Thursday, February 27, 2003

Jesus' Miracles and What They Teach Us

This is part 6 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 Over Nature

Jesus was not the first person to raise a dead person to life. As recorded in 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah prayed for the life to return to the son of a widow. Elijah had to ask, but Jesus commanded. That should be enough to establish Jesus as the Son of God with unique authority. In this section, however, we move to the realm divine fiat wherein  Jesus commanded and transformed nature.

Jesus calmed a storm. The cynic would say coincidence, but those who were there thought otherwise:

As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And a great storm developed on the sea so that the waves began to swamp the boat. But he was asleep. So they came and woke him up saying, “Lord, save us! We are about to die!” But he said to them, “Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was dead calm. And the men were amazed and said, “What sort of person is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27), The Net Bible)

Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and "dead calm" prevailed. There is a suggestion here of sudden and dramatic change and not the gradual subsiding of a fierce and raging storm.

Jesus could operate outside the boundaries of physical laws:

As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the water they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fear. But immediately he spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.” So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:25-33)

There are bugs who take advantage of the surface tension of water to walk or skim on the surface of water. Beyond that an object on water sinks or floats. Jesus walked. So it would seem that underlying physical laws of the universe were suspended locally.

Jesus created food from nowhere:

When the apostles returned, they told Jesus all that they had done. Then he took them and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida. But when the crowds found out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing. Now the day began to draw to a close; so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.) Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and the people all sat down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them. He gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up—twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:10-17) 

Jesus altered the molecular makeup of water including adding the presence of molecular elements not originally present:

Now on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and both Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine left.” Jesus replied, “Woman, why are you saying this to me? My time has not yet come.” His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washing, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the water jars with water.” So they filled them up to the very top. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the head steward,” and they did. When the head steward tasted the water that had been turned to wine, not knowing where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the cheaper wine when the guests are drunk. You have kept the good wine until now!” Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)

Observations

With a command He calmed the storm. With a step, He makes a firm footpath on the surface of the sea. With a blessing, He multiplies bread and fish. With nothing at all, He turns water to wine.

What really strikes me is that when you compare healing with demonization with death with nature there emerges a remarkable fact. As you move from healing to nature, Jesus' effort seems to be less. You have the example of the blind man that Jesus healed in two stages, but to raise the dead, Jesus commanded the dead person to rise. To create food for 5,000 men and their families, Jesus merely blessed. The reason for this is personality. God has created this universe such that our unbelief constrains Him. The wind and the sea must obey Him, we do not. It seems the Lord wanted creatures who freely loved, and, therefore, have the capacity to hate. 

To take the concept of effort to its fullest extent, the miracle of our salvation cost Jesus His life.

Thursday: Jesus' Authority Delegated to His Disciples

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

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