THE MIRACLES OF JESUS
Wikipedia defines ‘miracle’ as an event not ascribed to human power or the laws of nature, but to supernatural, divine agency. We believe that God normally works through created nature; yet He is free to work without, above, or against nature if He wishes to. About 35 miracles performed by the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry are recorded in the four gospels. He did many more (Jn.21:25). Let us analyse the purpose of His miracles and see what we can learn from them.
Evidently, His intent was not to impress people and become popular; nor was He after power and wealth. In fact, on most occasions He avoided publicity. He told some of those who received healing from Him that they should not reveal His identity to anyone. He firmly turned down Satan’s ‘proposal’ to jump off the temple tower and demonstrate to the world that He is the Son of God.
Why, then, did the Lord perform miracles? The word of God gives us at least six reasons.
1. To reveal and prove His identity. Nicodemus told Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, because no one can perform these signs that you are doing unless God is with him” (Jn.3:2). Is it not amazing that, of all the people, a hard-boiled Pharisee should be making a confession of this sort? Jesus Himself stated in John 4:11, “Believe me, I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe me because of what I've been doing.”
2. To assert His divine authority. It was part of Jesus’ ministry to reveal His power and glory to select audiences. What better way to do this than demonstrate His control over the nature? Matthew 8:23-27 narrates an incident when Jesus rebukes the howling winds and turbulent sea in order to restore calm. The disciples wondered in great amazement, “What sort of a Man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey Him!”
3. To fulfil Old Testament prophecies. About 350 prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (and some are yet to be fulfilled). His miracles are specifically mentioned in these prophecies – the healing of the sick, blind, lame, deaf and dumb, raising the dead, casting out demons, freeing the enslaved, etc.
4. To teach through parables and examples. Some of Jesus’ miracles were actually parables acted out, like the cursing of the fig tree (Matt.21:19). Some are teaching through examples, e.g. healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matt.15:21-28).
5. To reveal God’s power. Some miracles served as witnesses and revealed God to people. For instance, the raising to life the dead son of the widow of Nain, which resulted in people being filled with awe and praising God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help His people (Lk.7:16).
6. To show compassion. Some of the miracles were occasions when Jesus demonstrated compassion and reached out to the people in dire need.
Let us examine a few of the miracles.
Changing water into wine (Jn.2:1-11). John 1:17 emphasises that the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Moses, who represents law and judgment, brought disaster on the Egyptians by changing water into blood. But Jesus, in His unfailing love and kindness, converted plain water into nutritious wine, bringing about joy and fulfilment. When Mary asked Jesus to do something about the shortage of wine at the wedding, Jesus replied that His time had not come. Nevertheless, He went ahead and performed His first miracle there. This was Jesus’ first miracle before He launched His ministry. The work He started at this wedding will come to an end at another wedding – the wedding of the celestial Bridegroom (Rev.19:7-9), effectively ending the dispensation of grace.
The feeding of 5000 (Jn.6:1-15). The only miracle recorded in all four gospels, it is also among the most spectacular ones. Jesus chose to test Phillip, considering that Phillip was from Bethsaida, the town closer to the hill where the miracle would take place. Phillip was being ‘practical’, looking for a human solution – a quick calculation of the cost, examining possibilities – but failed to contemplate on a possible divine solution. It took a little boy who was ignorant of costs or the enormity of the task at hand, to provide the solution, in simple, pure faith. We also learn from this miracle that Jesus prefers to work through people; if we offer nothing to God, He will have nothing to work with; those who place their trust in Him, those who fear and serve Him faithfully, will have their needs met. King David was sure about his belief, “The Lord is my Shepherd; (therefore) I shall not be in any want.”
Healing blind Bartimaeus (Mk.10:46-52). No one told Bartimaeus Jesus was there. In fact, people tried to stop him from going to Jesus. The blind man not only recognised Jesus, he called out to Him, addressing Him by His ‘official title’. “Have mercy on me,” he pleads, overcomes obstacles, reaches Him and states his need when asked by the Lord. Once his need was met, he followed Jesus, the Bible tells us. Jesus told people it was His mission to heal the blind, including the spiritually blind, but many chose to remain blind.
The raising of the widow’s son (Lk.7:11-16). This is one of those rare occasions when Jesus volunteered to help. He had compassion on the widow. Jesus came to help people like her – a woman with uncertain future – and help her He did. The onlookers were convinced that Jesus was a great prophet among them, that God has met His people. How true! The good news spread beyond Judea. “Don’t cry,” He comforted the mother, turning her grief into joy and hope.
This miracle also illustrates the salvation story. We are dead in our sins, unable to save ourselves, unable even to ask for help. Like the dead man on the way to his grave, we were on our way to hell, but Jesus reaches out to us in grace and gives us His life!
Raising Lazarus from death (Jn.11:1-45). Most of Jesus’ miracles were done in Galilee – the countryside. But this one, and two more – healing the man bed-ridden for 38 years (Jn.5) and healing the man born blind (Jn.9) – were done in a city. These miracles were more spectacular, drawing the attention and provoking the resentment of the religious establishment.
That Jesus arrived late at Bethany indicates that it is never too late for God. Martha, who was once rebuked by Jesus for getting her priorities wrong, had apparently matured spiritually. She makes four strong faith statements here: 1. If Jesus were there, her brother would not have died. 2. Whatever Jesus asks of God, God won’t deny. 3. There is resurrection after death (a concept that had few takers among the Jews then). 4. Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who was to come into the world. This was also the occasion when Jesus made one of His strongest statements on eternal life and resurrection (11:25) and prayed to God for the benefit of onlookers – a powerful witness.
When Jesus raised Lazarus from death, He also signed His own death warrant, as it were. This miracle triggered a determination for the high priests and Pharisees to kill Jesus (11:50,53). The crucifixion paved the way for mankind’s redemption and salvation – the greatest miracle of all times!