The Miracles of Jesus
Our theme today is the miracles of Jesus, and I would like to talk about what these miracles mean for us in the modern world. I mean, so what if Jesus did miracles 2000 years ago? What does that have to do with my life today?
Three hundred years ago, the miracles of Jesus were often used as evidence that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. Preachers said that these miracles proved that Jesus was sent by God, and people should believe in him because of the miracles.
But along came science and philosophy and said, Wait a minute. You are assuming the truth of something that you need to prove. We donít believe in miracles, because we donít see any happening right now, and because of that, we donít believe in Jesus, either.
And I have to admit, that I donít see miracles happening right now, either. I see lame people who are still lame, blind people who are still blind, hungry people who are still hungry. And it makes me wonder.
But I have to admit several other things. In Jesusí day, people didnít see miracles every day, either. If that sort of stuff happened all the time, then it wouldnít prove that Jesus was unusual. Even people back then recognized that what Jesus was doing was amazingly unusual. Stuff like that isnít supposed to happen all the time, so it should be no surprise to us that we donít see miracles happening every day.
But another fact is that Jesus apparently did some pretty unusual things. The Jewish Talmud says he worked with the power of Egyptian sorcery. The Jews could not deny that he did extraordinary things, but they said he used an evil power to do it. Even his enemies reported that he did miracles, so historians have to admit that this is part of how Jesus is remembered, by both friends and enemies. He did extraordinary works.
And another thing about miracles, according to the Bible, is that they donít necessarily cause people to believe. All sorts of people saw the Red Sea open, and those same people a few weeks later were worshipping a golden calf. All sorts of people saw fire come down from the sky to consume Elijahís offering, and it wasnít long before those people were back to worshipping idols. And all sorts of people saw the miracles of Jesus, and very few of them believed in Jesus even then.
So what are we to expect from miracles today? If those miracles didnít cause people to believe back then, why should they do it today?
Could it be, I ask, that belief is the greatest miracle of all? Three million people crossing the Red Sea wonít make any of them believe, so belief is really the more difficult accomplishment.
Blessed are you, Jesus said to Thomas, because you have seen and believed Ė but even more blessed are those who believe without seeing, because that is the greater miracle. People who believe without seeing. And that is a different sort of miracle Ė an invisible miracle, a miracle of the mind and heart, a miracle in the spirit. And people believe in those miracles only when it happens to them personally. They can dismiss the evidence for everyone else, but when it happens to them personally, they accept it.
Now, I would like to point out that Jesus did not come to earth in order to do miracles. He could have done them quite well from heaven, just as he did before. Miracle-working was not his main mission in life.
In fact, thereís a lot of miracles he could have done but didnít. When he died, there were still crippled people in Palestine. It was only a few weeks after Jesus died that Peter and John went to the temple and found a man who had been lame from birth. This guy had been alive all during Jesusí ministry, and Jesus hadnít done anything about it. And Iím sure he wasnít the only one who needed healing. When Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, he healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years, but Iím sure that that guy was not the only guy waiting at the pool that day.
The fact is, that Jesus healed some people, but he didnít heal them all. That was not his main job. Now, it was not for lack of power. Jesus could heal at a distance, if he wanted to, like he did for the centurionís servant, and he could know a healing was needed from a distance, too, like he did when he knew Lazarus had died. If Jesus had really put his mind to it, he could have known every sick person in Palestine, and healed every one of them at the same time.
Ah, but why stop at Palestine? There are sick and crippled and blind people all over the world, and Jesus knows every one of them right now ó but he isnít healing them. Whatís the matter, has he run out of compassion?
No, I donít think so. So whatís the problem? The problem is that we donít understand the purpose of the miracles. We donít know why Jesus did the miracles he did, and that is why we donít know how they are relevant to us today.
For example, Jesus did not walk on water out of compassion for his disciples. And he didnít do it simply because it was the easiest way to get across the lake. Nor did he do it to show off, nor to show the disciples a handy way to get around on their missionary travels.
So what was the point? The point was a lesson in faith, and once that lesson had been given, there was no further need for walking on water. Jesus never encouraged anyone to ever do that again, and it should be no surprise that we donít see that sort of miracle today. There was a one-time need, and a one-time miracle.
Now, miracles still happen today Ė miracles of healing, of angelic intervention, of financial blessings, of supernatural protection.
But even more often, miracles do not happen. The sick stay sick, despite our prayers of faith. People suffer with financial problems, they are persecuted for the faith without any angelic rescues, we all have problems, and then we die. Miracles are not an everyday occurrence. Once in a lifetime; sometimes more, sometimes less.
But I am not here to discuss those modern-day miracles. I want to discuss the miracles of Jesus. What do they have to do with our life today? Why did Jesus do them, and why did the apostles write about them, if we arenít supposed to expect the same things today?
Well, the miracles were done to teach us something spiritual. They were parables in action, object lessons to illustrate a spiritual truth, things done in the physical world where we can see them, to prove something about the spiritual world that we cannot see.
That point is made most clearly in Luke 5. You may remember the story of how some people broke into the roof and lowered a paralyzed man down to Jesus, and Jesus healed him. Well, itís not just a story of healing. Letís read it in Luke 5, starting in verse 17:
"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
LK 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
So Jesus was saying, Man, your biggest problem isnít paralysis Ė it is sin, and I am hereby declaring that your biggest problem is solved. Your sins are forgiven. The man didnít have to do anything to work for it or earn it. All he had to do was to come to Jesus.
Thatís nice, you might think, but the man is still paralyzed.
LK 5:21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
You know, I can forgive sins that are against me, but I canít just go and forgive somebody for sins they did against you. And what person can say, I know you have offended God by what you did, but thatís OK. What person can forgive the sins we do against God? So the Pharisees were upset.
LK 5:22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up and walk'? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
So the point of the healing is so "that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." The healing had a spiritual point. Jesus healed the man so that people could see the invisible. Jesus gave them a healing that they could see, so that they would believe in a more important healing that they could not see. Jesus wanted them to believe that he had authority not just to heal, but more importantly, to forgive sins.
You see, everybody that Jesus healed eventually died. All the physical healings that he did were temporary benefits. The lame men could walk, for a while. The blind men could see, for a while, and then they died. The most important healing is the one that affects our eternity, not just our temporary life in this world.
And this is the healing that is most relevant to us. My problem is not paralysis, but sin, and the forgiveness that Jesus talks about is more relevant to my needs than the healing of paralysis is. Now, there are people here who need physical healing, whether of partial paralysis or some other disorder, but even for them, the most important healing of all is the forgiveness of sin.
If Jesus just heals the body, all the benefits will go to the grave. But if he heals our sinfulness, then we will have eternal benefits. So thatís the most important miracle we need, but it is a miracle that we cannot see.
But Jesus gave a physical miracle as a demonstration of the more important invisible healing that took place that day.
Now, that is certainly relevant for me. I had sins in my life that burdened me, that weighed me down, that clouded my vision, that affected my life, and Jesus healed me of these spiritual infirmities. I have experienced it in my own life, in my own heart.
Now, sin still affects me, and I have a continual need for the forgiveness that Jesus offers. So this miracle is still relevant to me even after I have been a Christian for 20 some years. I take comfort in the words, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." I need that assurance, that healing.
So, my point is that the miracles of Jesus had a spiritual message. They are reported not just to impress us, but to help us trust in Jesus.
Letís move now to the book of John, who tells us that he told us about the miracles of Jesus so that we would put our faith in him. Itís not that we need faith in miracles Ė what our life really needs is faith in Jesus.
It is true for me, and I think true for most people, that faith in Jesus comes before faith in miracles. It is only when we come to believe in Jesus, when we accept him as our Savior, that we also come to believe that he did physical miracles, too.
Well, letís look in John 2, where John tells us the first miracle that Jesus did. Now John is telling us these miracles for a purpose, and this miracle is no exception. He includes it because it has significance for us today. Itís not just a curiosity of history, that Jesus did some extraordinary thing. Itís got a purpose. Letís read it in John, chapter 2:
JN 2:1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
JN 2:4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come."
JN 2:5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
JN 2:6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
JN 2:7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
JN 2:8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
The servants drew out water, but they did as Jesus asked, and they took it to the master, and somewhere along the way, the water turned into wine.
Well, so what? What does that have to do with us today? Well, one clue is that the water was being stored for Jewish ceremonial purposes, but Jesus says, thatís not enough. We need to fill those jars. This ceremonial water is not enough Ė we need something more. And just getting more water in the jars was not enough Ė the water had to be transformed into something else. So symbolically, the first miracle is telling us that Jesus is going to fulfill and transform the Jewish religion. Heís going to add to it, then change it, and the end result will be even better.
And in other way, this is what Jesus does to us. He takes our half-empty lives, fills them up, and changes them for the better. This is the first of Jesusí miracles. If our lives are only a fraction of what they could be, if we have run out of stuff to celebrate with, then we need a miracle of Jesus in our lives. We need to let him fill us, and change us.
Now, Iím not talking about an instantaneous perfection in our lives. We do not go from an empty life to a perfectly fulfilled one overnight. We all need refilling from Jesus from time to time. Even if weíve been a Christian for 20 some years, we need to go back to Jesus for filling and for transformation. He takes our emptiness and changes it into something good Ė all we have to do is follow the instructions that Mary gave: Do whatever he tells you. If we fill our lives with Jesus, we will definitely be changed for the better.
Thereís another miracle mentioned in John 4. This is a miracle of knowledge, when Jesus knows details about the life of a woman he has never seen before. Most of you have read the story before, so Iíll just summarize it. Jesus is sitting at the well and a woman comes up and he asks her for a drink of water.
And he says, in verse 10, "Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
I donít believe it, the woman says in verse 11. You donít have any water to give. And Jesus answers, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
OK, says the woman, prove it. Give me some of this water.
So Jesus told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
JN 4:17 "I have no husband," she replied.
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."
JN 4:19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet."
So the woman recognized that Jesus had a supernatural source of knowledge about her.
So whatís the point of this miracle? The point is that if Jesus knows about her husbands, then what he says about living water is also true. He can give a never-ending supply of living water that flows up into eternal life. Other things in life take care of temporary needs. They may take care of our thirst for a little while, but we have to come back and get more, and again and again, and eventually we die. But Jesus is offering us something more, and something completely different. Itís like water in one respect, but it really lead to eternal life. Itís more, and itís different.
Now, Jesus is dealing with something far more significant than ordinary water and ordinary thirst. Heís talking about life. Now, what kind of things do people thirst for today? What do we desire or yearn for? What cravings do we have to make our lives significant?
I remember a time in my life when I wanted to fill my life with wildlife biology. I thirsted for it, I wanted more of it. I found it interesting, exciting, and meaningful. I viewed my life in terms of wildlife biology, and I had to keep coming back for more. It could have just as easily been an interest in computers, or sports, or television, or political activity. It was a thirst in my life that I could fill if I kept coming back to the well to quench my thirst, to find meaning in my life.
But eventually I came to a point where I realized that there really was no meaning in that; I was simply amusing myself and not doing anyone any good. If my life was simply to entertain myself, it was rather pointless. I needed to be filled with something different, and that is what Jesus offered me, and still offers me. He offers a never-ending supply of meaningful life, leading not just to temporary quenching of thirst, but to an eternally meaningful life. He has filled me, and changed me.
The process is not done yet Ė I still need to drink from Jesus Christ, still need to receive from him purpose and meaning. My lifeís purpose is not to entertain myself, but to serve others with the gifts Christ has given me, and the surprising thing is that when I think less about myself and more about others, the more satisfaction I have in life. My thirst is quenched when I let Jesus live in me.
Now, another thing I notice in this story is that Jesus asked the woman for a drink, but she never gave him one. She never even offered him one, and in verse 28, she leaves her water jar behind. Jesus had no need of her kind of water, just as he has no need of the kind of things we try to fill our lives with. We have nothing to offer Jesus Ė we have only needs that he can fill Ė and that is his purpose in life, to serve others with the gifts God has given him. He serves us.
Now, back to John 4. We have no way of verifying whether this miracle of knowledge really happened; we have to choose whether to believe the Bible or not. But the important thing here is not the miracle of knowledge that was relevant to one person at one time in history Ė the important thing is whether we accept the knowledge that Jesus gives us about the living water that he offers. He has supernatural knowledge about our lives, and he knows what we thirst for, and he knows what we need.
All right? Chapter 5. Jesus heals a crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. In verse 6, he asks the man, "6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
JN 5:7"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Well, of course I want to get well, the man said, but I just canít do it.
OK, says Jesus, I will make you able. Get up, get out of here, and donít come back. Take your mat home; you wonít need it here anymore.
And thatís what Jesus says to us, too. Do you want to get well? Do you want to be healed? Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you want living water that gives meaning to your life? And we have to say, Yes, Iíd like to get well, but I am totally unable to save myself.
And it is only when we accept the word of Jesus, when we believe him when he says we are forgiven, it is then that we are healed. It is when we accept the fact that he has the healing that we need, that we can be healed. We canít do anything to earn it, we canít do anything to deserve it, except that we need it, that we are unable to do it on our own. And Jesus heals us, and changes us.
But whatever he says, we have to do. We need to get up and get on with life, and in verse 14, Jesus says, Stop sinning. The less pollution we put into our lives, the better we will enjoy the good stuff that Jesus gives us.
Another miracle, in chapter 6, the feeding of the five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish. And the people end up following Jesus all the way to the other side of the lake. And he says in verse 26, JN 6:26 "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." In other words, you didnít believe because of the miracle, but you just want physical conveniences. But thatís not the point of the miracle.
27"Do not work for food that spoils," Jesus said, "but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." Donít fill your life with temporary stuff. Donít work for temporary goals. Think big Ė think eternal. Look for something that will give you eternal life. And in verse 35 Jesus makes it plain,: Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
So Jesus fed the 5000 not to supply a temporary need, but to point people to the permanent solution to their real problems. The people were thinking about physical life, temporary life, and Jesus used that natural concern as a springboard into teaching about eternal life. You believe that I can give you bread; believe me now when I say that I can give you eternal life. Anybody can make promises about the invisible, but the miracles I do in the visible world should assure you that what I say about the spiritual world is true.
I am the bread of life, I am the source of life and the meaning of life. Come to me, and you will be filled forever. Come to me, and you will be satisfied. Come to me, and you will live. Donít just look for miracles of the physical sort. Look for miracles of the spiritual and the eternal, and trust in me. I will not just fill you up, I will change your life.
Chapter 9 Ė the man born blind.
JN 9:1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
JN 9:3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
So hereís the point of the miracle: Jesus is the light of the world. He enables us to see things we would not see on our own. It is because of Jesus that we can see that we are crippled by sin, that we need the transforming grace of Jesus Christ, that physical things cannot quench our spiritual thirst, that physical things cannot give us life eternal. Of ourselves, we are born blind and unable to understand our true condition. It is only when Christ comes to us that he makes it possible for us to see.
JN 9:6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7 "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."
So the man couldnít see until he did what Jesus commanded. He was sent, and so he had to go. Jesus sends us, too, and there are aspects of our lives that are not healed until we do what Jesus says. Forgiveness he pronounces right way Ė we donít have to do anything but accept it. But for
vision in life and meaning in life, we are going to have to do what Jesus says. Thatís the only way that our lives are going to be filled up and transformed.
Our lives are going to be more fulfilling and satisfying when we are doing what Jesus wants us to do. If we want to see, we have to go where we are sent. We have to do what we are commanded.
Chapter 11: Lazarus was dead, and Jesus called him forth from the grave. Lazarus is dead, he said, and I am going to wake him up. [vv 14, 11]
Roll away the stone, Jesus said. Oh no, said Martha, it would smell really bad. But they rolled away the stone anyway, and there was no smell, and Jesus thanked God and said, "Lazarus, come out!" Ė and he came out.
And what was the point? Verse 25: JN 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
Jesus is talking about two kinds of life: this life and eternal life. He gives us eternal life even now, and it changes the kind of life we have. We do not live any longer to amuse ourselves, but we live to serve others. He fills life to the brim, to eternity, and he changes life for the better. By ourselves, we will die, but Jesus calls us forth from the tomb and gives us new life. Itís not just more of the old life, but a new and different life. Rise up and walk, take the grave clothes off, be released, and live!
Jesus gives us a meaningful life that lasts forever. Indeed, if we lived forever without any meaning, we would be tormented. God has made us to desire meaning and purpose and significance, and these desires can be filled only from Jesus Christ.
He is our life both now and forever, both in this age and into eternity.
Do you want to be made well? Do you want the new life that Jesus offers us? Are you willing to let him fill your life, so that you will have something to take to the master? Will you do what he says, trusting that if you take the water that he gives, he will transform it into the best of wine? Will you trust him with the well that never goes dry, the water that satisfies every thirst? Will you nourish yourself and strengthen yourself with the bread of life? Will you do what he says so that you can see? Will you come out of the grave and walk into a new life with Jesus?
Jesus does miracles today. Will you accept them in your life?