The Bible does not teach physics, astronomy, trigonometry, or geology. It does, however, teach miracles. Extract the miracles from God’s Word and you are left with a lifeless, boring book. The excitement and interest associated with miracles help preserve God’s Word from extinction. Miracles arrest our attention and focus our hearts on God. The miracles are closely connected with the faith of participants, observers, and those who read about them. Each one is a spiritual lesson pointing to a deeper revelation. Miracles are designed to strengthen faith. They are incomprehensible and defy explanation for they are outside the realm of human experience. They are not grown in laboratories. Miracles transcend knowledge and deviate from the known laws of nature. The study of miracles is a didactic adventure into the heart of God.
The term “miracle” is not a Bible word, but is derived from the Latin miraculum, meaning “to wonder.” This describes the most common human reaction to miracles (Mk. 13:22). Several Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Biblical terms are used to describe miraculous activity and are variously translated as signs, mighty works, and powers (Lk. 2:12; Lk. 10:13 & Mk. 3:15).
The Bible pictures every miracle as a work closely connected with God. They are the universal language of God and each is a dramatic statement about His character. A miracle draws back the curtain of heaven and reveals the omniscient Creator. Every miracle is characterized by its own distinctiveness, power, and significance. A miracle is a reminder that God is alive, active, and concerned about us. His pervasive activity stirs us from our self-complacency and forces open our spiritual eyes.
Performing a miracle is natural for the Creator, but to human beings they appear supernatural. How a person views the miraculous is directly related to how they view the universe. If they perceive the world as controlled by fixed and unalterable natural laws they will not allow for the possibility of miracles. But those who affirm God controls and monitors His creation readily accept His ability to intervene, alter, and suspend His own laws. Believers regard God’s creation as being continually dependent upon His sustaining activity (Col. 1:17).
Old Testament miracles primarily focus on the forces of nature. They are most often associated with great events in Israel’s history, such as the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the giving of the Law, and entrance into the Promised Land. Miracles of that era usually accelerate or suspend the laws of physics. An ax head floats (II Kgs. 6:6). A donkey speaks (Num. 22:30). Water gushes from a rock (Num. 20:11). Fire and brimstone rain down (Gen. 19:24). Jonah escapes being digested (Jon. 2:10). Jericho’s walls fall down (Josh. 6:20). The mouths of lions are closed (Dan. 6:22). The Red Sea splits (Ex. 14:21). The sun stands still (Josh. 10:13). All the Biblical writers present such events as occurring by God’s sovereign power. They are recorded without elaboration or explanation, for they are consistent with His nature.
The first notable miracles in the Bible are associated with the Exodus. At the burning bush, God says Pharaoh will expect Moses to produce impeccable credentials (Ex. 7:8-9). Jehovah knows without catastrophic demonstrations of heavenly power the mightiest ruler on earth will never release his slaves. God’s schedules the calamities that come upon Egypt. Their prediction, occurrence, and withdrawal at Moses’ command affirm Jehovah is controlling these forces. Pharaoh’s magicians can only explain these wonders as “the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19).
New Testament miracles are much different from those in the former dispensation. They tend to be more personal and benefit individuals. The frequency of healing miracles is greater in the Gospels and Acts than in any era of Old Testament history. In a relaxed and natural style the Gospel writers record the incarnation, transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension. They weave miracles into their narratives seamlessly and without embellishment.
Gentleness and compassion are the hallmarks of the ministry of Jesus. Each miracle performed is a response to a specific need (Mt. 11:5). His miracles are based on empathy and are an integral aspect of His teachings. They are performed publically as a sign of His divinity. Those who read the Gospel narratives form conclusions about the Son of God that are based on His words as well as His actions. The miracles of Christ are outward manifestations of the His divine nature:
Jesus is a provider and feeds the hungry (Mk. 6:42).
Jesus has power over life and raises the dead (Mk. 5:42).
Jesus controls demons and exorcizes them (Lk. 8:33).
Jesus is a healer and cures lepers (Lk. 17:11).
Jesus gives men strength and energizes the impotent (Jn. 5:9).
Jesus is a prophet and money is found in a fish’s mouth (Mt. 17:27).
Jesus gives spiritual sight and heals blind eyes (Mk. 10:52).
Jesus has power over nature and calms our storms (Mk. 4:39).
Christ always performs miracles effortlessly. While numerous afflictions are treated, it appears as easy for Him to heal the sick as to raise the dead. His miracles are diverse. Sometimes He heals with a touch, by His word, or from a distance (Mt. 8:8). His healings are consistently gender-inclusive and interracial. They are not restricted to any class of people. Both rich and poor are healed (Mt. 8:9 & Mk. 5:28).
The Pharisees view miracles as part of their rich heritage and demand to know the source of Jesus’ power (Mt. 12:38). While they may dismiss His teachings, they cannot as easily dismiss His miracles. Jesus confirms His words with signs because they validate His divinity (Mk. 16:20). However, the Lord will not be coerced into doing a miracle. Satan suggests He make bread from stones (Lk. 4:3). Herod wants Jesus to do a magical trick for him (Lk. 23:8). Religious rulers demand Jesus free Himself from His cross (Lk. 23:35). Jesus consistently refuses to prostitute His powers. Neither Jesus nor His disciples perform miracles for their own amusement or self-aggrandizement.
An unwillingness to accept the miraculous stems, not from a superior intellect, but from a deformed intellect. Those who are ignorant of God’s priorities view miracles as fantastic. Those who know Jesus personally view them as normative. To unbelievers, miracles are great mysteries. To Believers, they are great revelations.
Jesus makes it clear miracles will continue to be performed through His followers. “Greater works will you do because I go to My Father” (Jn. 14:12). Present-day miracles result from our relationship with Christ. Wondrous works done in His name are the continuation of all He has promised (Acts 1:1). Because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” His omnipotence and omnipresence allow Believers to expect the miraculous (Heb. 13:8).