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New Testament Survey

Miracles



A Side Trip into the Land of . . .

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Miracles

From our brief review of Matthew it is apparent that miracles play a major part in the life of Christ and the Gospels. Yet, over the past 200- 300 years, this idea of miracles has been one of the stumbling areas between man and God, the Bible, and the Christian faith. Critics of the Bible, those who want to have man in control, have concluded that miracles simply do not happen. This has resulted in major portions of Scriptures being denied as true or else being translated as allegory or spiritual events, not real events in the course of history.

Ultimately, the problem with such an approach is the denial of the greatest miracle of all -- the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. This rips the fabric from the Gospel, for it is the Resurrection which is prominent in all of the sermons of the early Church. As we quoted in the last chapter,

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And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:17

What then is a miracle? Why do they exist in Scripture?

Three words are used to describe miracles in the New Testament.

First is dunamis. This word carries the concept of a supernatural power or agent. Scripture shows that this power may be delegated to a human agent. Only two supernatural powers are presented in Scripture, God and Satan. Accordingly, either Jesus exercised His miracles by the hand of God or by the power of Satan.

The second word is terasa. This word is translated wonders, speaking to the effect of the miracle. Terasa is never used apart from the third word, semion.

Semion is the description favored by John. It is used less by the other three Gospel writers. This word means a sign. The sign focuses the purpose of the miracle.

A miracle then is a supernatural act (dunamis) resulting in an unusual, significant, unexplainable event (terasa). The miracle is performed for the purpose of convening and authenticating a message or the messenger. It is a sign of the authority of the messenger (semion).

A miracle, then, is nothing more than God sticking His finger into the pie of life. But, for those who do not want an active, caring Heavenly Father, this is a tremendous threat. One can easily imagine why the entire concept of miracles has been attacked. Using the above definitions, the “miracle” shows the exercise of supernatural power. The “wonder” is the effect of the miracle on men. The “sign” is the purpose of the miracle. The sign conveys some meaning as to the one who exercises the power. In the Gospels this person is Jesus, so the signs tell us something about Christ. Miracles, therefore, are usually signs, but signs do not have to be miracles.

Notice that the miracles of Christ possess certain key characteristics.

First, they are useful. Jesus never performed a miracle just to show off. There is always a purpose behind them.

Second, the miracles are always performed openly. No miracle is done in secret.

Third, the miracles are accomplished in a simple fashion. The most complex accomplishment might be viewed as Christ’s healing of the blind man using mud which the Lord mixed in His own hand.

Fourth, the miracles occur immediately, without building drama. The lame man of John 5 does not slowly unfurl his legs, then kneel gingerly, and occupy another fifteen minutes of video tape getting to his feet.

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And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.
John 5:9

Fifth, they are accomplished in a variety of circumstances.

Sixth, they were accomplished by gracious giving without thought of repayment in any form on the basis of faith. This faith may have been on the part of the Lord, on the part of the one being helped, or on the part of others, but a careful review of each miracle will show the existence of faith.

Underlying the above descriptions is the long-term view of the miracles, their eschatological purpose. A new age has dawned. The King and Savior has arrived and the miracles are designed to testify to this fact. A careful reading of John’s Gospel will show particular care on the Apostle’s part in choosing which miracles most properly emphasis the thrust of his particular presentation of Christ. And note as well, Christ did not heal every sick person He encountered. God was gracious in handing out His miracles, but He was careful to make great use out of each one.

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Eschatological is from the Greek meaning end or end times. In theology, this is the study of the end times, which may be viewed, in one sense, as all of the time from the Ascension to the final judgment of Revelation. In a second sense, this term is used to describe only the events of the Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom, and Final Judgment.

So, the miracles are to draw men to Jesus and to explain to the world through deed that Jesus possesses the credentials of God. As we read the next chapter on Mark, we will see how he places much more emphasis on the actions and miracles of Christ than he does on mere Words.

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14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Luke 4:14-21

The Jewish people wanted signs from the Messiah so they could recognize Him when He arrived. By using this passage from Isaiah, Christ warned the Jews of His arrival and proceeded throughout His ministry to prove by His miracles that He was God.

When one counts the miracles of Christ, there is no unanimous agreement on the number of miracles He performed. In part, this is the result of definitions. For example, does one count the Resurrection? The Ascension? Some count thirty-five. Others count thirty-three or thirty-six, or forty. The number is unimportant. What is of concern is that Christ did in fact perform miracles for the purposes outlined above.

Following is a listing of the miracles from the Gospels to give you an idea as to how each of the Gospel writers used miracles in their individual accounts. The list also helps to show where some of the ideas behind the synoptic problem arose. 6.

Miracles in the Gospels
MIRACLE MATTHEW MARK LUKE JOHN
Virgin Birth 1:18-24   Chp 1, 2  
At Christ’s Baptism 3:16 1:9-12 3:21,23 Chp 1
During Temptation 4:1-10 1:12,13 4:1-13  
Water into Wine       2:1-11
Healing the Nobleman’s Son       4:46-54
Healing the Lame Man       5:1-9
First Draught of Fishes 4:18-22 1:16-20 5:1-11  
Synagogue Demonic   1:23,24 4:33-36  
Healing Peter’s Mother-in-law 4:38-40 1:29-31 4:38-40  
Mass Healing 8:16,17 1:32-34 4:40,41  
Healing of Leper 8:1-4 1:40-45 5:12-15  
Healing of Paralytic 9:2-7 2:3-12 5:18-25  
Healing Withered Hand 12:9-14 3:1-6 6:6-10  
Healing Centurion’s Servant 8:5-13   7:1-10  
Raising the Widow’s Son     7:11-18  
Stilling the Storm 8:23-27 4:35-41 8:22-25  
Healing Two Blind Men 9:27-31      
Healing Dumb Demonic 9:32-35      
Healing Gadarene Demonic 8:28-34 5:1-20 8:26,27  
Raising Jairus’ Daughter 9:18-26 5:22-43 8:41-56  
Woman w/Issue of Blood 9:20-22 5:25-34 8:43-48  
Feeding 5,000 14:13-21 6:31-44 9:10-17 6:1-14
Walking on Water 14:22-36 6:45-54   6:15-21
Syro-Phoenician Daughter 15:21-28 7:24-30    
Healing Deaf & Dumb-Decapolis   7:31-37    
Feeding 4,000 15:30-38 8:1-9    
Blind Man of Bethsaida   8:22-26    
The Transfiguration 17:1-13 9:1-13 9:28-36  
Healing Demonic Boy 17:14-21 9:14-29 9:37-43  
Coin in Fish’s Mouth 17:27      
Man born Blind       Chp. 9
Healing Infirm Woman     13:10-17  
Healing Man w/Dropsy     14:1-6  
Raising of Lazarus       11:1-46
Healing Ten Lepers     17:11-19  
Blind Bartimaeus 20:29-34 10:46-52 18:35-43  
Withered Fig Tree 21:17-22 11:12-14
11:20-24
   
Healing Malchus’ Ear 26:51-56 14:46,47 22:50,51  
Miracles En Masse       20:20; 21:25
Second Draught of Fish,
after Resurrection
      21:1-13

 

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Do miracles occur today?

What would be their purpose?

Has there been a miracle in your life?

Footnote:
6. Taken from Herbert Lockyer, All the Miracles of the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.

 

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