we had a contradiction when we really did not. Second, the events under discussion must have occurred within the same time frame. If I were to say to Rusty that I had a chicken fried steak for lunch and he said to me, “How is that possible since we had lunch together and we ate Bubba’s BBQ?” We might think that we had a contradiction. But when I explain that I was talking about lunch a couple of weeks ago and he was talking about lunch last week, then we both realize there is no contradiction, just cholesterol laden arteries. Third, the events under discussion must have occurred within the same place. If I am on the phone with my mother and I step outside and say, “Well, would you look at that rain,” my mother might say, “There’s not a cloud in the sky.” We could both be correct because we may be in different places. In order for someone to contradict whether it is raining or not, you have to be talking about the same place. Finally, in order to show that something is NOT a contradiction, one need not have to prove so. The person who is pointing out the contradiction has the burden of proof upon them. In order to show that there is not a contradiction, one must merely show the possibility that the alleged contradiction can be understood in a non-contradictory way. So, having these things in mind, let’s see whether or not we have a contradiction with John’s statement in John 4.
The context is in regard to a nobleman’s son sick at Capernaum. The nobleman walks about twenty miles to Cana of Galilee in order to seek help from Jesus. When he arrives and inquires of Jesus concerning his son, Jesus tells him that his son lives. So the nobleman returns to Capernaum and on the road a servant meets him to tell him that his son lived. When he inquired at what time he became well, the servant indicates that it was about the same time of the day that Jesus told him that his son was going to live. All of this is found in John 4:43-54. In verse 54, John writes, “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.” Our question is along these lines, “How can John say that this was the second miracle Jesus did when he had done more than two since the changing of the water into wine where John clearly says, that was Jesus’ first miracle?”
First, John 2:11 states the following, “This beginning of his signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” While it is true that this was Jesus’ first miracle, it is a mistake to assume that John was keeping a specific count of all of the miracles that Jesus did. John was not saying, “This is number one, that is number two, this is number three, etc.” Rather, he was marking the specific time and occasion when Jesus started performing the signs. Remember, John says that there were many other signs that Jesus did that he does not record (John 20:30). So to compare this miracle to the first as if John was keeping a running total is a mistake to begin with.
However, John does mention in John 4 that this was Jesus “second” sign. What do we make of this? Well, he says that it was his second sign “when he was come up out of Judea into Galilee.” First, understanding that John is not necessarily comparing this sign with the first sign, he could be saying that since Jesus decided to come up out of Judea into Galilee, this is his second sign, that is, on that journey–in that specific amount of time. This is a possibility and it at gives us a reason to say that this is not a contradiction. Second, notice that at the beginning of this narrative in John 4:46 we read, “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.” He was in the same place that he was in when he turned the water to wine. John may be saying that this is the second sign that he had performed in this specific place. I think this is the more likely meaning. Again, there is no implication here that this was only the second sign that Jesus did in his entire ministry. So, there is no contradiction involved. This is a good question, though, and I am glad that it was asked. Peter says that we should always be ready to give answer to EVERY man who would ask of us the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).