The Expository Files


The Miracle Worker

"Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?"

Jesus worked miracles for a reason. The chief purpose behind the miracles was not to alleviate suffering, although that did happen, and Jesus was happy to do so. But that was not the primary purpose of miracles. Instead, they were done to show the world He was from God. We wish to see Jesus, the miracle worker.

Jesus Claimed to Work Miracles

If this is true, then Jesus is the Son of God. A true "miracle" is an event that has no other explanation except that God is behind it. It cannot be explained by natural means. We either have to say "I don't know how that was done." or, in faith, say "God did that." If Jesus did miracles, then that would mean that He is from God (John 3:1,2; 5:36; 10:25; 37-38). The purpose of miracles was to validate Jesus' claim to be God's Son (Acts 2:22).

When John, in prison, wanted to be sure that Jesus was the One, he sent messengers to Jesus to make inquiry (Matthew 11:2-6). Jesus told the messengers to go and reassure John by reporting to him about the miracles Jesus was doing. Jesus gave His apostles power to accomplish miracles as well. Again, the purpose was to show that God's power was in Jesus, and that included power to save from sin and give everlasting life (Acts 4:8-12).

Jesus' miracles were varied and done in various circumstances. Jesus did many, many more miracles than just the thirty-plus ones recorded in the Bible, but the ones that are recorded are representative of the things Jesus would do almost constantly (John 20:30,31).

Jesus did not do miracles for selfish reasons. They were never done for Himself. (Matthew 4:2-4; John 4:6,7). Some have categorized His miracles as showing His power:

a). over nature (calming the sea);
b). over disease (healing the sick);
c). Over demons (casting out unclean
d). over material things (feeding the
e). over death (raising of Lazarus).

Definition of Miracle
Genuine miracles have several characteristics. A miracle is a supernatural event (it must have no other reasonable explanation - it is not simple a lucky escape or an amazing coincidence).

To be a miracle, an event must be witnessed - it cannot be a "sign" to anyone if it is not seen by anyone. These events were signs that God was with Jesus, or with the prophet or apostle doing the sign; and this meant that their words were to be received as the word of God. The Greek word translated "miracle" means "sign."

Miracles were not contrary to nature, but a circumvention of nature. In other words, natural law calls for "cause and effect". A miracle is where the power of God causes an effect that would not have occurred if God had not intervened.

Not every powerful thing God has done is a miracle. God may answer a prayer and heal someone who is ill, but that is not a sign.

The Critics Attack
Jesus' early critics have made many attacks. His enemies began by saying that He did miracles by Satan's power (Mark 3:22-25). They would have preferred to deny that He did miracles at all like their modern day counterparts, but did not have that option because everyone saw Jesus do them. (See also Mark 6:14; 15:31; Luke 23:8). Early Jewish writers refer to Him. The non-Christian historian Josephus refers to His "marvelous deeds" and The Jewish Babylonian Talmud (compiled in the 5th century from earlier writings) referred to Jesus as a "magician" in order to discount His miracles. Early Roman sources also refer to His miracles. Though the writings are not from first hand witnesses, but rather from those who had heard of Jesus, they do not try and discount Jesus' miracles by denying He did them... but by suggesting, much as did Pharaoh with Moses, that Pagan magicians were better. These are the propagandists of the Empire. There was Porphyry of Tyre and Hierocles, governor of Bithynia who both make this argument in some of the many books they write against Christianity.

While the early critics simply could not deny the miracles because of the many, many witnesses, critics today can because all the witnesses are now dead. There is no one here to say, "I saw them happen!" except in their writings.

So, modernists and atheists; humanists and skeptics; Voltaire, Hume, the Jesus Seminar... and so forth do not have to face the early witnesses. Most of these take the position that Jesus didn't really do miracles at all. Yes, the witnesses are dead, but they do still speak! Through their writings, they do say, "I saw the miracles happen!" (2 Peter 1:16-18). Through their examples of faith in the most difficult of circumstances and persecution, they give further evidence that their testimony is true.

The Characteristics of Jesus' Miracles

The miracles of Jesus signify many important spiritual truths and realities. Not only do they confirm the Deity of Christ and that He is from God, but also He has the power/authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:5,6).

His miracles were compassionate. We see in Him tender care and concern. (Luke 7:11-17). But the fact remains that His mission was to bring salvation from eternal anguish. That is the ultimate compassion, because to be lost in eternity is much worse than losing anything here in this life.

The miracles testify as to the importance of faith (Mark 9:22-24). Not only was faith a necessity demanded by the Lord in the case of miracles, but also in the case of our salvation (Romans 10:9,10).

So, what do we do for those who would like to see Jesus? We show them the miracle worker who proved His claim to be God's Son, for "no one could do the signs" that (He) did unless God was with Him. For those who want to see Jesus, they will find in Him the power to overcome (1 John 5:1-5).

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.10; October 2008