Did the miracles happen?
- Jesus is well-known for his miracles or the “mighty works” – not just as a good teacher.
- We have to come to terms with the miracles. As Western, 21st century people, we try to ignore them – we find ways to escape them or suggest a sense of exaggeration. Like they are legends with inflated stories – well-meaning people wanting to make Jesus look great.
- People try to pass off the stories as Chinese whispers – legends passed on and added to over time, like Robin Hood. But this won’t do to explain it away – we’ve looked already in previous sessions at how the gospels are well-documented, trustworthy historical documents, which kept to the original facts. Luke is one of the finest historical documents we have.
- John the Baptist – incredibly well-known and respected in that day – and yet the historical books show not one trace of a miracle. This discounts the idea that popular teachers got inflated with miraculous stories.
- Jesus’ enemies accused him of doing miracles by the power of the devil – they were trying to explain them away because they were actually happening. They didn’t deny that Jesus was really doing miracles.
- If these stories were fabricated, the disciples would have come off better in the accounts – but they are not very favourable towards them. They often got it wrong – awkward and embarrassing stories. It’s easy to trust these accounts.
- Someone (unknown to us, not one of the 12 disciples) was trying to do miracles in the name of Jesus – shows that all across the region Jesus was associated with spiritual powers.
- It’s bad history to suggest these things were made up. Why then would people believe it was made up? Anti-supernaturalism – ruling out supernatural things – saying they don’t happen at all, like fairy tales. So we fit the evidence around that. But is this reasonable?
- You can’t scientifically prove these miracles Jesus did – they’re part of ancient history. But does it mean they’re not true? The problem is that not everything can be proven using scientific methods, for example – the very notion that something isn’t true if it isn’t proved scientifically – this statement can’t be proven scientifically! It’s another leap of faith, an assumption.
- There is an awareness that there is power, a miraculous power. We can take the miracles as history.
Why did Jesus do the miracles he did?
- Motivated out of tremendous compassion.
- Feeding 5,000 people from one person’s lunch – wanting to feed them and look after them.
- So many examples of the mercy and pity and compassion of Jesus – he was always showing it.
- Look at the way Jesus treated outcasts and those rejected by society, e.g. healing lepers, physically healing a socially outcast woman – those who people couldn’t go near because they were “unclean”.
- We don’t fully understand how set apart from us God is – how we can’t just waltz on up to him. Bodily diseases like leprosy are symbolic of how unclean we are and how untouchable God is. And yet Jesus showed himself as willing and wanting to help.
- Example of woman whose back was bent over for 18 years – a terrible infirmity, which would have also been humiliating. The religious leaders cared more about looking after animals on the Sabbath than people, like this woman – saying she shouldn’t be healed. Jesus sees that this is not right – it’s so wrong, not how his Father intended things
- The man who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life – Jesus looked on him with love. The same with us – we don’t fully know how much he looks on us with kindness, love, mercy and compassion – he is full of it!
- Jesus also did miracles for other reasons:
1. To teach as a parable, e.g. the fig tree that Jesus curses – seems harsh, but he’s really trying to show something symbolically – that God’s people, the people of Israel, are unfruitful and God will judge them.
2. To show that we can do miracles with faith in him.
3. To show his authority – his power to forgive sin.
4. To show the glory of God, to show how glorious he is. We were designed by God to know the glory of God, to be satisfied by his glory. Any other glory we pursue will ultimately disappoint us.
5. As signs of his kingdom. The world is under darkness and under the power of the evil one, the devil, who is real (not some mythical cartoon-figure), who hates God and hates people. We can see there is evil in the world – and that’s why Jesus came – to destroy the works of the devil and bring in a new, right kingdom – of peace, goodness and wholeness. Jesus won the greatest victory – one day he will completely eradicate sin and sickness and death, bringing in the fullness of his kingdom. We get a taste of it on earth with miracles that happen now. We are all invited into this eternal kingdom, and get to witness signs of it.