We’ve seen the real story of Jesus’ birth, how he chose an unlikely group of disciples and his controversial teachings. But why did Jesus perform miracles? Do miracles still happen today? Does faith guarantee healing? There’s a lot of misconceptions today, let’s walk through what the Bible has to say.
- Part 1 | CHILDHOOD: Who is Jesus?
- Part 2 | MINISTRY: Who were Jesus’ disciples?
- Part 3 | MINISTRY: What did Jesus teach?
- Part 4 | MINISTRY: Why did Jesus perform miracles?
- Part 5 | ARREST: What happened in the last days of Jesus’ life?
- Part 6 | DEATH: Why did Jesus die on the cross?
- Part 7 | RETURN: What is Jesus doing now and when is he coming back?
- Part 8 | I saw Jesus in a dream
Listen to the podcast
What is a miracle?
God sustains the universe by his word. He holds our home planet at a 23.5 degree angle with a perfect gravity force so we are neither crushed nor float away. He tells the sun when to shine and the moon when to rise. He put each star in the sky. He encrypts a 3 billion letter human genome into every human cell and gives us bodies that adapt and give birth and even heal. And all the while he provides for our individual needs and establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
All these things are miraculous, so I have a difficult time placing rigid lines around this topic as the works of God shall remain mostly a mystery. But for the sake of this post, we’ll describe a miracle as when God does something outside his natural law to bring awareness to himself for his glory.
- Miracles in the Bible authenticate a leader has God’s favor.
- Miracles glorify God.
- Miracles have meaning and purpose.
- Miracles call us to worship.
Why did Jesus perform miracles?
Jesus performed miracles so that people would believe and his disciples would trust him as the one and only messiah.
About 35 of Jesus’ miracles are mentioned in the gospels as you can see in this chart, but John 21:25 says, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
That’s interesting to me, because I see that John only mentions 8 of these miracles. Three of them are healing, four are power over nature and one is raising someone from the dead (this does not include Jesus’ own resurrection). What I believe this means is that miracles were not the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry.
It is important to note that he does not do miracles as a spectacle or for entertainment. There are no firework displays or magic tricks. There was always meaning and purpose to each of them.
As Dan Ortlund says, “…miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain and death seem natural. In fact, they are the interruption.”
Let’s take a look at just a few of these miracles — his power to heal sickness, his power over nature and his power to raise the dead. We’ll start in Luke 8:40-56:
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
We have two contrasting stories happening simultaneously — a rich man and and sick woman both need Jesus’ help.
Jesus does not bypass the woman for someone of more status. He has time for her. Why did he ask who touched his robe? Did he not know? He did, but he wanted her to know that her faith in him healed her, not his robe. But more that, he wanted to present her to everyone as his own. This woman had been bleeding for 12 years, considered unclean by Jewish law and cast out of society. She might have even been hiding because she was considered unclean and not allowed in public spaces. But Jesus calls her daughter in front of everyone, claiming her as a daughter of God.
By the way, Luke says at least four times in his gospel that “he knew their thoughts,” so we know he is aware of every situation and agenda.
Meanwhile, the 12-year-old girl dies. Shouldn’t Jesus have had more urgency? No, he also knew this would happen. His power over death was demonstrated to Peter, John and James to even further their trust in him. By the way when he calls her “little girl,” it can also be translated “sweetie.”
Also, the number 12 (the number of years the woman was bleeding and the age of the girl) symbolizes eternal perfection according the the Blue Letter Bible.1
Are you under the impression, as I once was, that this was bothersome to Jesus? To constantly be mobbed by crowds, people touching his robe and constantly begging for healing?
This is what Dan says in his book Gentle and Lowly. Read carefully:
“He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down to the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.”
What happens to the sin, uncleanliness, the disease he forgives and heals? He takes it on himself, absorbs it and will pay for it on the cross.
We’re going to shift to an incredible moment when Jesus shows power over nature. Matthew 14:22-32
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
This miracle was specifically for the disciples, so they would believe. And their reaction was worship. This small mustard seed of a group would need the courage when Jesus was gone to build and grow God’s kingdom here on earth. There would be storms, there would be persecution. This experience showed them God’s authentication of Jesus as his son. It demonstrated Jesus’ power over all his creation. It would serve as a reminder to never lose faith, cast aside fear and cling to what Jesus taught them while we walked among men.
One more. Jesus has been informed that his friend Lazarus was dying by his sisters, Mary and Martha. When he heard this he stayed two days longer where he was, for he knew this would bring glory to to God.
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Now later in chapter 11 and 12 we see that because of this miraculous event some Jews put their faith in Jesus, but others went to tell the Pharisees what had happened. So they plotted to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus! He died and was brought back to life but people wanted to kill him again (John 12:11)! Poor Lazarus.
Ok, where to begin. I think a bulleted list is in order:
- Again, we see God authenticating Jesus as his son.
- This is a foreshadowing of his own resurrection, so that they will believe.
- Jesus has power over death.
- People glorified God and his son.
- Jesus meets people where they are.
Each of the sisters said the exact same thing to him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would have not died.” But his response was different to each of them. He knew what they needed and met them where they were emotionally. Martha needed comfort and wanted answers, so he responded to her in explanation that he would raise him from the dead and strengthens her faith in him as the Christ.
Mary on the other hand, falls at his feet in tears. He too meets her where she is, and being moved by her pain, also weeps. Why would he weep if he knew he would raise him from the dead? Because he weeps with us, he walks through pain with us, he is there beside us and doing it with us. He is not a distant savior, he stays near to the brokenhearted.
It could also be that knowing he would too be laid down in a tomb soon added to his troubled spirit.
Why were so many people possessed during Christ’s time?
We’ve seen Jesus heal, conquer nature, even raise the dead, but five of these miracles deal with demon possession and Matthew 8:16 says “they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons.” In these events the demons know exactly who Jesus is and call him the Son of God and Holy One. They also obey him in every circumstance. In fact, they are terrified of him.
I’ll borrow this excerpt from my Angel series:
Can people still be possessed by demons? This is a gray area and I don’t have all the answers, but I still want to address it. I believe possession can occur, but those cases are rare, few and far between. The demons can’t own someone as this word suggests, but rather occupy. But the person would have to give the demon permission through participation of occult or abuse of varying kinds. I heard a message by Alistair Begg once on Moody Radio saying he’d only encountered something like this a couple times in his long pastoral career. He said there’s no question when you do see it.
If you are a believer you can be oppressed, but not possessed. You have the Holy Spirit and Jesus has claimed you as His own. It’s important to mention, however, that oftentimes we voluntarily give over parts of our lives to the devil. We offer him footholds, something to work with, when we habitually sin. Erwin Lutzer writes, “If we walk in obedience, we have no reason to fear the works of the enemy, even though his attacks may be numerous and persistent.”
It is my theory that these possessions we read about in the gospels possibly happened more frequently because 1) The Holy Spirit had not yet descended and 2) Satan could see his defeat was eminent and his time on earth narrowing. He had to pull out all the stops when the Savior came as a man. It almost seems like his tactic has shifted to a quieter, more subtle evil. He is very much still at work, but would prefer to be unseen that way you’re not even sure if he exists or if God exists.
What is faith?
Jesus mentions the words “faith” and “believe” repeatedly after miracles. It clearly plays a big role in the healing of these people. Let’s look at some of Jesus’ responses after he heals:
- Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.
- According to your faith will it be done to you.
- Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.
- Go, your faith has healed you.
Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
1 Peter 1:8-9: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Faith in action
The faith that healed these people shows they believed Jesus was who he said he was — the Son of God who created the universe. Faith is not something we can earn by works, it can only be given by God. Faith produces glorious joy and saves our souls.
Jesus said even if we have faith even the size of the tiny mustard seed we can move mountains — nothing will be impossible (Matthew 17:20)! As the small seed grows into a tree, so does our faith grow and blossom over time spent in relationship with God. (This is another hyperbole. You will not move actual mountains. The mountains represent obstacles;)
If you struggle to understand the definition of faith, as I did for a long time, remember it is not a magical feeling, it is conviction and action. Hebrews chapter 11 is called the faith hall of fame. Take the time to read it to see how faith plays out, how it is much more than a feeling, it is doing. (I’ll bold the action in the verses below to help you see.)
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
These people acted on their faith and were rewarded. And the people Jesus healed acted on their faith, called out to him for help repeatedly when people told them to be quiet. They sought him out with determination among the large crowd just to touch his robe. They poured their best perfume on his feet in worship.
Does faith guarantee healing?
The Quest Study Bible (pg 1432):
“Jesus teaches that faith prompts God to respond to our need. Sometimes, it is the faith of friends or family that God rewards. Occasionally, God’s healing work seems unrelated to anyone’s faith — the only explanation is God’s sovereign choice. But Jesus never teaches that faith automatically brings healing. In Christ’s 35 miracles recorded in the Gospels, no formula to guarantee healing can be found.”
Sickness is not punishment
It’s also important to mention affliction is not punishment from sin. We live in a fallen world and sin has crept into every crack and crevice, corrupting and destroying. Of course there are natural consequences from our sin, but God is not punishing you. Let’s read from John 9:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
We also read in Job that he was an upstanding man who God allowed to be tested by Satan to prove to him how faithful humans can be.
Why did Jesus ask some to keep quiet about miracles and not others?
We read many times Jesus asking the person he has just heals to not tell anyone. Other times he tells them to spread the word. Why? This answer is simple enough. At the beginning of his ministry he couldn’t risk rushing the cross. He needed time to do God’s plan and the more people who knew, the harder that would become.
I think a secondary answer would be that he needed time to invest in his disciples. He had much to teach them in a short time and the future of Christianity was on their shoulders. If word spread he could heal, there would be more and more crowds. And there were. Because as we read, the people could not keep quiet about the wonders they witnessed.
Would more people believe today if they saw miracles?
Jesus’ wonders did solidify many people’s faith in his claims to be God’s son, but not always — or even usually (John 12:37).
In John 6, the morning after Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, some of the same crowd the followed him across the sea and demanded more miracles and displays. And this is just after they had just seen him feed 5,000 people! For some, it is never enough.
They saw Christ face to face, witnessed his miracles and it still was not enough to earn their affection or trust.
It’s the same today, we wonder if people would believe if he were here physically with us, but even 2,000 years ago thousands of people saw his signs and heard his words and rejected him.
And, of course, there seems to be a Pharisee lurking on every corner to criticize Jesus’ healings, saying he is possessed by demons or unlawfully healing on the sabbath.
And honestly, I don’t think humans would be happy with or without the miracles. If he had done nothing supernatural, outside the laws of physics, we would question if he was truly all-powerful. Yet when He does them, we say “Nah, I can’t believe that could ever happen.”
Are there miracles still today?
First, let’s put something into perspective. There are arguably 56 or so miracles in the Old Testament which spans thousands of years. So animals weren’t going onto arks or seas parting on a regular basis. According to Concise Theology by J.I. Packer, “These miracles in Scripture are nearly all clustered in the time of the Exodus, of Elijah and Elisha, and of Christ and his apostles.”
Jesus broke the mold with his countless miracles, but this was an exceptional time when God was on Earth! And the people witnessing his works comment consistently that they — or even Israel — had ever seen such wonders.
Ok, so we have established that miracles are not the norm. God tends to operate within the natural laws he created. But are there still miracles today?
Yes! There are healings and rescues and prophesies that all bring glory to God. He is still moving, speaking to us, bringing awareness to himself! He has given us spiritual gifts and fruit of the Spirit, but the biggest miracle we see today is Jesus continuing to bring the spiritually dead to life.
I cannot speak authoritatively, but rather speculatively, that miracles might look different today than in biblical times. The power-over-nature miracles used to show a leader had God’s favor in the Old Testament would be no longer necessary as Jesus is our final high priest and has already been shown to be who he says he is.
Let me explain, with humility, because no one can say what God will or will not do. When Jesus was on the cross, he said “It is finished.” His work was complete — the fulfillment of the old law and moving into the new covenant with him. Finally humans can be reconciled with God! This is the story of the entire Bible.
The biblical leaders were authenticated through miracles. Noah and the ark, Moses and the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua defeating Jericho, Daniel surviving the lion’s den, etc. — these special events authenticated their leadership through God. The Jewish people have a tumultuous story. They would need these stories to cling to, to believe, to have faith.
In the New Testament we read in Acts about the apostles performing miracles, exorcisms and healing people. God authenticated them as well through miracles, so people would believe during this delicate time of preaching the gospel to the world for the first time.
Christ, the ultimate leader and messiah, has already been authenticated and we have the privilege of living this side of the cross in great anticipation of his return! There is nothing that can be added to the Bible. It is indeed finished. He conquered death and has complete victory.
And one final note. Friend, be cautious of healing events and street miracle workers. Select wayward leaders have made a mockery of God’s miracles and profited millions of dollars from afflicted, suffering people. They seek their own glory, not God’s. And when the person is not healed, they tell them it is their lack of faith. This is wrong and this is not the definition of faith we are operating from.
Healing our hearts takes precedence over healing our bodies. Again, the biggest miracle and best miracle is Jesus continuing to bring the spiritually dead to life.
Share on social media