THE IDENTITY OF JESUS – PART VI

We have reviewed the witness of fulfilled prophecy and history and the claims of His followers and of Christ Himself. But what of the many miracles attributed to this man from Galilee? Are these but legendary? Or could they be real evidence of the Divine?

MIRACULOUS EVIDENCE

This brings us to another compelling form of evidence for the divinity of Christ, his miracles. As noted by the testimony of Nicodemus, and the attitude of the authorities, the fact that Jesus could perform healings and signs was never challenged by his enemies. Having just witnessed the healing of two blind men and the casting out of a demon from a mute, they were amazed and challenged instead the source of his power. “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel….It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matthew 9:28-33)

Searching the ancient records, it was not unknown for rabbis to be able to perform exorcisms, or even successfully pray for rain. But it was the nature of Christ’s miracles that set him apart. As we have seen when He walked on the water and calmed the raging storm, nature itself responded to his commands. The very order of his miracles was greater than any performed by those other Rabbis. Jesus healed the blind and the deaf, caused the lame to walk, multiplied loaves and fish, and raised the dead. Furthermore he did it all on his own authority.[i]   But miracles such as these did not go unpredicted. In fact this is just further evidence of Jesus‟ Messianic identity. In Isaiah 35:5-6 it is written, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.”

 These miracles were not questioned at the time. In fact they were among the most important tools used by the Apostles in the early spread of Christianity. In his address to the crowds on the first Pentecost, Peter relied on the very fact that the miracles of Jesus were well known and accepted to make his case. “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Act 2:22) As you yourselves know.” The miracles of the recently crucified Christ could serve as a tool only because they were so widely known and accepted by the populace. Jesus‟ miracles were not denied by his enemies because they could not be. They were performed in public before believers and non-believers alike. And amazingly they demonstrated a wide mastery over the forces of nature. Jesus not only healed the sick and the lame, but also calmed the storm, fed the multitudes, and raised the dead. His was an overwhelming demonstration of divine power. That is what it was intended to be.

Yet those miracles were always performed with an end in mind. Jesus repeatedly refused the demands of the crowds to perform a sign as a form of entertainment or to satisfy their curiosity. In fact such demands for a sign always seemed to come on the heels of some great miracle just performed. In the 12th chapter of Matthew we are told of an exorcism Jesus performed on a man, restoring at the same time his ability to see and to speak. Hearing of this the Pharisees did not question the miracle but instead attacked him for tapping into the power of Beelzebub to cast out demons. Later they demanded a miraculous sign. But Jesus refused to play their game. Instead he rebuked them for the disingenuous of their request. Like the atheist who has determined that no amount of evidence could ever convince him of the possibility of the supernatural, the Pharisees were impervious to any weight of proof. To admit that Jesus was the Messiah would have challenged their position and undermined their authority. Miracles were the signs that Christ used to validate his case, demonstrate God’s love, and give glory to the Father. They were always an expression of spiritual truth, never to gain the approval of the crowd or any personal advantage.[ii]

Now there are critics out there who will claim that the miracles of Jesus were an invention of the Gospel authors. They begin with a totally mechanistic view of nature. Their argument goes something like this; Miracles are impossible because they violate the laws of nature. The Gospels contain accounts of miracles. Therefore we can’t trust the Gospels in this matter. If we can’t trust the Gospels then we have no reasonable evidence that the miracles ever occurred. Of course this is circular reasoning and against the evidence we have for the reliability of the Gospels.[iii] Again we know two facts about the existence of miracles. The teachings of Christ, that relied so much upon the reality of the miracles to validate it’s message, were being broadcast to the populace less than two months after his execution on the day of Pentecost. Eyewitnesses to the contrary would surely have fatally wounded any effort to spread the new belief. Instead at the very first teaching by the Apostle Peter, three thousand people came to believe in Jesus. This would not have been possible in Jerusalem if the miracles of Christ were not well known. Secondly, Jesus’ closest disciples, the witnesses to so many of the wonders, ultimately gave their lives as testimony to the truth of those teachings. They fully believed, and they were in a position to know.

It all comes down to the supremacy of God. If an all-powerful, creator God exists, then miracles become imminently possible. We must follow where the evidence takes us. It has brought us a long way thus far. We have been led to the existence of God by the very real presence of the moral law, and by the very fact of our existence. The unbelievably complex design of our universe and all of its component parts confirm this for us. We have been led to the God of the Bible by the inexorable logic of the existence of evil and sin and the need for atonement that that entails. The demonstrated reliability of that book and the fulfillment of its prophecies have confirmed this. The evidence has taken us to the threshold of the divine. An all-powerful God, existing outside of time and space; one responsible for the creation of the universe with all its natural laws would have no problem with the miraculous. These natural laws are not the problem. To quote Paul Little in Know Why You Believe, Natural laws do not cause anything in the sense that God causes and creates. These are merely descriptions of what we observe to be happening.” The problem then lies in the assumptions one brings to the question. If science brings the assumption of naturalism of course it will find no evidence for the miraculous. It would be wrong because it would be passing judgement on a subject outside of its bailiwick. This is true first of all, because natural laws are descriptive and therefore cannot forbid phenomena from occurring. Secondly, because the proposition is that God caused the ‘miracle,’ while operating outside of the natural law, proof that an occurrence violated natural law would just establish that an event was indeed miraculous. It all comes down to the existence of God. If God ‘IS,’ by definition the supernatural is possible.[iv]

[i] Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Zondervan, 1998, pg 158

[ii] Paul E Little, Know Why You Believe, Chariot Victor, 1999, pg 93-98

[iii] Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Zondervan, 1998, pg 154-155

[iv] Paul E Little, Know Why You Believe, Chariot Victor, 1999, pg 90

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