More on miracles…

December 9, 2010

I forgot to make this point in the preceding entry…

Notice this: Jesus’ enemies don’t dispute the fact of his miracle-working (as we moderns would if Jesus were walking on earth today), only in whose name and by what authority Jesus works the miracles. Even John the Baptist’s doubts about Jesus (“Are you one, or should we expect another?”) aren’t because Jesus is failing to work miracles (which would likely be the basis for our doubts today). In fact, Jesus reassures John by recounting the miracles, not simply to prove that he has the power to work them (which isn’t disputed), but in order to point to their deeper meaning: they reveal something about Jesus’ identity and God’s kingdom.

Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Luke 7:22).

From our modern point of view, it’s hard to imagine that the fact of Jesus’ miracles was uncontroversial, but it seems to be. Given the hundreds of eyewitnesses who purportedly saw or experienced these miracles throughout Galilee or Judea, it would be risky for the evangelists to say Jesus performed them publicly, when so many people could have easily contradicted them. “I remember Jesus’ teaching and preaching, but healing the sick—whoever heard of such a thing?”

This lends credence to Malina and Rohrbaugh’s view discussed earlier: We don’t and can’t experience reality the way people living in the first century did.

4 Responses to “More on miracles…”

  1. Paul Wallace Says:

    Thank you for you well-considered words on miracles, Brent. I recall something C.S. Lewis wrote about miracles. He said something like, “It is true that the ancients may have been predisposed to see the miraculous, but it is also true that we are predisposed to *not* seeing them.”

    The certain knowledge that I am incapable of seeing the world the way 1st-century Palestinian Jews did keeps me open on the question of miracles, and is one of the most compelling reasons I have for my agnosticism (as opposed to outright disbelief).

    Thanks again.

    • brentwhite Says:

      You’re welcome, Paul. That C.S. Lewis book “Miracles” is sitting on my shelf. I haven’t read it yet. I think a suspension of disbelief is a reasonable position. Often, either believing or disbelieving (over which we have little control) is beside the point. We miss what’s being communicated through the story.

  2. Carol Smith Says:


    I think we’re generally so cynical today. A friend was recently recounting two experiences that would be defined as miracles both by today’s definition and in biblical times.

    She wanted to talk about it, but seemed embarrassed, even in a circle of close friends who love her. No one in the group said much, which made me wonder if they were questioning the possiblity of her experiences.

    It’s hard to see what we don’t believe in.

    • brentwhite Says:

      That sounds about right. It’s funny: When I’ve been around some Pentecostal Christians, who frequently speak in terms of miracles and have little trouble believing in them, I sense great power in their faith. Not only that, also a sincerity that is appealing to me. I think it’s because I am generally so cynical. I feel encouraged and strengthened by people like that.

      I said this in a sermon recently, but I want people like that praying for me, that’s for sure!

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