The Miracles of Jesus—Did They Really Happen?
YOU may believe in the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Bible; then again, you may not. Or you may shrug your shoulders and ask: ‘Does it really matter?’ But you should not ignore the subject of miracles. If Jesus’ miracles did not happen, then the authoritativeness of some of the teachings of the most influential man who ever lived may be called into question. But if they did happen, your whole future could be changed.
According to the dictionary, a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” It is an event exciting wonder, completely unexplainable in terms of human knowledge. The Bible tells us that when Jesus was on earth he performed many such miracles. These were basically of four kinds, as can be seen in the chart on the following page. Even today, no one can explain how Jesus could have done such things.
Did They Really Happen?
Many believe they did not. One theologian contended that the miracle accounts were simply “exaggerations or misapprehensions of quite ordinary events.” Is that true? Or were those who claimed to witness the miracles deceived somehow? Or should we view the miracle accounts as mere symbols, ways of conveying profound truths in a pictorial way? Well, consider.
It is difficult to see how we could view the stories of Jesus’ miracles as “misapprehensions of quite ordinary events.” On one occasion Jesus is said to have raised a widow’s son from the dead when his corpse was actually being carried to the burial place. On another occasion, we are told, Jesus walked on the surface of the Sea of Galilee during a windstorm. (Luke 7:11-17; John 6:16-21) What kind of “ordinary events” could be exaggerated or misapprehended to give rise to that kind of story?
Nor is it reasonable to say that the eyewitnesses were tricked somehow. (John 9:16, Authorized Version) True, conjurers are adept at deceiving their audiences. Even modern scientists have been fooled by tricksters. But the reported miracles of Jesus were not the kind of thing that has fooled moderns. Jesus is said to have cured a man “full of leprosy” and stopped the flow of blood of a woman who had suffered for years. (Luke 5:12-16; 8:43-48) What conjurer could do that? While a professional magician can do amazing things when his equipment is set up on stage, no one can calm a storm or walk on the surface of a sea stirred up by a windstorm just by using trickery.
Neither can we say that the miracle accounts are merely symbols or illustrations. Some may feel that accounts describing resurrections were a pictorial way of showing that Jesus restored people to life in a spiritual way, giving their lives new meaning and direction. But that suggestion does not stand close scrutiny. The miracles involved real people. One person who was reported to have been resurrected was Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary. Lazarus really existed. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5) And after he was resurrected, the religious leaders tried to kill him because his resurrection was such a great sign. The resurrection of Lazarus is meant to be understood as real!—John 12:9-11.
Could it be, then, that the witnesses were just telling lies? Not possible! Jesus’ miracles were performed openly before large crowds. The accounts of them were published while many who saw them were still alive. These records, many written by eyewitnesses, still exist, preserved in the Bible. Read them for yourself and see how these narratives have the ring of truth. Serious matters are decided every day in courts of law—even matters involving life and death—on far less evidence than exists to prove that Jesus really did perform miracles.
Those miracles affected the lives of many who saw them. The greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus, profoundly changed the lives of his followers. Immediately after his death, these ones were discouraged, ready to go back to their former occupations. Then, after they had seen the resurrected Jesus and were enlightened by God’s spirit, they were willing to face the wrath of the Jewish priests and Roman rulers, boldly going to the boundaries of the Roman Empire and beyond, spreading the good news about him. (Acts 1:6-8; 4:8-13) Their courage is illustrated in Peter and John’s statement to the Jewish rulers: “But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) Would they have had such courage if they were lying when they said they had seen the resurrected Jesus?
Miracles and Modern Science
Is it reasonable, though, to believe in miracles in this scientific age? Yes, it is. While we today know a lot more about the workings of nature than people did in Jesus’ day, we do not know everything by any means. In fact, scientists find that the more they learn, the more there is to learn. They certainly have not yet reached the point where they can say with finality: This is possible, and this is not. They cannot say definitely, for example, that there is no source of power that could make possible the resurrection of a dead man or the restoration of a withered hand. All they can say is that they do not know how to do it. Hence, if it happened, it would give evidence of the intervention of a power higher than they are.
The Encyclopædia Britannica puts it this way: “Although the possibility of miracles is often confidently denied, such denial rests on an unproved assumption; since we do not know the continuity of nature so thoroughly as to be able to declare that this or that event is necessarily an interruption of it.”
Scientists have discovered that under abnormal conditions, things often act quite differently from what we might expect. For example, when lead is submerged in liquid helium cooled to a temperature of -456 degrees Fahrenheit (-271° C.) and is placed near a bar magnet, it becomes an excellent conductor and acts like a powerful electromagnet. Under normal conditions, any object heavier than air that is released in midair will fall to the ground. But consider the astronaut who simply floats around in his spaceship. Such things are hard to believe, unless you happen to know the laws of nature that make them possible.
Thus, today we are able to do things that would have astounded educated people just a few hundred years ago. Yet we are no more intelligent than people were then. We merely have the advantage of a few hundred more years of human experience. Jehovah God, who created the laws of nature, is vastly more intelligent and more experienced than we are. Surely, he could set up abnormal or unusual conditions under which, in complete accordance with the laws of nature as he controls them, a man could walk on water or calm the violence of a windstorm.
Doctor Hans Hoppeler, Swiss author of the book Bibelwunder und Wissenschaft (Miracles of the Bible and Science), said: “The person who believes in an Almighty God, who has laid down the laws of nature and who is in control of them, finds it obvious that from time to time this God could intervene in his universe in a way not understood by us and according to laws unknown to us, and this for the purpose of making known his power and wisdom.”
‘OK, Miracles. But Why?’
What difference does it make today, though, that miracles really happened in the Middle East almost 2,000 years ago? It makes a big difference! That Jesus really did perform miracles shows that he had access to a source of power unknown to most of his contemporaries and unknown to most people today: God’s holy spirit. (Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:14; 5:17) This fact shows that Jehovah God’s approval was on what Jesus said and did. The miracles are an outstanding proof that Jesus was telling the truth.
Hence, when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah so long awaited by the Jews, he was telling the truth. (Matthew 11:2-6; 16:15-17) The miracles give us reason to be confident that those who put their faith in Jesus do not do so in vain.—John 3:16.
Additionally, Jesus preached about God’s Kingdom. He is the King of that Kingdom, and by means of it God’s will is to be done on earth. The miracles lent authenticity to that message. (Matthew 6:10; 9:35; John 18:36) But they did more than that. Jesus’ miracles also demonstrated what God’s Kingdom government will do on behalf of its subjects.—Daniel 2:44.
God’s Kingdom is the only hope for the future of mankind, and the time for it to intervene actively in the affairs of mankind is close. In our day humans cannot perform miracles by means of holy spirit. But soon loyal subjects of God’s Kingdom will see miraculous changes in the condition of this earth and mankind upon it. Then that Kingdom will do on a large scale what Jesus did on a small scale while he was a man on earth, as the chart on page 18 shows. This is not just wishful thinking. It will occur. And one of the reasons we can be so sure is that the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Bible really did happen.
[Chart on page 18]
MIRACLES OF JESUS
When he was on earth When he rules over earth
in first century in his Kingdom
● Fed a large crowd with ● Will cause food to grow
five loaves and two fishes in abundance, solving the
(Luke 9:10-17) problem of food shortages
● Changed water into wine for all mankind (Psalm 72:16;
● Stilled a windstorm
● Expelled demons from ● Will prevent the demons,
demon-possessed persons especially their leader,
(Mark 1:23-28; Satan, from influencing
● Made the lame walk, ● Will completely heal
opened the ears of the mankind’s illnesses, both
deaf, healed the blind, physical and spiritual
cured leprosy and many (Revelation 22:1, 2)
● Resurrected a widow’s ● Will call mankind back from
son (Luke 7:11-17) the common grave by means of
● Resurrected Jairus’ a resurrection, providing
daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; everlasting life in Paradise
Luke 8:41-56) for obedient humans