THE MEANING OF THE MIRACLES
Dr. Henry M. Morris co-author of The Genesis Flood spoke to the student body at DTS.
In an effort to distinguish between Class A and Class B miracles.
Dr. Morris told the true story of a young pilot named Tom (now with Missionary Aviation Fellowship) who was flying at 30,000 feet when his plane exploded. All in the plane were killed except Tom. As Tom was plummeting to the earth, he pulled the rip cord, but his chute failed to open. At the last minute, the chute did open but it was in shreds, hardly breaking the speed of his fall.
Meanwhile, a Christian woman was standing in her drive watching this horrifying scene. Knowing he was in desperate trouble, the woman prayed for his safe descent. Tom, needless to say, was praying, too. Tom landed virtually at the feet of the woman. Looking up, they saw that the ropes of his parachute had caught in two trees, breaking his fall and lowering him gently to the ground.
The most interesting point about this true story is that Dr. Morris used it as an illustration of what he called Class B miracles. After recounting the story, Dr. Morris said to the assembled faculty and student body, "Now men, don't be overly impressed by the Class B miracles." Dr. Morris had a dry sense of humor. The sad truth is that many theologians throughout the history of the church have not taken any of the miracles of our Lord seriously.
Some of us were raised in churches that tried to explain away the miracles.
Some of the explanations take more faith to believe than the miracle itself.
An Example of explaining away miracles
1. The Feeding of the 5000 is explained that the disciples had placed food in a secret cave and instead of Jesus multiplying the Loaves and fishes, the disciples were handing the stored food out to Jesus and the people believed he was preforming a miracles.
2. The other explanation is that the people had food but the miracle was in Jesus getting the people to share the food they had with each other.
The Jews of our Lord's day did not challenge the actual events, but rather the power by which these miracles were performed (Mark 3:22).
The heathen Greeks did not challenge the miraculous event either, but only its interpretation.
Spinoza, held the pantheistic view that miracles were contrary to the nature of God.
Miracles were considered impossible by Spinoza because of his presuppositions.
Skeptics, like Hume, held that miracles are simply incredible, because they contradict man's normal experience.
The most formidable argument against the miraculous and that which has generally carried most weight with modernist and humanist--is the argument which Hume stated in his "ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING".
The substance of Hume's argument runs as follows:
"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.
Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water, unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happens in the common course of nature.
It is no miracle that a man, seemingly is good health, should die on a sudden; because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen.
But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. (name) And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered incredible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior.
(= No evidence can ever proof a miracle.)
The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ' That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavors to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.' When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened.
I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command by belief or opinion."
"Laws of nature are a description of what happens, not a handbook of rules to tell us what cannot happen. In choosing his laws of nature, therefore, the scientist' should first consult history, and after deciding by historical evidence what has happened, should then choose his laws within the limits of historical actuality. The non-Christian thinker, intent on repudiating miracles, proceeds by reverse method. He chooses his law without regard to historical limits, and then tries to rewrite history to fit his law.
But surely this method is not only the reverse of the Christian method, it is clearly the reverse of rational procedure as well."
Gulliver, of Jonathan Swift's GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, was said to have been shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput-an island inhabited by men six inches high. Before Gulliver's arrival, the Lilliputians had no contact whatsoever with creatures taller than themselves. Suppose the Lilliputians who discover Gulliver had followed Hume's reasoning; Never before had a man one foot, much less six feet tall been see-either by themselves or by anyone within the course of recorded Lilliputian history. Which then would be more miraculous-that they themselves were deluded, or that Gulliver really existed?
Obviously the former would be the greater miracle, so Gulliver does not exist at all. He may plead with the Lilliputians to evaluate the overwhelming, objective evidence that he DOES exist--the fact that he takes up space, eats, etc.--but to no avail. No Lilliputians have ever seen a six foot man; therefore, Gulliver PRIORI does not exist.
Such an example illustrates well the fallaciousness of Hume's argument. In order to determine what natural laws are, it is necessary for us to evaluate, without A PRIORI, the particular evidence for each alleged event, no matter how unique it is.
Since Hume doubted that nothing could be known with absolute certainty, those phenomenon which took place outside of the normal course of nature could never be accepted as true. Schleiermacher and others explained the miraculous in terms of the unknown and misunderstood. Our Lord's miracles were 'relative miracles,' as a savage might consider television, which he does not understand.
The rationalistic School would have men believe that Christ never claimed to perform any miracles. Only those who sought the spectacular found something miraculous in the records. Christ did not change the water to wine at Cana, but merely provided a new supply of wine. He did not walk on the water, but on the nearby shore. Others, Like Woolston have found the Gospel miracles to have no factual or historical validity, but are merely 'tales' which contain a much deeper spiritual truth. Such are the views of the skeptics and critics of God's Word.
THE TERMS EMPLOYED
The miraculous works of our Lord Jesus were communicated by the use of three primary terms, each of which accentuated one particular facet of the supernatural activity of Christ.
These three terms are found together in several passages.
MEN OF ISRAEL, LISTEN TO THESE WORDS; JESUS THE NAZARENE, A MAN ATTESTED TO YOU BY GOD WITH MIRACLES WONDERS WHICH GOD PERFORMED THROUGH HIM IN YOUR MIDST, JUST AS YOU YOURSELVES KNOW" (ACTS 2:22, 2 COR 2:`2; 2THESSALONIANS 2:9)
1. The term "miracle" (dunamis), emphasizes the mighty work that has been done, and in particular, the power by which it was accomplished. The vent is described in terms of the power of God in actions.
(1) It is an act of a supernatural being. The word dunamis has the idea of a supernatural power. It speaks primarily of the agent of the act. That power may be delegated to a human agent. The question is where did Jesus’ power to do the miracle come from. There are two options - either from God or from Satan. Obviously, Jesus’ power came from God. Some suggest that Satan only imitates miracles. I think Satan can perform miracles. He does not have divine power, but he does have supernatural power. So the idea from the word dunamis is that there is supernatural power involved.
This word focuses attention on an event as an explosive demonstration of God’s own power.
2. The term "wonder" (teras), underscores its effect on those who are witnesses.
On many occasions, the crowds (even the disciples) were amazed and astonished by the works of our Lord (Mark 2:12; 4:41; 6:51, etc). Origen pointed out long ago that this term 'wonder' is never employed alone in the New Testament, but always in conjunction with some other term which suggests something far greater than a mere spectacle.
(2) Another word - terasa - speaks of the effect. A miracle is an unusual event. Terasa speaks of the wonderment of the event – as in signs and wonders. As a matter of fact, terasa is always used with semeion.
3. The term "sign" (se meion), which focuses upon the deeper meaning of the miracle.
3) The Greek word semeion means sign. A miracle is a significant event. It has purpose. Matthew, Mark and Luke uses the first two more. John uses the word semion, because he is focused on the purpose of Jesus in performing the miracles.
(4) Therefore, in our search for a definition, if we combine the ideas of these words used in the New Testament, we might come up with the following definition:
Definition: A miracle is an unusual and significant event (terasa) which requires the working of a supernatural agent (dunamis) and is performed for the purpose of authenticating the message or the messenger (semeion).
A sign is a miracle which conveys a truth about our Lord. Jesus. A miracle is usually a sign, but a sing need not always be a miracle (Luke 2:12) The miracles of our Lord are at one and the same time a visible manifestation of divine power MIRACLE ) an awe-inspiring WONDER ), and an instructive revelation about God ( The most common classification of the miracles of our Lord is into three categories:
(1) Those which pertain to nature,
(2) Those which pertain to man, and
(3) Those which pertain to the spirit world.
These words each reflect Old Testament terms. There mopet, found only 36 times, means a “wonder” or “miracle.” It is used primarily of God’s personal intervention through miracles in Egypt to free His people, Israel. Ot means “miraculous sign.” Each of the plagues on Egypt is called an ’ot.
In both Testaments, miracles are unmistakable acts of God—interventions whose nature or whose timing demonstrate God’s action in our world of space and time. In each Testament, there was no question in the minds of observers that what they saw was in fact a supernatural act.
In the Old Testament the word indicating this is pala. It is a word describing the impact of miracles on the observers; the sense of awe and amazement at the unmistakable evidence that God has demonstrated His reality in this universe.
No wonder the Old Testament encourages believers to remember what God has done as a source of comfort and confidence. We “remember the wonders He has done, His miracles,” and we declare “His marvelous deeds among all peoples” (1 Chron. 16:12, 24).
What is particularly striking in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles is that His fellow countrymen, steeped in Old Testament lore, responded with the same stunned amazement of past generations.
The words Mark uses to describe this reaction emphasizes the stunning impact of Jesus’ miracles.
1. Thaumazo is usually translated “amazed” and suggests utter astonishment. Yet amazement doesn’t automatically produce faith!
2.Existemi mixes astonishment with anxiety.
The miracles of Jesus were so out of the ordinary that they created fear as well as wonder.
3. Thambeo indicates actual fright. Three times Mark tells us that Jesus’ miracles frightened observers (1:27; 10:24, 32).
In fact, the works of Jesus were astonishing and frightening to those who did not believe in Him. As those who believed listened and watched this Man of Galilee, and realized just who He is, His wonders seemed only fitting. He was their God; as He had acted in ages past, so He acted now.
There were many differences between the miracles of Jesus and those who claimed to be able to do “magic” in the ancient world.
***The works of Jesus were performed simply. He used no spells or incantations.
He spoke, and His word was enough. His works were performed in public, observed by friend and foe alike. Nicodemus spoke of the ruling Jewish council when he said, “We know that You are a Teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2,).
****But perhaps most importantly, magic in the ancient world was seen as a mode of controlling or harming others. It was used against, rather than for, them. The evil eye, sickness, accident, death child or an animal spiritual bondage.
****But all of Jesus’ miracles were exercised on behalf of others, to free them from sickness, pain, and spiritual bondage.
In performing His miracles, Jesus not only demonstrated His power, but also showed the overwhelming love of God for humankind.
What a wonder those miracles were. They documented the reality of God’s power to act in man’s world, they authenticated Jesus as God’s Son, and they revealed in unmistakable ways the love and compassion of God for individual human beings. In the Old Testament God had acted to free the nation Israel. In Jesus He acted to release individuals from the physical and spiritual impact of man’s ancient enemy—sin.
I find it helpful to distinguish between what can be called "Class A" and Class B" miracles.
"Class A" miracles overrule or transcend the laws of nature.
Such would be the case of our Lord's walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52).
Here the law of gravity was overruled.
Class B" miracles do not overtly violate natural laws.
For example, the stilling of the storm did not appear to violate any natural law. Storms on this lake, we are told, stopped as quickly as they commenced. The fact that it stopped at the time of our Lord's rebuke is evidence of His sovereignty over nature.
Jesus turning the water into wine, Here the law of time was overruled.
"Class B" miracles would be viewed by unbelievers as mere conincidence.
"Class A” miracles such as the rising of Lazarus were an out right affront to natural laws and processed (thus the statement, " HE STINKS " in John 11:39, stressing the normal course of nature).
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MIRACLES OF OUR LORD
The Miracles which our Lord accomplished were far different than those claimed by other religions.
1. THEY WERE TRULEY HISTORICAL.
They are not true myths, mythical stories with 'spiritual lessons,' but real events conveying spiritual truths.
The Miracles of other religions are far more mythical in nature. The other religions miracles carry with it that 'once upon a time' mood. Not the Gospels.
2. THEY ARE REASONABLE.
The miracles of the Apocryphal Gospels are fantastic and questionable.
An example is Bell and the Dragon. The Story of Daniel destroying the dragon with a ball made up of tar, fat, hair.
The miracles of our Lord were designed to meet a physical need.
Our Lord refused to employ His powers to satisfy His own appetites, or to ensure His protection.
He turned down every invitation to do the miraculous to satisfy idle curiosity. Luke 23:8
3. THEY WERE ACCOMPLISHED OPENLY.
The miracles wee performed in the most public situations, not of in a dark corner. Many alleged 'miracles' of today defy documentation, those of our Lord were mainly public.
4. THEY WERE ACCOMPLISHED SIMPLY.
Others who claimed to be 'miracle workers' always operated with a great deal of ritual and ceremony. Lots of hype, pomp and circumstance. Our Lord most often merely spoke a word, and at times performed His miraculous deeds at a distance Matt 8:5-13 THEY WERE ACCOMPLISHED INSTANTLY.
With very few exceptions the miracles of Jesus were completed instantly and completely.
5. THEY WERE ACCOMPLISHED IN A VARIETY OF CIRCUMSTANCES.
While women could do their deeds only under the most controlled environment. Jesus did His works under a great variety of circumstances. His powers were demonstrated over nature, over sickness and disease, and over the forces of Satan.
6. THEY WERE ACCOMPLISHED ON THE BASIS OF FAITH.
Either that of our Lord (John 11:41-43) or of the one cured (Mark 5:34) or of others who are concerned (Matt 8:10 Mark 2:5) Where there was little faith, little was accomplished (Mk 6:5,6) THEY WERE GRATUITOUS.
While in the cults, a fee of payment was expected, the miracles of our Lord were free of charge. No fee was expected no offering taken or accepted. Our Lord's ministry, from start to finish was one of grace. Many miracles were performed on the basis of our Lord, with no faith on the part of the one receiving the miracle.
7. THEY WERE FREE FROM RETALIATION.
With the possible exception of the cruising of the fig tree (Mk 11:12-14) none of the miracles of Jesus were of a punitive or negative variety. This is in contrast, not only to the desires of his own disciples to call down fire and destroy those who were against him. (Luke 9:52-56), but also the practices of other 'healers' of His day, and even of what often occurred in the Old Testament.
8. THEY WERE ESCHATOLOGICAL.
The miracles of Jesus were evidence of the dawn of a new age.
With the presentation of Jesus as Messiah, a new age had begun. he had come to restore man from his fallen state, and creation from the chaos resulting from the sin of Adam. He had come to restore and to save. Man had been placed on the earth to rule over it. When the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) came nature immediately recognized its master. When our Lord confronted sickness and disease He master it. he came to save, and thus the word often used for healing was "to save." MIRACLES
1ST. MIRACLES = SHOW HIS DEITY
There were many miracle workers at the time of Christ.
The Jews wanted to see signs - proof. Why so few recorded?
1. Leprosy 8:1-4
2. Palsy 8:5-13
3. Fever 8:14-17
4. Paralysis 9:2-8
5. Blood - bleeder 9:20-22
6. Blindness 9:27-31
7. Demons 8:28-34
8. Powers of Nature 8:23-27
9. Death 9:18, 23-26
Matt. 10 Jesus sends disciples out to exercise this power.
|Nature||Jesus stills a storm||8:23–27|
|Demons||Jesus casts them out||8:28–32|
|Death||Jesus makes alive||9:18–26|
Miracle 1: Turning the Water into Wine John 2:1-11 = Power Over Nature
In his very helpful book Miracles, C.S. Lewis has pointed out that every miracle of Jesus is simply a kind of short-circuiting of a natural process; a doing instantly something which in general takes a longer period of time. Lewis says, “Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature.” That is what Jesus is doing: he is overleaping the elements of time, of growth, gathering, crushing and fermenting. He takes water---an inorganic, non-living, commonplace substance---and without a word, without a gesture, without any laying on of hands, in utter simplicity, the water becomes wine, an organic liquid, a product of fermentation, belonging to the realm of life. Thus he demonstrated his marvelous ability to master the processes of nature.
Miracle 2: Healing of the Nobleman’s Son John 4:46-54
Some say this miracle is the same as the healing of the centurion’s son in the synoptics (#10) Luke 7:1-10 and Matt 8:5-13. But these are different for the following reasons:
|Nobleman’s Son||Centurion’s Servant|
|Nobleman - royal connections - maybe Jewish or Roman.||Entrusted with 100 men|
|Negative rebuke||Positive reinforcement|
|begging to come touch son||don’t come - just speak|
|No positive comment on faith||Commendation on faith contrasted with Israel|
|In Cana||Approaches the man at Capernaum|
Miracle 3: Deliverance of the Demoniac in the Synagogue Mark 1:21-28.................................................
We need to notice that this is a Sabbath miracle. Jesus is working on the Sabbath on purpose to make the point that the old system is over and a new one is here. There was a similar message in the defiling of the ceremonial waterpots in the first miracle.
Miracle 4: Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-law Matt 8:14-1 5 = Power Over Physical Sickness
Miracle 5: The First Draught of Fishes Luke 5:1-11 = Power Over Nature /Knowedge
Showing fishermen (Peter, James & John) that he knew more then the fishermen knew.
Miracle 6: Cleansing the Leper Matt 8:1-4 = Power Over The Incurable
Miracle 7: Healing the Paralytic Mark 2:1-12, Matt 9:2-8 and Luke 5:17-26
Ryrie points out several things about Faith from this passage:
1. Faith works - The men expended great effort to help their friend.
2. Faith persists - They didn’t let personal inconvenience stop them.
3. Faith succeeds - Their faith was rewarded. The man was healed.8
Miracle 8: Healing of the Man at Bethesda John 5:1-15
Miracle 9: Healing the Man with the Withered Hand Luke 6:6-11 Matt 12:9-13 Mark 3:1-5
Miracle 10: Healing of the Centurion’s Servant Luke 7:1-10, Matt 8:5-13
Miracle 11: Raising the Widow’s Son From Nain Luke 7:11-16
Miracle 12: Casting out of the Dumb and Blind Spirit Luke 11:14-26 Matt 12:22-32, Mark 3:22-30
Miracle 13: Stilling the Storm Matt 8:23-27 = Power Over Nature
Miracle 14: Healing the Demoniac at Gadara Mark 5:1-20, Matt 8:28f, Luke 8:26
Miracle 15: Healing the Woman with the Issue of Blood Matt 9:20-22 = Power Over Hopelessness
Miracle 16: The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter MATT 9:20-22= Power Over Death
Miracle 17: Healing of the Two Blind Men Matthew 9:27-31
Miracle 18: Casting out the “Speech Impaired” Spirit Matthew 9:32-34
Jesus not only has the power over Satan, but he can cure the effects of Satan’s power. He can liberate and heal.
Miracle 19: Feeding of the 5000(+) John 6:1-14, Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17
Power over need, He is the bread of life
Miracle 20: Walking on the Water Matt. 14:22-33, John 6:15-21, Mark 6:45-52
Jesus often sends us into the storm to test and strengthen our faith. No pain ... no gain (in understanding or faith or whatever God needs to work on.)
A hardened heart keeps me from seeing Christ for who he really is. (Mark)
There is no success in service for those who have no faith. They failed with the feeding of the 5000. They struggle here too.
Miracle 21: Delivering the Syrophoenician’s Daughter
Miracle 22: Healing the Deaf and Dumb Man Mark 7:31-37
Miracle 23: Feeding the 4000(+)
Miracle 24: Healing the Blind Man of Bethsaida John 5:1-15
Miracle 25: Casting the Demon out of the Lunatic Boy Mark 9:14-29 Matt 17:14-21 Luke 9:37-42
Miracle 26: The Coin in the Fish’s Mouth Matt. 17:24-27
Miracle 27: Healing of the Man Born Blind John 9:l-41
Miracle 28: Healing of the Woman with the 18-Year Infirmity Luke 13:10-17
Miracle 29: Healing the Man with Dropsy Luke 14:1-6
Miracle 30: The Raising of Lazarus Jo John 11:1-46
Miracle 31: Cleansing of the Ten Lepers Luke 17:11-19
Miracle 32: Healing of Blind Bartimeaus(+1) Mk. 10:46-52 Matt 20:29-43 Luke 18:35-43
Miracle 33: Cursing of the Fig Tree Mk. 11:12-26
Miracle 34: Healing of Malchus’ Ear Luke 22:49-51
Miracle 35: Second Draught of Fishes John 21:1-12
Appendix: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?
I. The Healing of the Demonic Possessed
a. Belief in demons
b. Jesus and the demons
c. Healing of the possessed
i. The demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum
ii. The Gadarene demonic
iii. The lunatick boy
iv. The dumb demonic
v. The blind and dumb demoniac
vi. The daughter of the woman of Canaan
II. The Healing of the Blind
a. The healing of two blind men at Capernaum
b. The healing of the blind man of Bethsadia
c. The healing of the blind man or men at Jericho
d. The healing of the man born blind.
III. The Healing of the Paralytics
a. The man with the withered hand
b. The paralytic at Capernaum
c. The paralytic at Jerusalem (Bethesda)
IV. The Healing of the Lepers
a. The healing of a leper
b. The healing of ten lepers
V. The Healing of a man with Dropsy
VI. The Healing of the Woman with the Issue of Blood
VII. The healing of the Woman bowed Together
VIII. The healing of the Deaf man with a Speech Defect
IX. The healing of the Centurions’s Servant at Capernaum and the Nobleman’s Son
X. The healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law
XI. The healing of Malcus’ Ear
XII. The resurrection of the Dead
a. Jairus’s daughter
b. The young man at Nain
c. The resurrection of Lazarus
XIII. The Miracle at the wedding at Cana
XIV. The Miraculous Feeding
XV. The Stilling of the Storm
XVI. Jesus’ Walking on the Water
XVII. The Miraculous Catches of Fish
a. Luke’s account
b. John’s account
XVIII. The Account of the Stater
XIX. The Cursing of the Fig Tree
Richards, L. 1987. The teacher's commentary. Includes index. (Mk 1:1). Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.