Friday, February 28, 2003

Jesus' Miracles and What They Teach Us

This is part 7 of a series that looks at why Jesus performed miracles and what He taught us through them. The series will work its way through:

  1. Why Jesus performed miracles.
  2. More Reasons
  3. His Authority Over Disease
  4. His Authority Over Satan
  5. His Authority Over Death
  6. His Authority Over Nature
  7. His Authority Delegated to His Disciples
  8. His Authority Delegated to His Church

You can get to any of the available lessons by clicking on the lesson title. If nothing happens you are either already at the lesson, or I have not written it yet.

Jesus' Miracles and His Authority

Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God. As its King, we would expect Him to rule. On earth He spoke and taught as one who had authority, and thus could command and expect obedience from His subjects. 

His miracles, however, demonstrated that His authority extended beyond the rule of citizens. In each of the next sections, I will provide several stories from the gospels and then add my comments

His Authority Delegated to His Disciples

He Sends out the Twelve

Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and manipulated nature. His disciples heard His teaching and watched His actions. As wonderful as these days must have been, Jesus' scope, due to His assumed humanity, was geographically limited. So, the day came when He expanded His range:

After Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave the area. Wherever they do not receive you, as you leave that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Then they departed and went throughout the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6, The Net Bible)

Jesus did not give them authority to raise the dead, but they were able to command demons and cure diseases. He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. They were to trust God for all their provisions and have no possessions save the clothes on their back. They were to depend on the kindness of those they served. Three times in this short passage, we are told about healing. Two of these times link healing with the kingdom of God or the good news. Other parallel passages confirm this notion that the kingdom of God and healing go together.

It is worth mentioning that among these twelve was Judas Iscariot. He, too, was given "power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases." We know this because the text does not exclude him, and there is no evidence that his abilities were less than the others. Judas was well respected among the twelve. After all, he was in charge of their money box. The ministry of Judas to his hearers was God's ministry in spite of his fundamental unbelief. Judas is en example of who Jesus meant by these words:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Take the case of Balaam who prophesied blessings on Israel at the command of the Lord, but then counseled the king of  Moab to corrupt the children of Israel with mixed marriages that would lead to idolatry. We must never think that someone doing legitimate miracles in God's name is of God. Just remember that Balaam was commanded to speak blessings on Israel through his donkey. If God wants a miracle, He will do His miracle. The miracle tells us something about God whether the miracle worker does or not. As Jesus said, "Be glad that your names are written in the book of life."

So, Judas was one who said, "Lord, Lord." He cast out demons and did many powerful deeds. But he did not know God and God did not know him. Paradoxically, Judas was an instrument of the Lord's mercy. He preached a message of truth and showed the power of God, but he did not understand of what he spoke and did. My next series will explore Judas in more detail.

He Sends Out the Seventy-Two

Some time later, Jesus expanded His geographical scope further by sending out a larger team:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he himself was about to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Go! I am sending you out like lambs surrounded by wolves. Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will remain on him, but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the worker deserves his pay. Do not move around from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and the people welcome you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come on you.’ But whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: the kingdom of God has come.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town! (Luke 10:1-12)

They were to "heal the sick" and proclaim the kingdom of God. Here again the two activities are linked. Healing and deliverance are part of God's kingdom. Note that the seventy-two are commanded to pray for more workers. Only in sending out others can Jesus' mission be spread abroad. 

When the seventy-two returned, they gave this report to Jesus:

Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” So he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Look, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on the full force of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.” On that same occasion Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. All things have been given to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone the Son decides to reveal him to.” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”(Luke 10:17-24)

They were excited about the miracles they performed, but Jesus reminded them of the value of knowing God over anything else.

As foreshadowing of what was to come, Jesus said this to His disciples:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:10-14)

Jesus was going to the Father and that meant a greater power was coming. This was the power of the Holy Spirit which enabled the gospel to be preached in a demonstration of God's power. The first recorded example was the lame man healed in the Temple:

Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, “Look at us!” So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the man who used to sit and ask for donations at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with astonishment and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:4-10)

Thus the work of Jesus continued and continues by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Observations

Jesus ministry was and still is geographically bound. When He taught, He could reach immediate hearers. With the twelve, He reached more. With the seventy-two He reached even more. This is why he asked His workers to pray for more workers. The more people out there proclaiming the gospel with power, the more people will hear and be saved. Jesus needs equipped workers.

His workers carried His authority to authenticate His ministry for His purposes. That is what it means to do something in Jesus' name. "In Jesus' name" is not a magical incantation. These are not merely words to tack on to the end of a prayer to make it work. We act and work as His representatives on earth. The more that we act like Him and teach like Him the more in Jesus' name we are. If we carry His name and do not live like Him or teach like Him, we dishonor that name.

Monday: Jesus' Authority Delegated to His Church

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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