The Essential Jesus (Part 12): The Miracles of Jesus

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The Miracles of Jesus

THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS FASCINATED BY JESUS. He believed that the ethical teachings of Jesus were the greatest the world had ever known. As a result, Jefferson created a book titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. In it, he sorted through every verse in the four Gospels and extracted only those which he thought expressed the pure principles of Jesus. He then arranged the selected verses into chronological order. Over time the volume became known as The Jefferson Bible, and for many years, it was distributed to every new member of the U.S. Congress.

But a review of The Jefferson Bible today quickly reveals that something very important is missing: Jefferson removed all references to Jesus' miracles or his resurrection. Although Thomas Jefferson believed Jesus was a great moral teacher, he simply couldn't accept the supernatural aspects of his life and ministry.

In our next ten readings, we'll consider the miracles of Jesus. The first set is a collection of five "supernatural events"–changing water into wine, calming the seas, feeding more than five thousand people from a few loaves of bread and fish, walking on water, and causing a fig tree to wither. In fact, all of Jesus' miracles could be called supernatural, but this first set highlights his power to overrule the forces of nature. In the second set, we'll cover six healing miracles of Jesus. Once we've completed these readings, which cover much of the material Thomas Jefferson removed from his "Bible," we'll see why the miracles are an indispensable part of the essential Jesus.

We'll also discover that Jesus performed miracles for a variety of reasons. Of course, at the most basic level, Jesus wanted to meet the needs of the people around him: his disciples, the crowds, and the individual followers along the way. But beyond that, Jesus' miracles were signs that had two other purposes. As John tells us at the end of his account of Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11), they revealed his glory and helped people put their faith in him. Jesus' miracles were intended to help people believe that he was the Son of God, which is why it's important not to skip over them.

New Wine

PRAY: Heavenly Father, sometimes my understanding of you seems tired and stale. I pray you'd guide me toward a fresh, new relationship with you today.

READ: John 2:1-11

REFLECT: I once attended a wedding where the caterer's van, loaded with all the food, was stolen prior to the reception. While the hosts scrambled behind the scenes to solve the problem, the guests waited and then began discussing how they could help. In the end, the hosts somehow found enough food, and the wedding was a great success.

Perhaps a desire to help was the original motivation behind Mary's comment to her son at the wedding at Cana (v. 3). But judging from Jesus' response (v. 4), it seems she had something else in mind. She wanted everyone to know the secret she had been pondering all these years: her son was God's promised Messiah, the Savior of the world (Luke 2:19). It's only natural for a mother to want to show off her son.

But Jesus always resisted the temptation to use his power to show off (John 7:3-9). By saying, "My time has not yet come" (John 2:4), he makes clear he had a much bigger agenda in mind. Jesus had come to fulfill the mission given to him by his heavenly Father, not his earthly mother.

John adds a comment at the end of the passage to make sure his readers get the point (v. 11). Jesus performed miracles first of all because they "revealed his glory," that is, they were evidence of his divine nature. But second, they helped people, in this case, his disciples, "put their faith in him." Jesus' mission was to help people believe he was God's Son.

So what is the significance of Jesus' first miracle? Some have said Jesus was blessing the use of wine or that he was affirming the value of celebration. That may be part of it. But the deeper significance is far more profound. Jesus was signaling that he came to establish a new way for people to have a relationship with God, a way based not on keeping the law of Moses (that is, the complex list of rules beginning with the Ten Commandments) but rather on having faith in him. Later in his ministry, Jesus said this was like pouring new wine into new wineskins (Matthew 9:17). The good news is that through Jesus, we can now have this new relationship with God.

APPLY: What things in your spiritual life are "old" and need to be replaced by something new from Jesus?

PRAY: Lord Jesus, I long for a deeper relationship with you. Show me how I can experience more of the new life you came to give.