Thursday, February 20, 2003

Jesus' Miracles and What They Teach Us

This is part 2 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 Nature
  6. His Authority Over Death
  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.

More Reasons Why Jesus Performed Miracles

To Preview the Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of this world is full of sin and the calamity it causes. Jesus' miracles let us know that it is only a matter of time before sin and its effects are done for:

Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23, The Net Bible)

The kingdom message is good news. Along with its announcement, Jesus healed the people. Later, He sent out the twelve to do this same work. At that time Jesus said this to them:

Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come on you.’ (Luke 10:9)

Here Jesus made the direct connection between the miracles of healing as foreshadowing the kingdom of God. And, it would seem, that part of the gospel message was and still should be accompanied by a demonstration of its power to undo the effects of sin in the soul and in the body. It will not be perfect until the kingdom of God is on earth, but miracles are a harbinger of the world to come.

To Challenge the Religious System

The Pharisees in Jesus' day followed a strict religious code that had roots in the days of Ezra. The rationale for this code was simple and not totally incorrect. The forefathers had disobeyed Torah and suffered the Babylonian exile. Now they worked to fence the Torah by developing a stricter code. The theory was that stricter obedience provided a safety margin with respect to God's requirements. They answered the questions about how far one could walk and still not work on the Sabbath. In all this admirable effort they missed some essential principles encoded in the Torah. I have a saying, "Legalism loves the tithe and hates the corners of the field." Both parts of the saying come from Torah. The tithe is a 10th part of your income. Once you have given the tenth, you are in compliance. The corners of the field refers to the commandment to not harvest to the very corners of the field, but leave some for the poor. The legalist wants to know how much of the field can be left and still be in compliance. The one who knows the spirit of the Torah sees a principle of generosity and seeks, perhaps, to leave more each year.

The issue of Jesus healing on the Sabbath was the fatal issue in His ministry. It was this activity that gave the religious establishment a hook on which to hang Him. Jesus, however, used it to challenge the measured righteousness of legalism and asked that it be replaced with a heart that loves God and loves men. Here is an example:

Then Jesus again entered the synagogue, and a man was there whose hand was withered. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they could accuse him. So he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Stand up among all these people.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil, to save a life or destroy it?” But they were silent. After looking around at them in anger, grieved by the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. So the Pharisees went out immediately and began plotting with the Herodians, as to how they could assassinate him. (Mark 3:1-6)

Note how it says they watched Him closely to see if He would heal. They knew He would! They almost even wanted Him to heal so that they had an excuse to accuse Him of law breaking.

With a single question, Jesus raised the central challenge to a legalistically bound Sabbath. "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?" Here He suggested that a Sabbath day could be full of labor on behalf of others. By the use of healing and the associated power, Jesus confirmed the validity of His challenge.

To Confirm that He was the Messiah

John the Baptist, in Herod's dungeon, had a crisis of faith. Although he was the forerunner of the Messiah and announced Him to the world, he now wondered if he had tagged the wrong man. So he sent word, through his disciples, and asked Jesus, "Are you the one?"

Now when John in prison heard about the deeds Christ had done, he sent a question by his disciples: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. (Matthew 11:2-5)

Jesus said, in effect, "Look at the miracles John. I am He."

To Authenticate His Ministry and His Word

The miracles of Jesus backed up His authoritative way of speaking. It caused some important people to seek Him out:

Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2)

The miracles showed that God was with Jesus. Jesus also used this to encourage His opposition to accept Him:

If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Then they attempted again to seize him, but he escaped their clutches. (John 10:37-39)

It was the miracles that Jesus performed that gave strength to those who believed and would later bring the gospel of the kingdom of Heaven to the world.

Monday: His Authority Over Disease

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