Friday, May 30, 2014

Jesus and the Use of Miracles

      Near the end of his Gospel the apostle John said that Jesus performed “many other signs.” (Jn. 20:30-31).  Around forty are recorded in the four Gospels, but how many others he performed is undetermined.  The purpose of the miracles was to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
      The word “miracle” is used in a variety of ways today.  It is used to refer to the birth of a child, or some remarkable event, or in describing an answer to prayer.  The biblical use of the term “miracle” does not fit this description.  A miracle is the intervention of God outside the laws of nature which he has established.  For instance, man obtains his daily bread through planting of seed and gathering the harvest.  It was a miracle when Jesus did not go through this process, but fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes (Mt. 6:1-14).  One may seek the safety of a shelter during a tempestuous storm, but Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (Mt. 8:26).  A person may have an eye problem corrected through surgery, but Jesus healed the blind (Jn. 9:1-7).  Through proper diagnosis and treatment an ill person may avoid death, but Jesus raised people from the dead (Lk. 7:11-17).
      Jesus performed many different kinds of miracles.  He walked on water (Mt. 14:25-26), cast out demons (Mt. 8:16), and raised the dead (Jn. 11:39-44).  He performed so many miracles that even the world would not be able to contain the books that should be written (Jn. 21:25).  They were not slight of hand tricks or freaks of nature.  They were genuine miracles in which the laws of nature were overridden.
      These miracles were performed in the synagogue (Mt. 12:9-14), at public pools (Jn. 5:2-8), and at wedding feasts (Jn. 2:1-11).  Even unbelievers were witnesses of them (Mk. 2:1-12).  These miracles were performed in the presence of those who were very much aware of the situation.  His enemies could not successfully refute their validity (Jn. 9:15-17, 24, 29-34).  With Jesus’ healings there were no preliminary investigations to weed out hard cases.  He did not try to heal and fail at it, and then insult the intelligence of the people by suggesting that the reason why healing did not occur was because they did not have faith.  The miracles he performed did not require a special “atmosphere.”  People who were healed did not have to get well “on the installment plan.”
      The miracles of Jesus provided infallible proof of his deity (Jn. 3:2).  They produced faith in the heart of men (Jn. 2:23).  Thomas Jefferson edited a condensed volume of the Gospels in which he eliminated all the miracles of Jesus.  All that remained were the ethics Jesus taught.  The result was to leave Jesus merely as a wise human philosopher.  The tragedy of this is that even though the ethics of Jesus are the highest the world has ever known, yet when Jesus is stripped of his divinity and power, his ethics are likewise stripped of all authority and power.
      The miracles of Christ occupy a most important place in the array of proofs for the certainty of the things we believe.  If they were absent from sacred history, our loss would be irreparable.  The miracles of Jesus should not be severed from the whole complex of Christ’s life and doctrine.  Their relation is one of mutual interdependence.  The miracles strongly attest to his compassion.  They illustrate his authority to forgive and save man from his sins.  They underscore his power to give eternal life and declare him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.