Monday, February 24, 2003

Jesus' Miracles and What They Teach Us

This is part 3 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.

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

He Had Authority over Disease

The Blind Man in the Village

There are two elements in this story that are unusual, and they are possibly related. The first is that Jesus led this man out of a village to heal him and then forbade him to return. The second is that Jesus made two attempts before the healing was complete. Was the problem with Jesus or with the man? What was the problem with the village?

Then they came to Bethsaida. They brought Jesus a blind man and asked him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” Regaining his sight he said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again; then he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26, The Net Bible)

The Centurion's Slave

There is some circumstantial evidence that this centurion was Cornelius whose household marked the spreading of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Here is the story of his encounter with Jesus. What did this Gentile centurion see that the Jewish followers did not yet see?

After Jesus had finished teaching all this to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was highly regarded, but who was sick and at the point of death. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they urged him earnestly, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, because he loves our nation, and even built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not presume to come to you. Instead, say the word, and my servant must be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him. He turned and said to the crowd that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” So when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well. (Luke 7:1-10)

The Man Born Blind

I urge you to become familiar with the rest of this story as recorded in John. The dynamics between Jesus, this man, his parents, and the ruling authorities are astounding:

Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him. We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”). So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing. Then the neighbors and the people who had seen him previously as a beggar began saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some people said, “This is the man!” while others said, “No, but he looks like him.” The man himself kept insisting, “I am the one.” So they asked him, “How then were you made to see?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and was able to see.” They said to him, “Where is that man?” He replied, “I don’t know.” They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees. (John 9:1-13)

The Woman with a Hemorrhage

It is worth comparing this story with the story of the centurion and his servant. Each had a different idea about how Jesus' healing worked. For the centurion, healing could come at His command and the presence of Jesus was unnecessary. For the woman, the presence was necessary and the command or even awareness of Jesus was not. Why did Jesus honor both? What common element binds the tales?

Now a woman was there who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years but could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, and at once the bleeding stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who was it who touched me?” When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing against you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I know that power has gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not escape notice, she came trembling and fell down before him. In the presence of all the people, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:43-48)

Observations

There is no question that faith played a critical role in the Jesus' healing. Matthew wrote, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:58) To understand this fully, I think we need to distinguish three faith-states of the heart: belief, no belief, and unbelief. To use three different terms: faith, ignorance, and denial. Ignorance is solvable with education. Denial or unbelief is a moral defect and requires repentance, a change of mind and heart, and a different view of the world. The centurion and the woman with a hemorrhage represent people with a high level of faith,  which is represented by the risks that they took. The centurion had a slave at the point of death, but he risked having Jesus just speak a command from a distance. For the woman, Jesus was moving as quickly as he could in order to arrive in time to heal the daughter of Jairus. If she did not receive the healing, there was no knowing when He would return to the area. Both bet there well being on a subtle understanding of Jesus' authority and power. The centurion risked everything on his belief that Jesus had authority. The woman risked everything on her belief that Jesus had power. For both, their faith achieved their ends and Jesus played the less direct role. He commanded and the servant received healing. She touched and power flowed out of Him.

The case of the man born blind is an example of ignorance. This man did not know who Jesus was. Jesus chose to heal Him so that the glory of God would be manifested. There was no exercise of faith on the blind man's part, but rather the miracle awakened his faith. So one with no faith can be brought to faith by the miracle. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had unbelieving hearts. They were not ignorant. They had questioned both the man and his parents. They discovered that he was born blind and that he could now see. Their investigations revealed that it was Jesus who had healed the man and they knew from past investigations who Jesus was. In spite of this, they chose to cast the now seeing man from the synagogue.

Jesus healed out of compassion, for the glory of God, and in response to faith. Unbelief, in the sense of a chosen path, will block the flow of God's power. The book of Hebrews develops this theme in great detail and it is my hope to bring that to you some time later. But for now, I would ask you to reflect on the faith-state of your heart. Study to discover and correct ignorance and seek God to help increase your faith.

Tuesday: His Authority Over Satan

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

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