I had the privilege of teaching in our Sunday School this past week to some of the families and children of our Church. In Sunday School, they are working through the miracles of Jesus during his earthly ministry. I often find myself passing over Jesus’ miracles quickly because I am so familiar with them, but we need to understand Jesus’ goals in working the way he did. Especially, when these are the things our culture is most quick to dismiss as myth and fiction.
As I considered Jesus’ miracles, I see four reasons Jesus does miracles that place His miraculous work within the context of his mission of salvation and revealing God to us. Jesus does miracles for four reasons:
1) To show his love
Jesus’ miracles are often in response to an immediate need or concern. The wedding has run out of wine (John 2:1-11), a man has leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), a paralytic is lowered in front of him from the roof (Mark 2:1-12), or a demon-possessed man confronts him (Luke 8:26-33). Jesus’ most famous miracle in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the feeding of the 5000, is introduced with this statement, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry less they faint on the way. (Matthew 15:32)”
Jesus is not a travelling magician intent on “wowing” his audience with power. He is the “Word made flesh”, and his actions communicate one of God’s most pervasive characteristics, “God is Love (1 John 4:8)”. God enters our world and set things right both temporarily in his miracles, and eternally in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. He does this because he loves us.
2) To prove he is God
Miracles are, by their very definition, miraculous. We wouldn’t talk about Jesus changing water into wine if he said, “Check back with me in a couple of months and I should have something.” No, he took water and changed its molecular structure to become wine instantly. Incredible! Jesus stands in the face of our common understanding of the universe and manipulates the laws of space and time before our eyes begging us to see the reality behind the signs, Jesus is God. Look at John 21:5,
“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.“
The reason the world cannot contain the words and works of Jesus is that he is not of this world. He is “very God of very God“. Jesus does miracles to display for all to see, that God has come and the power of creation is walking in their midst. Every miracle is a pointer to the power that said, “let there be light”… and there was. Jesus does miracles to prove he is God.
3) To invite us to believe
But of course, a head-knowledge of Jesus’ identity is not enough, Jesus asks for our hearts to be devoted to him in faith. John also says in his gospel,
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.“
– John 20:30-31
Jesus did miracles, and the authors of scripture testified to them so that we would believe. Even though we are 2000 years removed from the miracles themselves, they still preach Jesus’ love and identity as God and call us to believe. Jesus’ miracles often divided people into one of two camps: Those who believed in Jesus and those who did not (John 9); they still have that effect today. When we see Jesus do incredible things we must decide if we want to be on his team, or ignore him. I hope you are on the side of Christ, having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” the truth of God in the words and works of Jesus.
4) To remind us of the gospel
Finally, Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost is always present in what he does. In each of his miracles, we get a foreshadow of the gospel that continually reminds us of Jesus’ gracious work for us to save us from our sins.
When Jesus changes the water into wine, he fills the jars meant for ritual purification, this points to his perfect life that he would lay down to ransom sinners like us to the righteous requirement of the law of God.
When Jesus heals a blind man, we must remember we are those who cannot see God unless he reveals himself to us. We are the lame man who cannot walk to God on our own. We are the mute man who cannot praise God. Without Jesus’ work to heal us from our deadness (Ephesians 2:1), we are lost and without hope.
When Jesus fed the 5000, he is pointing to his offer of salvation to all nations through his body and blood and the multitudes of every nation, tribe, and tongue who will one day gather around his throne.
When Jesus calms the storm, he is showing his ownership of creation and reminds us his work is ultimate and is eternal.
When Jesus raises Lazarus back to life, he is pointing to his own resurrection and our resurrection from death to life when we come to know Jesus as our Saviour.
The Same Power
Jesus’ miracles are not magic tricks. They are strategic attacks on the forces of the enemy as Jesus, God incarnate, invades this world with his love and grace. When you hear and read of Jesus’ power, delight in the fact that the same power that healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, calmed the storm, and raised Jesus Christ from the grave, lives in you (Romans 8:11). Believe in Jesus, the Son of God for your salvation, and experience his great love.