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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ

Don Stewart :: Did Jesus Perform Miracles?

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Did Jesus Perform Miracles?

The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Question 10

One of the things that set Jesus Christ apart from other religious leaders and even other biblical prophets were the unique miracles that He performed. Because Jesus Himself appealed to these signs as proof that He was the promised Messiah, it is important that we understand what type of signs that He did perform.

Jesus Testimony to His Miracles

To begin with, Jesus Himself appealed to His miracles as a testimony to His Divine character. We can make the following observations.

His Response to John the Baptist

The Scripture records that John the Baptist sent his messengers to Jesus to ask if He were really the Christ. Jesus replied to this question by performing miracles. Matthew records,

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:2-5 NRSV)

This would remind them of various Old Testament passages that predicted the Messiah would be a miracle worker. For example, we read in Isaiah:

The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. (Isaiah 33:5, 6 NIV)

Therefore, the people would have understood Jesus’ miracles in light of the Old Testament prophecies.

His Direct Claims

On another occasion, Jesus also told His disciples that His miracles proved He was sent from God the Father. John wrote,

Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. (John 14:11 CEV)

Therefore, the performing of miracles is Jesus’ specific claim to substantiate His identity—it is not our claim.

Jesus Performed Two Types of Miracles

As we look at the evidence of Jesus’ miracles from the four gospels, we find that they can basically fit into two different categories. Some of His miracles could be labeled as miracles of timing while others were purely supernatural events. In other words, some of the miracles attributed to Him were deeds that contrary to how the universe normally functions while others were miracles of timing. We can make the following observations.

1. There Were Miracles of Timing

In the first instance, the word miracle is used to describe an unusual or natural event that occurs at a precise time. This is usually in answer to prayer. Thus, the miracle is in the timing—not in the event itself. There are examples of this type of miracle in the gospels.

The Miraculous Catch of Fish

On two separate occasions, the gospels record that Jesus was involved in a miraculous catch of fish. Luke records one of these incidents. He wrote,

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:4-7 NKJV)

This miracle was in the timing. Catching a large amount of fish is not a miracle in and of itself. It was the timing of this event that made it miraculous.

After Jesus’ resurrection, John reports an incident between Jesus and several of His disciples on the Sea of Galilee. It reads as follows,

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. (John 21:4-6 NRSV)

Again, there is nothing miraculous about throwing a net into the water and having it filled with fish. This event, however, was a miracle because they had been fishing all night and had not caught a thing. But when Jesus told where to put their net, it immediately became full.

The Coin in the Mouth of the Fish

Another natural event, that is a miracle of timing, is the episode of the coin found in the mouth of the fish to pay the temple tax. Jesus told Peter to do the following:

However, so that we don’t create a scandal, go to the sea and throw in a hook. Take the first fish that you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a coin. Give that coin to them for you and me. (Matthew 17:27 God’s Word)

Again, the miracle is not the event itself, but rather in the timing of the event. It is certainly possible to catch a fish that may have a coin in its mouth. However, the fact that Jesus told Peter that the first fish he would catch would have a coin in its mouth which would pay the temple tax was indeed a miracle.

The Pigs Running into the Sea

The gospels record an account of pigs running into the sea. Again, this could also be considered a natural event. However, the pigs only did this after Jesus cast demons into them. Matthew records it this way:

“All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. (Matthew 8:32 NLT)

It is certainly possible for a herd of pigs to rush into the sea and drown because of natural causes. However, this herd did so immediately after the command of Jesus. This is the miracle.

The Servant Healed by Jesus

John’s gospel tells us of Jesus healing a man’s son at a distance when He was not physically present. The incident occurred as follows:

Jesus said to him, “Go, your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives” and he himself believed and his whole household. (John 4:50-53 NASB)

We have here another example of a miracle of timing. The fact that the fever broke was not miraculous in-and-of itself. However, the miracle is that it broke at the exact time on the previous day when Jesus told the man that his son was healed. That is what is miraculous.

The Earthquake at Jesus’ Death

The Bible also says an earthquake occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross. Matthew records it as follows:

Once again Jesus shouted, and then he died. At once the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and rocks split apart. (Matthew 27:50-51 CEV)

The miracle is that the timing of the earthquake coincided with Jesus’ death. While earthquakes are not miracles this one came at the precise time when Christ died. Again, the miracle is in the timing.

Events like these are not contrary to the laws of science. Nonetheless, they are miracles of timing and place. Other New Testament events that could fall into this category include the cessation of the storm on the Sea of Galilee the moment Jesus commanded it to stop, and the withering of the fig tree when Jesus cursed it.

In sum, Jesus performed a number of miracles which were not contrary to the laws of nature but they were miracles nonetheless.

2. There Were Events That Went beyond Natural Law

The Bible speaks of a second type of miracle performed by Jesus during His public ministry, This kind of miracle cannot be explained in terms of normal cause and effect; it is a totally supernatural event. We will provide two examples of this type of miracle.

Jesus Walking on Water

Jesus walking on the water is an example of this type of totally supernatural miracle. Matthew records what happened:

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. (Matthew 14:25 NKJV)

The normal laws of science certainly cannot explain this miracle because it is physically impossible for people to walk on water. Yet Jesus Christ did this!

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Another example of this kind of miracle is Jesus feeding the five thousand with a few loaves of bread and fish. When a multitude of people who had followed Jesus became hungry, Jesus took the food that was available—five loaves and two fish—and miraculously turned it into enough food to feed the great crowd. The Bible says,

They all ate as much as they wanted, and they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand men had eaten from those five loaves, in addition to all the women and children! (Matthew 14:20, 21 NLT)

Not only did everyone eat, they all were satisfied! Furthermore, the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers from the miracle. The normal laws of cause and effect cannot explain this event.

Jesus Performed Both Types of Miracles

Therefore, the evidence of miracles can either be from natural events or purely supernatural events. Both types of miracles are recorded in Jesus’ public ministry. They give testimony to His ability to overrule the natural or normal ways in which the universe functions. In other words, the laws of nature are under His control. He indeed is Lord of all.

Summary – Question 10
Did Jesus Perform Miracles?

The New Testament says that Jesus Christ appealed to miracles to back up His claim as being the long-awaited Messiah. These signs would indicate that He was the One whom the Law and the Prophets spoke of.

These miracles of Jesus can be defined in two ways. They are either unusual events that occur at a precise time, or they are things that happen in a strictly supernatural way.

In the life of Jesus, we see both of these types of miracles performed. For example, the gospel records a miraculous catch of fish on more than one occasion. While there was nothing miraculous in catching a large number of fish the fact that it occurred when Jesus said it would was what was miraculous.

There is also the example of Jesus healing the servant of a man while not being physically present. The man was healed at the exact time Jesus said that he was healed. These are a few of the examples of the miracles of timing which the gospels record.

However, Jesus’ walking on water is a miracle of a different order; it is a totally supernatural miracle. The same is true for other miracles He performed such as the feeding of the five thousand. There is no natural explanation for these types of miracles. In doing these types of miracles Jesus showed that He was Lord of all.

In either case, the miracles are convincing evidence of Jesus’ great power, and His control over the laws He established when He created the universe. This is why Jesus appealed to His miracles as signs He was the Messiah.

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What Was the Purpose of Jesus' Miracles? Next Section →
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