THE MIRACLES OF JESUS
By Wayne S. Walker
“Miracles are a definite part of Biblical teaching in both Old and New Testaments. They are inextricably interwoven into God’s revelation of Himself. As the word of God, the Bible stands or falls at this very point. Either miracles occurred as actual happenings as recorded in the Bible, and the Bible is the word of God, or they did not occur and it is not the word of God, a special and divine revelation. The question will not [go] down, it is always here. There can be no compromise in the matter” (Homer Hailey; Internal Evidences of Christianity, p. 43).
The same can be said for miracles in their relation to Jesus. His claim to being deity is confirmed by His ability to perform miracles. Even the people of His day understood this. “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (John 7:31). Jesus claims to have done miracles, invites us to investigate the record, and asks us to believe on Him because of His works. We would do well to give serious consideration to the miracles of Jesus.
I. The Definition of “Miracles.” There are five terms used in Scripture to describe these events. “Miracle” means “strength, ability, power,” and refers to “specifically the power of performing miracles.” It denotes the energy to which they are due (Acts 6:8). “Wonder” means “a prodigy, portent, miracle (A.V. wonder) performed by anyone,” and thus “something so strange as to cause it to be ‘watched’ or ‘observed.’” It identifies the astonishment which is produced (Acts 2:43). “Sign” means “a sign, mark, token,” and is used “of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s.” It indicates a token of God’s presence and sanction (Acts 4:30).
These three words are found in Hebrews 2:4. Another word in that passage is “gift.” There it means “a distribution,” and in 1 Corinthians 12:4-9 it means “a gift of grace; a favor which one receives without any merit of his own…in the technical Pauline sense [gifts] denote extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit.” One other word is “work” which means “an act, deed, thing done…of sundry signal acts of Christ, to rouse men to believe in him and accomplish their salvation” (John 5:36; all definitions are taken from Joseph Henry Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).
Christ’s miracles were not natural phenomena, occurrences, exotic though they might be, of nature. Christopher Columbus amazed the Caribbean natives by “taking away their moon” via an eclipse, but that was according to natural law (Genesis 1:14-19). Nor were they merely acts of God’s providence. God promises to take care of His people and mankind in general, but such does not require a miracle (Matthew 6:33, Acts 14:17). Neither did they involve magic and trickery as did the deeds of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-11). Miracles were amazing, but not everything amazing is a miracle.
What, then, is a miracle? It is an event that seems opposed to natural law as we understand it because either natural law has been set aside (i.e., transcended) by a higher power or else a new force has directly intervened in natural law producing an effect otherwise not natural. “A miracle is any deed in an order which is impossible to the forces ordinarily working in that order. Crystallization—at least perfect crystallization—is not a miracle in quartz; but it is a miracle in sandstone. Vegetable life is a miracle in minerals, but not in its own order, except in the sense in which all life is a miracle. Animal life is a miracle to both. There are no forces in lower realm which can produce the higher, therefore these events are to the lower order miracles” (John Alfred Faulkner in Modernism and the Christian Faith, quoted by Hailey). Such events bring about wonder and amazement upon the part of the viewers so as to cause them to attribute the power to a supernatural being (Matthew 8:27, 9:8).
II. The Nature of Miracles. One of the greatest conflicts in the past 300 years is that between man’s concept of science and the Biblical record of the miraculous. A greater part of this argument is philosophical and does not fall within the purpose of this article. However, there are a few points to be noted. Miracles do not come within the realm of science. Science deals with events related to natural law, those things which are observable and repeatable. By very definition of the miraculous, science has nothing in common with miracles. It is not for “science” to assert that forces outside its province cannot be at work. That is “scientism.”
“Science treats of things that can be known; the miracle, on the other hand, according to its name and nature, is that which is inexplicable and cannot be known. Therefore science and the miracle have nothing in common with each other. A miracle scientifically explained is a contradiction….To deny miracles is equivalent to the assertion, ‘We, who have dwelt upon this earth only since yesterday already know all laws, all forces, all possibilities of the universe’….Human knowledge will never be competent to decide what is possible. The possibility of miracles is therefore established” (F. Bettex in The Miracle, quoted by Hailey).
Indeed, the very definition of true science provides the basic condition for miracles to happen. If the universe were not an ordered sphere and governed by fixed natural law, a miracle would be impossible. When Christians postulate the existence of Biblical miracles, they are not asserting a disordered, chaotic universe where anything goes, but an orderly and balanced system where an omnipotent Creator God may interpolate His divine power when it reasonably serves His purpose. But for one identified as a “scientist” to allege that miracles never happened or could not have happened falls into the category of what Paul refers to as “science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
Thus, miracles are possible. If one admits of God and His power, he admits the possibility of the miraculous. Having accepted the existence of God with belief in His word that man is a sinner in need of redemption and by his nature cannot of himself save himself, we then conclude that miracles are probable, yea even necessary for man to know God, His will, and His salvation. And miracles are reasonable. God never performed or allowed a miracle that appealed solely to curiosity. Each one had a definite purpose in His plan. If the Bible writers were given to making up stories about miraculous activity, why did they not mention them in Jesus’s childhood or ascribe them to John the Baptist? The reasonableness of Biblical miracles attests to their truthfulness and accuracy.
Jesus used miracles to reveal God to us. The miracles of Jesus were never silly, whimsical, curious, ridiculous, irrational, or purposeless (John 10:37-38). They were never performed for selfish reasons such as anger or self-glory (Matthew 4:5-7). Neither were they done for purely social reasons, i.e., solely for the purpose of showing compassion (John 9:1-3). Nor were they credited to Christ until after His baptism and the beginning of His earthly ministry (John 4:54).
Without miracles, revelation is impossible. Christianity is the only religion which is absolutely based on miraculous activity. Take away miracles, and Christianity falls flat on its face. The earth was created by a series of miracles (Genesis 1:1ff). To deny miracles is to deny the existence and power of God in the first place. If there is no God, there is no need of a revelation from God.
The deity of Christ was validated by His resurrection from the dead, the greatest miracle ever performed in history (Romans 1:1-4). If one denies miracles, He denies the deity of Christ and destroys the only hope of mankind for a better life here and for life after death. If Christ is not God’s Son, His death has no effectiveness nor relevance for us, and thus revelation about the work of Christ is useless. Furthermore, the Bible is full of miracles. When the miraculous is denied, the truthfulness of the Biblical record is denied. In addition, the Bible makes no sense, even as a historical book, for much of its historical record concerns events and persons in connection with miracles (Matthew 11:2-6).
Jesus’s miracles have not only evidential importance but also moral significance. He claimed to be the vine, through whom all supply is given (John 15:1). He illustrated this by turning the water into wine in John 2:1-11. In John 6:35 He claimed to be the bread of life who gives us our spiritual food, having demonstrated His power already by feeding the 5,000 in vs. 5-14. He claimed in John 8:12 to be the light of the world. He manifested His ability by restoring sight to a blind man in John 9:6-7. And He claimed to be the resurrection and the life in John 11:25, proceeding immediately to display Himself as such in the raising of Lazarus from the dead (vs. 38-45).
III. The Purpose of Miracles. The miracles of Jesus had three major goals. The first was to produce faith in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). The second was to confirm His message as true, the word of God (John 14:9-11). And the third was to identify His source of power as one sent from God the Father (John 3:1-2). Since the purpose of miracles has been fulfilled, they are no longer being performed. Should God choose to work a miracle today, no one would deny Him that right. Yet, we must not tempt God by expecting miracles where God has promised none.
IV. The Historicalness of Miracles. Jesus said that He did miracles. He even appealed to them as evidence of His being who He claimed to be. When the Jews asked Him to tell them plainly if He were the Christ, “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (John 10:25). The apostles believed that He did miracles. In Acts 2:22 Peter said, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” No one stood up to contradict.
Even His enemies admitted that He did miracles. In Matthew 12:22-24, the Pharisees could not deny that Jesus had performed a miracle, though they undoubtedly wished that they could have done so. All they could do was to ascribe His miraculous power to Satan rather than God. Moreover, we have eyewitness records of the events. The apostle John speaks of that “which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon…which we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:1-4). This was apparently accepted at the time. Josephus, a Jewish historian, described the man Jesus as a “doer of wonderful works,” and no one has ever arisen to disprove the veracity of Christ’s miracles, as Peter said “he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:36-39).
“To even claim such miraculous power would have been disastrous for a Jew trying to usurp authority and establish a new religion. He would know that in those multitudes, and certainly among His followers, would be those who could disprove His claim. To say that He succeeded by fakery and deceit to convince everybody, friends and foes alike, would make Him the greatest sleight of hand artist the world has ever known (as well the biggest cheat). And even if you granted the inconceivable possibility of His fooling everybody by stupendous acts of legerdemain, how do you account for His failing to capitalize on the publicity? Why would He tell those who saw His magic to keep it quiet?” (Peter J. Wilson; Indestructible Foundations, p. 27).
“None of us has ever seen a miracle. But as one beholds Jesus in the midst of a moral world, as one sees His works, all of which have a moral significance, He Himself becomes the miracle of the age. As one beholds Him: His claims, His works, His power over the heart, one asks for no greater miracle” (Hailey; op. cit., p. 48). As we investigate the record of the miracles, we come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And through faith, we can have life through His name.
—taken from Gospel Anchor, April, 1984 (Vol. X, No. 8), pp. 23-25, 31