According to Luke in the gospels people came from all over the known world to hear Jesus and to be healed by Him. The sick and the disabled, believed in His healing powers and followed Him everywhere He went during His three year ministry. Those who were cured by Him didn’t know how He healed them, but that didn’t matter and they didn’t hesitate to spread the word of what His healing touch had done for them.
However, even after 2,000 years, there is still controversy about Jesus’ miracles. While hundreds of millions will stake their lives on the truth of the Gospels, still others are not so sure that the New Testament should be taken at face value, especially when it comes to the miracles of Jesus.
How Does the Bible Use the Term Miracle?
The New Testament uses three distinct words to describe a miracle: sign, wonder, and power.
Sign (Greek: semeion) – The New Testament word for sign means a visible evidence of the supernatural working of God. The use of signs to confirm the work of God in the Old Testament. Genuine messengers of God were to be distinguished from false ones by the miracles that came with their messages. In this context, the miracles of Jesus served as an indication that He truly was a messenger from God.
Wonder (Greek: teras) – This is another New Testament word that is associated with miracles, when teras is translated it means “wonder”. This refers to the astonishment a miraculous event generates for its witnesses. The Gospels tell us that in the presence of many witnesses, Jesus restored damaged or missing tissue in human bodies and even brought the dead back to life. The impact on those who saw this was one of “wonder”.
Power (Greek dunamis) – This third term is used to describe a miracle of “power”. Power in this form is the divine energy that produces miracles. This is the term that is used most often to describe the “mighty works” performed by Jesus and His Apostles.
God uses His power to alter natural laws. Miracles are exceptions to natural laws and that’s what makes them so important. These supernatural events point to a Person great enough to have created the cosmos and free enough to suspend His own natural laws when it serves His purposes.
In a Biblical sense we can give the following definition of a miracle: “The expression of God’s supernatural power by altering natural laws to endorse God’s messenger and advance His purposes, bringing wonder to those who see it.”
What Kind of Miracles Did Jesus Do?
The laws of nature have been in existence since the beginning of time with high predictability. But if the Creator really did come to earth in the God-Man Jesus Christ, there is reason to believe that these laws would obey His commands. The uniqueness of His miracles lay in His power over His own creation.
Power Over Disease
The Bible tells us that sickness and death entered into this world through the misused freedom of our original parents. Since that time, it has been the plight of humankind to deal with all kinds of diseases and ailments.
When it came to healing diseases Jesus would heal either by word or by touch. In Mark 2:9-12 Jesus forgives the sins of a paralyzed man and this was considered blasphemy in the eyes of the religious leaders who had gathered to hear Him teach. They believed only God had the authority to forgive the sins of man. So, to prove His authority and identity, Jesus said to the man, “Take up your bed, and go.” The man was healed immediately, he not only had the use of his limbs but was also given the strength to carry his own bed that for so long had been his personal prison.
What is so important about this healing is that it cannot be explained as a psychosomatic cure. This was not about a man’s ability to believe, but about withered, twisted legs that became immediately and visibly whole at the words of Jesus. The effect on the crowd was understandably one of wonder. But the reaction was not just one of awe in response to an unexplainable act. the miracle also prompted them to glorify God. The onlookers also recognized that the source of the miraculous healing was the Creator who had initiated the healing process by supernatural means. Now they had a very good reason to take Jesus seriously.
Power Over Nature
Mark Twain once wrote: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The truth is, all we can do is talk about it, we can’t do a thing to change the weather no matter how much we wish we could.
However, in contrast to our inability to control weather, Mark describes Jesus calming a violent storm with just a few words. It happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ disciples, who many were seasoned fishermen and knew the water and the weather well, were taking Jesus across the lake. However, this time they were caught off guard. While Jesus was asleep the conditions on the lake suddenly turned bad and the wind began pushing the waves over the boat. The disciples were alarmed and woke Jesus from His sleep.
What happened next actually terrified the men in the boat. Jesus simply spoke to the wind “Peace, be still!” Once He spoke those words the weather changed immediately, the wind quieted down and there was an immediate calm that fell upon the water.
After seeing this the disciples were a bit afraid of what they had seen and asked each other “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” This miracle gave the disciples the opportunity to witness Jesus’ authority over the laws of nature.
Power Over the Spirit World
Hollywood gives us a far different view on the spirit world with demon possession like in the Exorcist. But the Bible gives us a very different version. It describes fallen angels who came into our world after they were expelled from heaven. These spirits oppose the purposes of God and have at time actually gained access to human bodies and personalities.
Mark tells us about a demon possessed man who lived on the east side of the Sea of Galilee in a cemetery. He could be heard crying out day and night as he cut himself with stones. The demons inhabiting him gave him superhuman strength and he had broken all restraints put on him.
When Jesus came upon the man, He confronted the demon with him and asked its name. One demon spoke, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Because these spirits knew the power and authority of Jesus, they anticipated their expulsion from the man. They feared being sent into the abyss, so they asked to be cast into a large herd of hogs that were nearby. Jesus granted them their request and then the demons left the man and took over the bodies of the hogs, then the herd of hogs raced down the mountain and drowned in the lake. This was a demonstration of His power over the spirit world and His ability to deliver the tormented man.
This miracle had two different effects. Those who found the man delivered and the hogs destroyed were afraid. They pleaded with Jesus to leave the area. In contrast, the man who had been rescued from his torment had only desire and that was to be with the One who had saved him.
Power Over Death
We all know that eventually death will visit everyone and it never seems to be a welcome guest. But when it comes to the death of a child, this is especially disturbing and distressing to everyone. In Mark, he tells us of a man named Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, who was grief stricken over his dying daughter. In desperation, he sought out Jesus, the miracle worker. Sadly, just when Jesus agreed to go see his daughter, word came that the little girl had died. But Jesus responded, “Do not be afraid, only believe.”
When Jesus arrived at the home of Jairus he encountered both family and friends mourning the death of the little girls. When He told them that she was only sleeping, they laughed at him because they had seen her lifeless body.
Follwing the distraught mother and father, Jesus, Peter, James, and John walked into the room where the child’s body was. Picking up her lifeless hand, Jesus said, “Talitha, cumi,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Then in response to the power that was behind that gentle command, the girl got up and walked around.
In response to the faith of Jairus and despite the mourners’ disbelief, Jesus showed that He had power over death.
Jesus continued to perform miracles throughout His three year mission and they showed the authority that He had over disease, nature, the spirit world and even power over death. However, despite the fact that Jesus’ miracles helped those in need, not everyone thought His miracles were wonderful.
Why Did Jesus’ Miracles Create Such Controversy?
During the time of Jesus, the controversy surrounding His miracles was primarily among those who regarded themselves as people of faith.
The Religious Legalists’ Objection
When it came to religious leaders of Jesus’ time, it was the Pharisees who focused on the letter of the law and for them, the most important expression of faith in God was the strict obedience to the laws that had been handed down to them by Moses. They believed they had the authority of Moses, they added more and more rules that they expected the people to obey as well.
One of the main reasons the miracles of Jesus caused so much controversy is that with them He exposed the deep flaw in the way the Pharisees thought. Not simply about obedience to the law but about the law itself.
Here is an example of what happened when Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth, on the Sabbath day.
“Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ Therefore some of the Pharisees said, ‘This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” (John 9:14-16)
There is true irony in this miracle. The man who was born blind had his physical sight restored while the spiritually blind Pharisees could not see beyond their own traditions. By focusing only on the letter of the law rather than its intent, they had missed God’s purpose for the Sabbath and the significance of what Jesus had done.
Other conflicts grew out of similar miracles. Such as an elderly woman crippled by a chronic back ailment. She too met Jesus on a Sabbath. The Pharisees watched to see if Jesus would heal on their day of rest and of course He did and the ruler of the synagogue stepped forward and indignantly said to the crowd. “There are six days on which men ought to work, therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
But Jesus replied “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, think of it, for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
The reason why the Pharisees were indignant was because Jesus didn’t follow the law as they understood it. They misunderstood a miracle that brought healing because they misunderstood the Sabbath, a day originally intended to bring renewal to the people of God. This loyalty to a code of conduct caused them to miss God’s most basic life lessons.
The Religious Skeptics’ Objection
In the first century Israel there was a group of religious leaders that were called the Sadducees who were known for their skepticism of miracles. These Sadducees were an aristocratic priestly class who, while emphasizing moral and religious law, did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or the existence of angels.
The skepticism of the Sadducees’ put them at odds with Jesus as well. In order to question the future resurrection, they confronted Him with a hypothetical situation in which a woman was married and widowed seven times before she herself died.
The question they asked was this “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” With this question the Sadducees were trying to make the resurrection appear ridiculous. Here is how Jesus answered them:
“You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neigher marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the people heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
Jesus’ words completely silenced them. Eventually in time however, the skeptical Sadducees would have to confront more than Jesus’ explanation.
Probably one of the most famous miracle of Jesus’ was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Often people might wonder why he did not respond to the sisters of Lazarus when they told Him that their brother was very sick. Instead, Jesus remained where he was for a couple more days and during this time Lazarus died. This might seem cruel on the part of Jesus but there was a reason behind it. He knew that His words may have silenced the Sadducees, but that was temporary. He had intended all along to raise Lazarus from the dead.
When Jesus arrived at the place where Lazarus’ family resided He immediately went to the grave and said the following: “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth as well. Then Jesus said to them “Loose him and let him go.” Many of the Jews who were there saw what Jesus had done and they began to believe in Him.
By doing what He did with Lazarus, not only had He answered the skepticism of the Sadducees with words, but He answered their skepticism with actions. He performed a miracle that supported His claim to be the source of life and showed their denial of resurrection to be absolutely baseless.
Why Did Jesus Do Miracles?
It is difficult to overstate the impact of Jesus on Western civilization. Just look at our current calendar and you see it is divided into BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, the Latin for “in the year of our Lord”) Down through history many religious leaders have made great claims for themselves. Why haven’t they had the same impact as Jesus?
One of the answers to this question is that Jesus’ claims were confirmed by His miracles. Supernatural signs accompanying His words placed Him in a category apart from all other religious leaders ever to have walked this earth.
To Fulfill Prophecy
Jesus’ miracles confirmed the appearance of the long awaited, supernatural Messiah. Many prophecies recorded in the Old Testament anticipated the arrival of the Messiah who would deliver the people of God.
There are many correlations with Jesus in the New Testament and the Old Testament. Here are just a few of these parallels:
- Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Luke 2:1-7)
- Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-23)
- Rejected (Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42-43)
- Mocked (Isaiah 50:6, Matthew 27:35, 39-44)
- Crucified (Psalm 22:16-18, Matthew 27:35, John 20:25)
- Abandoned (Psalm 22:1-7, Mark 15:34)
- Atoned for sin (Isaiah 53:5-7, Acts :30-35)
- Resurrected (Psalm 16:-11, Acts 2:25-32)
- Ascended (Psalm 110:1, Acts 1:9-11)
Jesus’ miracles fulfilled the supernatural predictions of the life, death, and resurrection of the promised Messiah.
To Authenticate His Claims
Of course His claims to be able to forgive sins and give everlasting life were bound to create questions. But that didn’t matter to Jesus even if His claims implied His oneness with God which in turn convinced many of the religious leaders that He was dangerous.
The many who did see the miracles of Jesus were convinced that the long awaited Messiah had come. But when Jesus began talking about Himself in terms that belonged to God alone, many of them even found that they couldn’t follow Him.
In John 10:30-39 we are told that some of them even took up stones to try and kill Him. The reaction of Jesus to some is quite interesting:
“Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but id I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
Jesus’ greatest miracle was related to His overall mission on earth and that was to rescue us all. The miracle that would confirm His success.
Shortly before He was arrested and put on trial that would lead to His crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.”
And within just a few hours after those words were spoken to them, these same disciples abandoned the One they had known as a miracle worker. In the worst and darkest moment of their lives, they watched their teacher and Messiah die a terrible death on a Roman cross. But, then came the event that would change everything, that would change the entire world for all time. Three days after the crucifixion, He rose from the grave. His very own resurrection from the dead was the miracle that was proof positive that He could rescue His followers too.
Just before His death and His resurrection Jesus told His disciples that their relationship was going to change and that it was necessary for Him to go away in order to prepare a place for them. He assured them that He would return to bring them to His Father’s house.
During their very final meeting on earth on the Mount of Olives, Jesus told His disciples that they needed to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come and who would make them witnesses to the entire world of what they had seen. Then, “While they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
This was His last miracle on earth and the significance of His last miracle is important. If He had just walked out of His disciples’ lives, they would have been confused about where He had gone. But by allowing them to witness His ascension into a cloud, He confirmed His promise to return in like manner.
A Heart Filled With Compassion
The miracles of Jesus also revealed His heart. They showed the compassion that was a mark of the long awaited Messiah, the total embodiment of God.
Jesus was the Messiah that fulfilled Isaiah’s prediction. He would be the One to announce good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted.
Christ has compassion for those who are bereaved and shows much compassion for those who are grieving wants only joy for their lives because He cares about the brokenhearted.
He cares deeply about the outcasts. In His day, leprosy ravaged bodies and turned victims into social outcasts. By law, those with the disease had to shout out “Unclean!” as they entered the presence of others. But Jesus didn’t fear these outcasts in fact He healed many of them.
He had compassion for gentiles which eventually helped Him have a global impact on all people of the world.
He turned no one away, His heart had compassion for all and that’s what His miracles proved to those who believed and still believe today.
His final two miracles, His resurrection and ascension into heaven are proof still today that He has the power to save us all and to deliver us from our sins and give us the salvation that we need to not be separated from God ever.