Israel had known mighty warriors, but God’s power through his Son was aimed at greater enemies than mere human militarists. Jesus was the Liberator (Luke 1:69-74) providing the way to freedom from the chief source of oppression, Satan and his demons. (Heb. 2:14, 15) He not only personally freed many from demonic obsession (Luke 4:33-36), but by his powerful words of truth he opened wide the gates to freedom for those wishing to cast off the oppressive burdens and slavery that false religion had imposed on them. (Matt. 23:4; Luke 4:18; John 8:31, 32) By his own faithful, integrity-keeping course he conquered, not just a city or an empire, but “the world.”—John 14:30; 16:33.
Relative importance of miraculous acts
Though Jesus laid principal stress on the truths he proclaimed, he nevertheless showed the relative importance of his powerful works, regularly calling attention to them as authenticating his commission and message. Their importance lay particularly in their fulfillment of prophecy. (John 5:36-39, 46, 47; 10:24-27, 31-38; 14:11; 20:27-29) Those seeing such works came under special responsibility. (Matt. 11:20-24; John 15:24) As Peter later told the crowds at Pentecost, Jesus was “a man publicly shown by God to you through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22) These evidences of divine power showed that God’s kingdom had “overtaken” them.—Matt. 12:28, 31, 32.
By God’s significant use of his Son, the ‘reasonings of many hearts were uncovered.’ (Luke 2:34, 35) They were seeing ‘the arm of Jehovah’ manifested, but many, the majority, preferred to read some other meaning into the events beheld, or to allow selfish interests to keep them from acting in harmony with the “sign” seen. (John 12:37-43; 11:45-48) Many wanted personal benefits from God’s power but were not sincerely hungering for truth and righteousness. Their hearts were not moved by the compassion and kindness that motivated so many of Jesus’ powerful works (compare Luke 1:78; Matthew 9:35, 36; 15:32-37; 20:34; Mark 1:40, 41; Luke 7:11-15; with Luke 14:1-6; Mark 3:1-6), which compassion reflected that of his Father.—Mark 5:18, 19.
Responsible use of power
Jesus’ use of power was always responsible, never done for mere display. The cursing of the barren fig tree evidently had symbolic meaning. (Mark 11:12-14; compare Matthew 7:19, 20; 21:42, 43; Luke 13:6-9.) Jesus refused to engage in purposeless theatrics as suggested by Satan. When he walked over water it was because he was going somewhere with no transportation at hand at that late hour, something quite different from jumping off a temple battlement like a potential suicide. (Matt. 4:5-7; Mark 6:45-50) The wrongly motivated curiosity of Herod was left unsatisfied as Jesus refused to put on any performance for him. (Luke 23:8) Jesus earlier refused to cause a “sign from heaven” at the request of Pharisees and Sadducees, evidently because they sought such, not to strengthen their faith in the fulfillment of God’s Word, but to obviate the need of such faith. Their motive was bad.—Matt. 16:1-4; compare 15:1-6; 22:23, 29.
Similarly with his activity in Nazareth, the town of his youth and early manhood. The lack of faith there kept him from performing many powerful works, certainly not because his source of power was insufficient but because the circumstances did not warrant it, did not allow for it. Divine power was not to be wasted on unreceptive skeptics. (Mark 6:1-6; compare Matthew 10:14; Luke 16:29-31.) That the faith of others was not an absolute essential for his performing miraculous acts can be seen in his healing the severed ear of the high priest’s slave, part of the crowd that came to arrest Jesus.—Luke 22:50, 51.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to spirit life was the greatest demonstration ever of God’s power. Without it, Christian faith would be “in vain,” his followers would be “of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:12-19) It was the act most consistently recounted by Jesus’ disciples and the greatest single factor in strengthening faith. Distance had not hindered Jesus’ exercise of power when on earth (Matt. 8:5-13; John 4:46-53), and now, from his heavenly position, Jesus anointed his followers with God’s spirit on Pentecost, enabling them to do powerful works in his absence. He thereby authenticated their testimony concerning his resurrection (Acts 4:33; Heb. 2:3, 4) and also gave proof that these were God’s approved people, his congregation.—Acts 2:1-4, 14-36, 43; 3:11-18.
The death of his Son as a human had not shortened Jehovah’s hand, as the many miracles, signs and portents performed by the apostles and others testified. (Acts 4:29, 30; 6:8; 14:3; 19:11, 12) The powerful works they performed were like those of their Master, healing the lame (Acts 3:1-9; 14:8-10) and ill (Acts 5:12-16; 28:7-9), raising the dead (Acts 9:36-41; 20:9-11), casting out demons (Acts 8:6, 7; 16:16-18), doing so without seeking personal benefit or honor for themselves. (Acts 3:12; 8:9-24; 13:15-17) Through them God expressed judgments against wrongdoers, even as he had done through the earlier prophets, fostering due respect toward himself and his representatives. (Acts 5:1-11; 13:8-12) New abilities were granted them, such as the ability to speak in foreign languages and interpret them. This, too, was for a “beneficial purpose,” for they were soon to extend the preaching work beyond Israel, telling Jehovah’s wonderful works among the nations.—1 Cor. 12:4-11; Ps. 96:3, 7.
Jehovah God did other powerful things for them as well, opening up ‘doors’ of opportunity for them to preach in certain territories, protecting them against those who would shut down their ministerial work, directing their activity, doing so in ways generally unobserved by the public.—Acts 5:17-20; 8:26-29, 39, 40; 9:1-8; 10:19-22, 44-48; 12:6-11; 13:2; 16:6-10, 25-33; 18:9, 10; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9.
The miraculous abilities granted by the spirit to the apostles, and passed on by them to others were foretold to last only during the ‘infancy’ of the Christian congregation, thereafter ending. (See GIFTS FROM GOD [Gifts of the Spirit].) The Biblical Theological and Ecclesiastical Encyclopaedia by M’Clintock and Strong (Vol. VI, p. 320) says that it is “an uncontested statement that during the first hundred years after the death of the apostles we hear little or nothing of the working of miracles by the early Christians.” Nevertheless, Jesus and his apostles warned of future deceptive powerful works that would be done by apostates and also by political organizations, enemies of God.—Matt. 7:21-23; 24:23-25; 2 Thess. 2:9, 10; Rev. 13:11-13; see BEASTS, SYMBOLIC.
The expressions of God’s power reach a high point in the establishment of his kingdom by Christ Jesus and the judgment acts that result from that event.
A special group of Roman soldiers, originally organized by Augustus as an imperial bodyguard for the emperor. It consisted of nine (later increased to ten) cohorts of 1,000 men each. They were all Italian volunteers; their pay was double or triple that of a soldier in the legions. Tiberius concentrated this corps d’elite in Rome by constructing fortified barracks N of the walls of the city. Though cohorts might be sent to foreign lands, three were always stationed in Rome, one being in barracks adjacent to the emperor’s palace. Since the Praetorian Guard were basically the only permanent troops in Italy, they came to constitute a powerful political force in supporting or overthrowing an emperor. Eventually the size and makeup of the Praetorian Guard changed, men from the provinces even being admitted. It was finally abolished by Emperor Constantine in 312 C.E.