Van Gogh painted the raising of
Lazarus from the dead
|‘Miracles’ is a word much overused, even abused: ‘that goal was an absolute miracle…’; ‘getting that report in on time was nothing short of a miracle’. But the definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary is, ‘A marvellous event exceeding the known powers of nature, and therefore supposed to be due to the special intervention of the Deity.’
The Old Testament is full of amazing miracles, as was Jesus’ ministry—his birth and resurrection were the greatest of them all. During his three-year ministry he performed 34 miracles as described in the gospels (NT).
Jesus’ miracles are described as falling into three types: healing, command over the forces of nature, and bringing the dead back to life. The 23 healing miracles are the largest group—curing leprosy, demonic possession, blindness, paralysis, and haemorrhaging. Command over the forces of nature included walking on the water (by both Jesus and Peter), calming the storm, feeding the 5,000 and turning water into wine. Jesus also brought Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter back from the dead.
Jesus’ power over every earthly thing is highlighted by the fact that his word was enough: no magic tricks were required. Even secretly touching the hem of Jesus’ robe caused one faithful women to be healed. The miracles served two purposes: they were ‘signs and wonders’, demonstrating Jesus’ authority as equal to God’s; and secondly, therefore, they led people to faith. They demonstrated Jesus’ great compassion and love for mankind, and fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of healing.
Jesus gave his disciples authority to bring about miracles in his name, which they continued to do even after he died. But miracles were also performed by the 72 others sent out by Jesus (see Luke [NT] chapter 10), saying, “Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, the Kingdom of God is near you.” So we can all ask for miracles, because the power is God’s, not ours.
So do miracles happen today? The Roman Catholic Church requires stringent medical evidence of a miracle. Many other churches take the view that miracles not only happen relatively frequently (including all the same sorts of things Jesus did), but that the modern Church should reflect the early Church, as described in the books of Acts and Romans (NT), when many signs and wonders happened. Miracles are therefore to be expected, are personal to those involved, and need not be proved or recorded.
I think it’s a miracle every time a prayer is answered. Is this not ‘a marvellous event exceeding the known powers of nature, and therefore… due to the special intervention of the Deity’? And the wonder of miracles is not just that God has acted on our behalf, but that he knows us so well, and loves us so much, that he would want to do so.
Miracles come in many forms. Your own miracle of healing may take place over time, and under the care of a doctor. Not every miracle comes with a flash-bang-wallop. But they all deserve the awe and wonder that we rightly reserve for an unimaginably powerful and loving God.
Look up what Jesus said about his miracles
Look up Jesus’ miracles
Watch the BBC DVD The Miracles of Jesus, presented by Rageh Omaar
Watch the movie The Miracle Maker featuring Ralph Fiennes, Richard E Grant and Sir Ian Holm
Watch the clip When You Believe from the movie Prince of Egypt
Watch the music video Do It Again, asking God to perform miracles
Smile: Watch a clip of Rowan Atkinson as vicar, on the subject of miracles
Find out more about Jesus’ miracles at the BBC website
Read the book Miracles: True Stories of How God Acts by Geoff Price & Hope Price
Read the book Miracles by C S Lewis
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