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Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Miracles

Jesus’ Miracles
1. How many times did Jesus raise the dead?
2. What was Jesus’ first miracle?
3. How many lepers does the Bible say Jesus healed?
4. When did Jesus use physical items in healing someone?
5. Where do Peter’s Fish get their name?
6. Why couldn’t Peter walk on water?
7. Who slowed Jesus down on his way to heal someone?
8. Why did the pigs run over the cliff?
9. Which miracle made the disciples ask “Who is this?”
10. What are the essential ingredients of any healing?

The four gospels don’t include all the same miracles with the same order and details. While they were written relatively soon (for historical documents) after the events they describe, they’re clearly not blow-by-blow newspaper diaries. But in those days it was far more important to group related facts together in writing, rather than depicting events chronologically. (Have you ever tried choosing between writing chronological minutes for a meeting, and writing a clear account of what was discussed?)

Turning water into wine at a Cana wedding feast is only mentioned in John’s gospel (John 2), but it’s usually acknowledged as Jesus’ first miracle, partly because Jesus tells his mother “My time has not yet come.” The assumption is that his “time” came afterwards, and many healings followed to authenticate his ministry and illustrate his teaching. Mark and Luke record Jesus’ first healing as being of a possessed man who proclaims him Messiah and is told to be silent (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34), setting the scene for the rest of the story. Matthew opens with many, non-specific healings (Matt 4:24), then moves straight into the sermon on the mount.

Jesus’ miracles can be grouped into nature miracles and healing miracles, with the ultimate healings (in human terms) being when someone is raised from the dead. Jesus is recorded as raising Jairus’ daughter (even though no-one there had faith), a widow’s son at Nain, and, of course, Lazarus (another well-known story, told only in John). Other healings include the blind (one of whom was healed with the aid of a paste of mud and spittle), the paralyzed (one let down from the roof, one by a pool), the demon-possessed (who might include those with mental illnesses, and the man whose demons went into pigs), lepers (who might include those with other skin diseases), a withered hand, two “female” problems (Luke 13 adds another to the one with the hemorrhage), the deaf and dumb (one of whom was healed with the aid of spittle and wiping out his ears), Peter’s mother-in-law, and, of course, Malchus’ servant in the Garden of Gethsemane. Miracles of nature include turning water into wine, walking on water, calming storms, finding a coin in a fish’s mouth, withering a fig tree, and providing large catches of fish.

Jesus ties healing to faith several times: healing the centurion’s servant, healing the paralytic let down from the roof; healing a woman who touches his garment—which delayed him so much that Jairus’ daughter died and had to be raised; the Canaanite woman’s daughter; several blind men (Mat 9:22, Mark 10:52); the woman who washed his feet (she was “saved” which might include healing from guilt); and the tenth leper (Luke 17:19). But lack of faith is not necessarily tied to lack of healing (or lack of protection), though Peter’s ability to walk on water seemed to depend on faith, or on where he was looking to for help. Jesus calms the storm despite the disciples’ lack of faith (they looked to him, and afterwards seemed more awed by his power over nature—something magicians and even well-learned Romans couldn’t copy—than by his power over sickness); he feeds the thousands (twice), and heals the unfaithful lepers with the faithful.

Sometimes we’d like to make rules that define who can and can’t be healed, and when, and how, but Jesus seems to prefer compassion (Mat 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34, Mark 6:34; 8:2, Luke 7:13).

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

Thank you so much for this bible study Sheila. If everyone would start showing the compassion that our Lord had while walking on this earth, it would be a much better place to live. I think that we sometimes become more self-centered when it comes to other people in our lives. Lord help me to be more like You. God's blessing too you. Lloyd