Michael Labahn, «Between Tradition and Literary. Art. The Use of the Miracle Tradition in the Fourth Gospel», Vol. 80 (1999) 178-203
An examination of the miracle stories in the context of the fourth gospel shows that the Evangelist, using different literary techniques, presents his tradition as an important part of his narrative. The Johannine signs are closely linked to the context and by no means subordinate to the other literary genres. By means of the signs basic reactions to the eschatological event of the coming of the Son of God are pointed out. Through the encounter with the revealer represented in the text possible readers are invited to accept him as a pledge for eternal life.
story and its earlier interpretation38. The participation in Jesus by believing is actualized in the sacramental practice of the early church and probably that is also equally the case in the Johannine church. Adding a sacramental interpretation to the bread of life discourse actualizes the older layer of the text with reference to the practice of the Johannine community. The relecture uses the semantic resources of the text. Therefore, the first readers in the Johannine school who transmit the gospel text to their community take up the literary techniques of the gospel in actualizing it for the next generation of readers of the gospel.
The author of the gospel who composes the sequence of the miracle stories and the revelatory discourse may have given a deeper meaning also to the feeding and to the walking on water. These miracles are narrated as acts of Jesus in which the life-giving power of the revealer becomes visible to the people and to the disciples of Jesus39. In the first act Jesus gives bread to the people. Giving food to the people provides a basic requirement of life. Having enough food to eat is neither in ancient nor in modern times a universal fact for human beings. Therefore, a lot of folktales from different ages are dealing with the theme of supernatural reception of food or with people being satisfied even by a small amount of food. The Johannine story has some kind of utopian hope in common with these folktales. But the Johannine reader may learn that this existential hope is fulfilled by the eschatological event of the coming of the sent Son. The sign illustrates Jesus as the one who is the bread of life because he makes human life possible by giving bread to the people. In the second act, John 6,16-21, Jesus is portrayed as saving life in danger. The nearness of Jesus who reaches his disciples in the stormy and dangerous night (John 6,17-18) eliminates the danger (John 6,19-21). The fact that the author does not tell us