The Miraculous Ministry of Jesus
The ministry of Jesus is miraculous. It was miraculous from the beginning, being born of the virgin Mary. It was miraculous at the end, being raised from the dead on the third day. And it was miraculous every moment in between.
In our world, where “normal” is an acceptance of brokenness and an expectation of disappointment, miracles feel like a break from reality. An interruption. Something crashing in from outside this world. But the Bible doesn’t present miracles as a break from reality. The Bible presents miracles as an in-breaking of ultimate reality.
In his book, Can We Trust the Gospels?, Theologian Peter J. Williams explains biblical miracles this way.
“They are presented not as random disturbances of an otherwise orderly universe but as events that actually form an orderly pattern pointing to God’s meaningful action in the world. Reports of miracles surrounding Jesus are not disruptions of order but signs pointing to who he is.”
Miracles point us not only to what God can do but to who God is. The Bible includes them to display the character of God. Whether we realize it or not, that’s why we love the miracles of the Bible. They give us what our heart longs for: the miraculous hope of God. Our hearts long to believe in something greater than what our eyes can see and what science can explain. Miracles point to the power and glory and healing and provision and satisfaction of God who made this world, oversees this world, and one day will restore this world. Miracles prove that even when all looks lost, in the hands of God, it never really is.
The New Testament bears witness to the reality that God’s kingdom has been inaugurated in Christ. But while that new kingdom reigns, it does not yet reign as it will. There is an “already” but also a “not yet.” Jesus has already come but not yet consummated his kingdom as he one day will. As the entirety of the Christian life, miracles find their place somewhere here. The kingdom has broken in, and miracles are signposts pointing to what one day will be every day. But it’s not here yet.
John Stott said:
“Is not the most helpful way to approach the gospel miracles to place them within the familiar and inescapable tension between the already and the not yet, kingdom come and kingdom coming, the new age inaugurated and the new age consummated? To the skeptical (who doubt all miracles), I want to say ‘but already we have tasted the powers of the age to come.’ To the credulous (who think that healing miracles are an everyday occurrence), I want to say ‘but not yet have we been given resurrection bodies free from disease, pain, infirmity, handicap, and death.’” (Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal Evangelical Dialogue)
The miraculous ministry of Jesus points us to the kingdom God brought—and is bringing—into this world. But there is more yet to come. As great as a miracle is, we know—and God knows—a healing, a raising, a providing, a calming, a restoring in this world, no matter how real, is only temporary. All who were healed, raised, provided for, calmed, and restored one day died.
The miraculous is fascinating, but it’s not the point of God’s work. To see only the miracle and not raise one’s eyes above to the giver of the miracle is like licking the rock splattered with the water from the raging river beyond. Miracles are calls to come to the source and open wide. They reveal what only God can do, and create a longing for another. No one who saw a miracle ever wanted to see only one miracle. That’s why the crowds followed Jesus. They wanted another. Another they have, if they’ll look not for the miracle itself.
God’s miracles are funny things. They provide for our most pressing needs while revealing our need far beyond. Jesus never performed a miracle someone didn’t need that very moment; but he also never performed a miracle for someone that didn’t have a greater need. As much as we may cry out for something only God can do, miracles point us to the someone only God is. Only God can give sight to the blind. Only God can grant hearing to the deaf. Only God can calm the storms at sea. Only God can make five loaves into a feast for thousands. Only God can raise the dead. But none of those things are the point. All are but mere pointers to the God who is there and is not silent, calling out through the miracles to our need for him.