When something amazing happens, we often say, “It’s a miracle!” But more than likely that is not technically correct. It was not a true miracle. It was amazing, it was abnormal, etc., but was it a miracle?
What is a miracle?
(1) A scientist gave the following definition of a miracle on an April 14, 1995 PBS program. He said, “A miracle is nothing more than a natural law not discovered.” So, he doesn’t believe in miracles. He thinks everything can be explained scientifically. This is an attitude which at the least denies any intervention into our world by God, and more than likely means that scientist denies the existence of God.1 I don’t see how raising someone from the dead, restoring a blind man’s sight, etc. are natural laws not yet discovered. This is obviously a bad definition. The fact that anyone would take this guy seriously is a sad commentary on our society.
(2) A computer magazine had the following definition in its word-for-the-day section: “Coincidence is a miracle where God chooses to remain anonymous.” In other words, there is no such thing as coincidence. This elevates almost everything to the status of being a miracle. I would have to go along with the idea that there is no such thing as coincidence or chance. If there is such a thing as chance, then God has an equal out there in the universe, against which He is competing. Think about that statement for a minute. If there is such a thing as chance, then God has an equal out there in the universe that He is competing against. In other words, God is not in control. So, although I think that God is control and is involved in our lives, does that mean that these events are miracles? No.
These two illustrations represent opposite extremes. The truth is somewhere in the middle. What is a miracle?
If we look at the words the New Testament uses for miracles we see the following:
(1) It is an act of a supernatural being. The word dunamis has the idea of a supernatural power. It speaks primarily of the agent of the act. That power may be delegated to a human agent. The question is where did Jesus’ power to do the miracle come from. There are two options - either from God or from Satan. Obviously, Jesus’ power came from God. Some suggest that Satan only imitates miracles. I think Satan can perform miracles. He does not have divine power, but he does have supernatural power. So the idea from the word dunamis is that there is supernatural power involved.
(2) Another word - terasa - speaks of the effect. A miracle is an unusual event. Terasa speaks of the wonderment of the event – as in signs and wonders. As a matter of fact, terasa is always used with semeion.
(3) The Greek word semeion means sign. A miracle is a significant event. It has purpose. Matthew, Mark and Luke uses the first two more. John uses the word semion, because he is focused on the purpose of Jesus in performing the miracles.
(4) Therefore, in our search for a definition, if we combine the ideas of these words used in the New Testament, we might come up with the following definition:
Definition: A miracle is an unusual and significant event (terasa) which requires the working of a supernatural agent (dunamis) and is performed for the purpose of authenticating the message or the messenger (semeion).
I don’t want to imply that God can’t do a miracle without a miracle worker or that He can only do miracles when He needs to authenticate His message. But, examination of Old Testament and New Testament miracles shows that when a human is the agent performing a miracle, the purpose is authentication of the person and his message. For example: Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Apostles… That is the norm. It is a little oxymoronic to use the words norm and miracles in the same sentence, but I think it is important to establish what the norm is if possible because of what various people teach concerning miracles.
What do people teach concerning miracles? I don’t think a study on the miracles of Jesus would be complete if we didn’t take a little time to look at what’s going on today and examine what is being taught by various groups in the church concerning miracles. But I’m not quite ready to dive into that discussion. I’ve been doing much reading and studying on the arguments from both sides and although I’ve come to my conclusion. I haven’t organized my thoughts well enough to explain it right now. Hopefully in a few weeks we can take a break from the study of the miracles and study the arguments. For now we will begin our study of the miracles. First though, we need to learn how to study the miracles.
Many people go to the Bible looking primarily for theological statements or propositional statements—statements that tell us what not to do, what to do, what to think, etc. Historically, Americans pastors and theologians have spent little time teaching or preaching the Gospels. Americans are practical, bottom line people and the Pauline and General epistles are easier to dig practical principles out of. They don’t typically know what to do with the Gospels because the Gospels are not very propositional. They are really a collection of small stories arranged to tell a bigger story about the life of Christ. The accounts of the miracles Jesus performed are contained in stories, and stories have context, characters, plot, climax, etc. Stories are literature, and in order to understand them, we need to look at the miracles literarily.
We will study the miracles following the usual steps of observation, interpretation and application, but since the miracles are stories, we will need to look at things like plot, character development, etc. to understand them fully.
We need to determine which gospel or gospels record the miracle? Sometimes it is difficult to tell if two Gospels are telling the same miracle or if they are just similar miracles. If we decide that they are the same event, which is the longest account of the miracle? That is the one we will use primarily for the study and then pull in the extra details we learn from other parallel passages to supplement the longest passage. What you will notice is that different gospel writers stressed certain things because they were writing to different audiences or have a different theological point to make. Because of these differences, many critics point to the differences in the miracle accounts to show that the Bible is full of errors. We will discuss these differences and try to determine why they exist. Sometimes we will understand why, other times we may not. That doesn’t mean the Bible has errors. My assumption is that the Bible is true and I haven’t figured it out yet. The critic’s assumption is that the Bible is full of errors and that is what he sees.
One of the most helpful things in studying narrative literature (stories), is learning to track the progression of thought in the narrative. The progression is the strongest thread that ties the story together as a creative whole. One might follow the progression:
What we know from knowledge of the culture will affect our understanding and interpretation. For example, in the healing of the leper or lepers, it helps to know how awful leprosy was, how it was viewed spiritually and as far as we can tell, that nobody had ever been cured of leprosy – except for Marion, Moses’ sister and Namaan the Syrian who was healed by Elisha. If lepers are being healed now, then something out of the ordinary is going on! It should have been a clear sign that God was here!
What do we know from the preceding or following context. What was Jesus talking about in His last conversation? Did He just preach a sermon? What was the point of that sermon? Perhaps the miracle illustrates the point. What statements is the author making about Jesus? Does this miracle relate to that? For example, when Jesus heals the blind man in two stages (Mark 8:22), it does not mean that Jesus’ power was inadequate for the task. He healed the man in two stages to illustrate the partial understanding of the disciples as to whom Jesus really was. You have to understand the larger literary and theological context of the book of Mark as well as have been tracking the disciples’ development along the way in order to understand that. So, although the immediate literary context is important, sometimes the larger context is also very important.
What does it mean theologically? Ask three questions:
1. What was the meaning for the Jews who saw the miracle?
2. What was the meaning for the disciples?
3. What was the meaning for the person healed?
I think that there is only one correct interpretation. There will be different subcategories of meaning for each question asked, but I think there is a right answer. By that, I mean that the author had some point in mind when he recorded the miracle. We will try to determine that. If we come to a different conclusion than someone else, then I think one of us is wrong. If we are wrong, then it is because we did poor observation or have some theological bias. In our age of relativism and no absolutes, this is not a popular concept. But I think it is a correct concept. Once we have determined the theological meaning we move to the next step.
What does it mean to me? Although there may be only one interpretation, there can be many applications.
Summary of the process:
We need to study the events of the miracle (observation), determine what truths it teaches (interpretation) and then determine how the truths apply to us (application).
1 This attitude can be traced back into the period of the Enlightenment and received one of its most cogent arguments in the philosopher David Hume. For a brief description of Hume’s arguments, especially as they touch on the issue of the resurrection, see Greg Herrick, The Historical Veracity of the Resurrection Narratives, www.bible.org.
This is the only miracle of destruction. It seems out of character of the mild mannered Jesus to be angry at a poor little tree at a time when it wasn’t time to bear figs?
The context is the key. It is part of a sandwich passage.
Cursing of fig tree
Link this back to Luke 13:1-9 parable of fig tree which taught that grace was extended before judgment to give a chance for the fruit of repentance. Now the year is up. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem looking for the fruit of repentance. If there is no fruit, what will happen to Jerusalem? It will be destroyed. If there are no figs on the tree, it will be destroyed.
Cleansing of Temple
The Problem in the Temple is the reason for the pronouncement against the fig tree.
The temple that should have been a house of prayer for all nations had been turned into a den of robbers. The Gentile plaza had been filled up with moneychangers so that there was no room for Gentiles to come worship. Matt 23 shows that they locked up the knowledge and didn’t allow anyone else to enter in. They didn’t live up to their own responsibility and caused others to lose out too.
Cursing of fig tree
Cf. Hos 9:10 - Israel as an image of the fig tree. Fruit in the first season?
Nah 3:12 - Israel as symbol of figs.
Zech 3:10 - Symbol of the blessing of the Kingdom when Israel will invite others to find shade under her fig tree.
(1) The desire
The reason for the curse is because he was looking for fruit. Luk 13:6-9
(2) The disaster
He found only leaves. Appearance of life but no fruit. It says it was not the season for figs, so why did he curse it? Cf. Hendriksen in his Matthew commentary. Budding precedes leafing. Small figs precedes the leaves, which precede the regular figs. He sees nothing but leaves. It is the small figs which guarantee the normal figs. If there are no early small figs, there will be no big figs. So he curses it.
Why is he justified in cursing the tree? It is showing by its nature that it will be as it has been - i.e. unfruitful. If there is no bud, there will be no fruit. Why waste time waiting for the fruit?
(1) The response of Peter
Acknowledges that it happened. It is as if he was surprised.
(2) The response of Jesus
The disciples are going to have to have faith to understand what God is going to do to Jerusalem.
Jesus is also preparing them for what is coming - his death. They will undoubtedly have to deal with the attitude: How can I minister to those at whom I am so angry for killing my Lord. That is why he follows this with a discussion on forgiveness.
This miracle is only recorded in John.
We can track this miracle biographically by following the conversations between Jesus and others involved in the miracle account.
Chronological context - There are four separate references to “day” in the context 1:19, 29, 35, 43 and 2:1 Some suggest that this is the third day after the 4th day. Thus this is the seventh day. John’s book also ends with a record of seven days. Perhaps these are “book ends” to the book. From Jerusalem up to Galilee was about a two or three day journey. So perhaps this is just a reference to the third day since Jesus was in Jerusalem.
Conceptual context - John has just presented Jesus as the creator in John 1:3. Now we will see him creating in chapter two. I think this is the most important contextual clue to consider.
The wine gave out. That would have been a social embarrassment in that culture - or any culture for that matter. What is Mary doing hosting this wedding ceremony? She is from Nazareth. This is happening in Cana (20 miles away). Chances are this is a relative’s wedding. She goes to Jesus and tells him the wine is out. Why does she approach Jesus? He hasn’t performed any miracles yet. Because He hadn’t performed any miracles yet, some say that Mary didn’t expect Him to perform one here, but you must remember that she knew who He was. He was a perfect son. She knew He was the Messiah. Perhaps she had heard about His baptism and the Voice coming out of heaven. Perhaps she thought it was time for Him to go public with His identity. Perhaps she is just going to him, expecting him to bail her out of her social predicament or give her advice as some suggest, but I think she might have even expected something supernatural - a miracle. I think that because of what Jesus says.
Jesus says, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?” Literally, “Woman, what to you and to me.” This sounds a little rude to us. This is a Semitism which is either a hostile answer or an intentional disengagement. Another way to translate it might be “Why do you involve me?” or “What do you want with me?” By addressing his mother as “Woman” he is distancing himself from her. He uses the same term of address in John 19:26 when he is hanging on the cross and about to leave her. I think in John 19: he is indicating that his earthly existence is over and with it, the mother-son relationship. Why does He say that here? Because, with the Baptism by John, His ministry has begun, and with it His responsibility to the Father and accomplishment of His mission has now taken even more of a priority than before.
His response is that His time has not yet come. This introduces the theme of “the hour” in the gospel of John. The hour is the hour of his passion. When he gives the bread to Judas, he says his hour has come. So, when He says here that His hour has not yet come, He is saying the time when he would be glorified has not yet come. It is this statement by Jesus (who knows what people are thinking) that makes me think this is what His mother is expecting—that He get with it and show everyone who He is.
Why does he balk at her question and then go ahead and perform the miracle? What Jesus is saying is, “Nobody writes in my daytimer.” Mary was trying to dictate when Jesus was to start manifesting Himself as the Son of God. This doesn’t mean He can’t help her. He is just pointing out that she doesn’t control when He reveals Himself. Later in John His brothers tell Him to go up to Jerusalem and manifest Himself at the feast. He tells them it is not his time and then later goes to the feast in His own way - not to manifest himself as the Christ. Both of these events make it look like Jesus says one thing and does another, but when you understand this concept, it clears up the confusion.
After saying all this, it is in fact time for Jesus to begin manifesting that He is God and so He does a miracle.
Nearby stood six stone ceremonial water jars. Water pots could not be ceremonially clean unless hewn out of stone. These pots held between 30 and 40 gallons.
He tells the servants to draw water and fill the jars. This is the miracle proper (vs. 6-8).
He told them to put water in the pots first and then draw it out. He does this so that they would know that there was nothing in the pots beforehand. There was not a can of juice concentrate or a freeze dried package of wine in the bottom which became wine when the water was added. It removed all doubt that this was miraculous.
If you were to fill a ceremonial pot with just any old water, what would happen to the pot? It would become unclean and unfit for ceremonial use from then on. We will come back to this.
Did Jesus touch the water? Did he speak magic words over the water? One of the things we will see as we study the miracles is that there is no standardized way that Jesus performs miracles. There is very little “hype” in his miracles. People who claim to perform miracles usually surround the event with much “hype.” In all of His miracles there is almost a disengagement from the miracle event so that we can focus on the meaning. I think that is important to remember when we later discuss the current charismatic, signs and wonders movement. One of the questions to ask is “Where is their focus?”
The bridegroom would have been responsible for providing the wine for the celebration. The headwaiter points out that usually people serve the good wine first and bring out the bad wine after everyone is a little too tipsy to tell the difference. vs 10 can literally be translated “usually you bring out the lower quality wine after everyone has become drunk...”
This miracle debunks one common teaching in certain Christian circles. Some try to teach that everyone in that culture drank diluted wine. Therefore, any wine or beer that we would drink today is much stronger than the wine of Jesus’ day and therefore sinful. However, it was common for people to get drunk on the wine of that day. The headwaiter said so, and Paul wouldn’t counsel against being drunk with wine in Ephesians if that was true.
John says in vs 11 that this was the beginning of Jesus’ signs. Indicating that this miracle had significance or meaning. What was the purpose or significance? There are several:
In my research on this miracle I checked out the web site that contains many of Ray Stedman’s sermons. He wrote the following:
In his very helpful book Miracles, C.S. Lewis has pointed out that every miracle of Jesus is simply a kind of short-circuiting of a natural process; a doing instantly something which in general takes a longer period of time. Lewis says, “Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature.” That is what Jesus is doing: he is overleaping the elements of time, of growth, gathering, crushing and fermenting. He takes water---an inorganic, non-living, commonplace substance---and without a word, without a gesture, without any laying on of hands, in utter simplicity, the water becomes wine, an organic liquid, a product of fermentation, belonging to the realm of life. Thus he demonstrated his marvelous ability to master the processes of nature.
C.S. Lewis and Ray Stedman are usually very good, but here I have to disagree. If you filled a pot with water and put it on your front porch, it could sit there for a 1000 years and never turn into wine. Not only is this impossible, it misses the point of the miracle. In John 1:3, John said, “All things came into being by Him...” Now John is recording a miracle in which Jesus demonstrates that He is the creator. He creates wine. He doesn’t speed up the natural process.
So, the purpose in the context is that this is a miracle of creativity.
Why would the production of wine be important to a Jewish audience? There are many passages in the OT that predicted that when the Messiah came there would be an abundance of wine. cf. Amos 9:12-15. Wine is a symbol of the presence of the Messiah. The opening sign of the ministry of Jesus is the production of wine that proclaimed that the Messiah was present and ready to establish the kingdom.
Jesus demonstrates himself to be the Creator and Messiah. He revealed his glory (John 1:14).
This also confirmed the faith of the disciples. It says so in vs 11.
Some say this miracle is the same as the healing of the centurion’s son in the synoptics (#10) Luke 7:1-10 and Matt 8:5-13. But these are different for the following reasons:
Nobleman - royal connections - maybe Jewish or Roman.
Entrusted with 100 men
begging to come touch son
don’t come - just speak
No positive comment on faith
Commendation on faith contrasted with Israel
Approaches the man at Capernaum
Progression of the faith of the man. Faith in the reputation and power of Christ, his faith in the promise of Christ (his word) and finally in the person of Christ.
Important events have occurred between the first and second signs in Cana. He has done miracles in Jerusalem, had conversation with Nicodemus, talks to the woman at the well in Samaria, etc. He is well received by the Galileans in vs. 45 because they know about his miraculous powers. This sets us up for the nobleman’s arrival. We know why he thinks Jesus has power.
(1) The request
The centurion has heard of Jesus’ miracles and believes He has the power to heal his son. So he searches him out.
(2) The rebuke
Jesus says, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe.” The “you” is in the plural, so Jesus is probably talking to the crowd following Him instead of to the nobleman. The nobleman is not looking for a sign. He just wants his son healed.
Perhaps you are thinking, “I thought that the purpose of the book of John was that “these signs were written that you might believe...” (John 20:31) That is true, but the key word is “written.” It does not say that we should wait to see signs before we believe. The written record of select miracles should be enough to evoke faith.
Remembering the big picture of history in relation to miracles, if you need to see a miracle to believe, then that leaves you out of most of biblical history. God always worked providentially, but only occasionally did He work miraculously.
I think this passage is relevant to the Signs and Wonders debate. I think that to demand signs and wonders is a very dangerous thing. Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe who have not seen...” Jesus says that an evil and adulterous generation demands signs and wonders. I have to reconcile those statements of Jesus with the modern day emphasis on the miraculous. If a Signs and Wonders advocate says that people need signs and wonders to believe, then we can say with assurance that that is not biblical.
Sometimes people get the impression that because we are not Signs and Wonders people we don’t believe in miracles nor think it would be good if God did a miracle. I have friends with cancer and other ailments, and I pray for their miraculous healing believing that God can do it. Because I don’t hype miracles doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles. Do I expect them? I know that the prayer of a righteous man effects much. And I know that sometimes we have not because we ask not, but I also know that miracles are not the norm for history.
The difference is that I am not demanding a miracle so that I will have faith or so others will believe. If I am, then I am putting people in a precarious position.
Jesus said, “Unless you see, you will not believe.” They could have believed without seeing. The proper belief is not in the miracle. It is in the person of Christ. It is not the act, it is the actor that they need to believe in.
So the condemnation is against people who think they or others need to see a miracle to believe in Jesus.
(1) The persistence of the man
Even after Jesus gives the rebuke, the man still persists and makes his request. The word for son is paidia which means little boy.
(2) The promise to the man
Since the man persists, a demonstration of his faith, Jesus says, “Go, your son lives...” This fits into the Life and Eternal Life theme of John’s gospel. In the OT the term “live” is used of getting well (2Ki 8:9) and of rising from the dead (1Ki 17:23). John uses it with the first idea here. He will use “live” with the second idea later.
(3) The personal faith (?) of the man
“The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off (John 4:50)” He takes Jesus at His word. This is an important statement in the context. He is not one of those who needs to see a miracle to believe. He believes Jesus’ word. The proof that the man believes is in his actions. He leaves and heads for home. He didn’t do like Gideon and ask for proof.
It is a whole day’s walk back home. While he was still on the way, the servants meet him going the other way. Why, because at the moment Jesus said, “Go home, your son lives...” the boy got well and the servants went in search of the father to tell him the good news.
Notice that in both of these first two miracles there is no “how to,” no formula, no lightning and thunder when the miracle occurs. Notice also that the telling of the actual miracle takes only a fraction of the space devoted to the events surrounding it. Therefore the miracle is not nearly as important as the situation and the response of the people. The law of proportion (in hermeneutics i.e. Bible study) teaches me that. What is emphasized today in the healing ministries and signs and wonders movement is the activity of the miracle. If you have a strong enough stomach to watch the religious stations while one of the healing shows is on, you will find that they spend 90% of their time with people up on stage being healed. There is little teaching going on, and what teaching occurs is focused on how God wants to heal you. Today, we have drum rolls, cymbals, etc. It is all a show.
Someone has said that leaders understand orders and when Jesus said, “Go.” The man went.
(1) The revelation of the miracle
The revelation of the miracle was by the servants on the way home. From the servants the father found that the miracle coincided with the time that the Lord spoke. The Greek word for “inquire” is only used here in the NT and it means to ask for the purpose of confirmation - he knew already that his son was well.
(2) The response to the miracle
The man and his whole household believed. Perhaps when he heard that the son got well at the same time that Jesus had said, “Your son lives,” there was a new realization of who Jesus was. He was the Messiah.
Acts 10:2, 11:14, 16:15, 16:31, 18:8 are passages where whole families believe.
These first two miracles show that John’s purpose for recording miracles is being fulfilled. People are believing in the person of Christ. There has been a movement from signs to the savior. They move from wonder to worship.
Also in Luke 4:31-37
As a general rule of thumb, even though Mark is the shortest gospel, it has the longest miracle narratives. Mark is writing to show that Jesus is the Servant. One of the characteristics of a servant is his activity and his ability and his power, therefore, Mark emphasizes the powerful working of the Servant more than the other gospels. What do you want in a servant? Speedy service. That is why Mark’s key word is “immediately.”
Is there any geographical information that explains the miracle? Are there any conversations that help us track the miracle? One thing that we see is the repetition of the word “authority.” Therefore the idea of the passage is Jesus’ authority.
We need to notice that this is a Sabbath miracle. Jesus is working on the Sabbath on purpose to make the point that the old system is over and a new one is here. There was a similar message in the defiling of the ceremonial waterpots in the first miracle.
Remember the purpose statement of Mark in Mark 1:1 where he lays out that he will prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. In the first half of the book, the emphasis is on showing Jesus to be the Messiah. The climax is when Peter makes the statement in 8:29, “You are the Christ” (i.e. Messiah) In the last half of the book, Jesus is shown to be the Son of God. The climax of that section is when the centurion looking at Jesus hanging on the cross says, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” So it helps to understand the context of the whole book as we look at this miracle.
In Luke 4: 18 Jesus quotes Isaiah and says that He is here
To preach the gospel to the poor
It is only the needy who responded
to proclaim release to the captives,
In context of Luke - captive of Satan
and recovery of sight to the blind,
Physical and Spiritual sight
to set free those who are downtrodden,
Bring justice - captive of rich
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Ultimate Sabbath rest - Salvation
Notice the chiastic structure. The center point in a chiasm is the main point, which in this case is belief or Faith in Christ. The recovery of sight to the blind refers not just to physical blindness, but also to spiritual blindness. But it will be illustrated in healing physically blind people. It would be a sign that the Messiah was present. The surrounding points show us how Jesus would bring about that belief – through His words and works.
After recording that event, Luke records the performance of this miracle where Jesus teaches with authority (His words) and sets a man free who is held captive by demons (His works). And since this miracle immediately follows the quotation from Isaiah (Luke 4:18), I think we what we have here is the illustration for Jesus’ sermon and Luke’s gospel.
This is also in keeping with Jesus’ statement in Luke 4:19 that He was here to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. This was a reference to the year of Jubilee – the Sabbath of Sabbaths. In Lev 16 the year of Jubilee is discussed in detail showing the benefits to the individual who was freed from debt, whose property was returned, etc. In Isa 61 the context has a national emphasis. Here in Luke, the reference to Elijah and Elisha ministering in the Gentile nation of Zarephath and the cleansing of Naaman the Syrian show the context has expanded to have a universal context. Jesus is bringing the ultimate Sabbath, the ultimate rest, to those who believe in Him--Jew and Gentile.
(1) Amazement at His teaching
Other places Mark uses this word amazement. Mark 6:2, 7:37, 10:26, 11:18 In all these passages, except 7:37, the astonishment is at Jesus’ teaching and not his miracles. Again, we see an emphasis on the words and not the miraculous. Certainly, people were amazed at the miracles and certainly God used the miracles to authenticate His messenger, but I think we continually see the emphasis is on the words because that is what we will always have with us. Some may never get the opportunity to see a miracle.
(2) Authority of His teaching
The leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees did not teach with authority. They always quoted someone else. They would say, “Hillel says,…” or “Shamai says,…” It is the same today in biblical scholarship. Most writers for theological journals have hundreds of footnotes in a 20 page article. That is not necessarily bad. It just means they are reading all the available literature on the subject so they can deal with all the arguments. It is just that we are fallible. We often don’t know for sure what the right answer is (even though some act like they do). Jesus was different. He didn’t quote anyone. He just quoted scripture and explained it. And when he explained it, if you were open and teachable, you just knew he was right.
William Taylor (p. 76) says there are three ways in which Jesus’ messages were superior:
1. Originality and hence more authority
2. Jesus’ illustrations were abundant and simple
3. His applications were clear and pointed
“Jesus made no reference to any authority other than himself. Yet his words were so insightful, so true to the experience and inner convictions of the men and women there that they nodded their heads, “Of course!” and knew what he said was true. His words had that “ring of truth,” acknowledged by all who heard him speak. It was self-authenticating truth, corresponding to an inner conviction in each person who heard him, so that they knew that he knew the secrets of life.”2
(1) Confrontation with authority (23-24a)
The demons recognize Jesus’ identity and his authority and they confront Him.
(2) Confession of authority (24b)
In Luke 4, at his first public address, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and the synagogue leaders wanted to throw Him off a cliff. Here we see the demons call Jesus the “Holy one of God.” This phrase is an allusion to the phrase “Holy One of Israel” used often in Isaiah and Jeremiah. The demons recognize what the audience does not. They know that Jesus has the right to judge the spirit world. Men sometimes say, “I don’t believe all this stuff about Jesus.” The spirit world knows it’s true. Only the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
In the context of Mark, this confession by the demons has special significance. In Mark 1:1, Mark begins by stating that this is the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark tells his readers right up front that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus is God. As you read through the book, you see that the disciples don’t really know who Jesus is. But here in this miracle, you see that the demons know who Jesus is. This passage sets up the irony that while his own disciples don’t know who He is, the demons do.
The demons think Jesus has shown up to judge. In Matthew the demons ask if Jesus has come to judge “before the time.” They think it is a little quick. Perhaps they know something about the timetable of the end times.
(3) Command with authority (25)
He rebuked them and told them to be quiet. This is the same word used later in the stilling of the storm. Thus we see that Jesus has the ability to still the supernatural forces and the natural forces. It may be significant, but Jesus doesn’t engage in very long discussions with demons during any of His exorcisms. I some that have rather long conversations with demons before they cast them out. I wonder if that is wise.
(4) Consequence of authority (26-28)
The demon has to come out at the command of Christ. He must obey.
The demon tries to get in one last shot on the way out, but the man was left unharmed (according to Luke - the physician 4:35). Perhaps this shows us that although the demons recognize Jesus’ authority and power and have to submit, they submit unwillingly.
The witnesses were amazed at His authority. They were amazed at His words before, and now at His works.
What word is used to describe Jesus’ teaching? “New” He is not quoting other scholars. The whole area heard about this.
2 Ray Stedman, http://www.pbc.org.
Also in Luke 4:38-39 and Matt 8:14-15
In Capernaum on the Sabbath. Tradition says that Peter’s house was only about 100 yards from the synagogue. They have a church built on the spot. But part of the site location problem in Israel is that Constantine’s mother-in-law came through Israel around 300 AD and had churches built on various spots to represent this or that event from the NT. It is highly debated as how accurate she was.
There are two mothers-in-law in the Bible who don’t have the typical mothers-in-law relationships. Naomi and Peter’s mother.
Luke points out that the fever was high. He wants you to know that it is serious. It is even more serious for an adult to have a high fever than for a child.
The disciples speak to Jesus about her fever. Here we see their intercession for her.
In Mark we see that Jesus took her hand. This is the helping hand of the servant.
Matthew says “when he touched her hand...” Why the difference? Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. If a Jew touched a sick person, it would make them unclean. Jesus can touch sick people without becoming unclean because his touch heals them.
In Luke we see Jesus’ bedside manner - “He bent over her...”
This may be pure speculation as to the reasons for the differences between the different authors, but it is interesting to see how the different writers emphasized different things for their audiences. If you asked the question, “Did he touch her, Did he bend over her, Did he grab her hand and help her up?” The answer is yes to all of them. It is not hard to harmonize.
Luke mentions that Jesus rebuked the fever.
Not just the absence of disease, but the restoration of strength. If you ever watch some of these miracle worship services on TV, the people that are healed sort of shuffle off the stage.
She served them. In the gospel of Mark, serving is a sign of greatness. So we see a little bit about her character. It is interesting that only angels and women served Jesus in the gospels.
Once the Sabbath was over, the people flocked to Jesus with their sick and demon possessed to have Him heal them.. They had to wait until the Sabbath was over so that they didn’t violate the Pharisees’ rules about carrying burdens on the Sabbath. Again we see that the Pharisees rules were more of a burden to the people than a fulfillment of the original intent of the Sabbath which was to provide rest. What better way to rest than to go be healed by Jesus. But the people had to wait. To the pharisees rules were more important than people.
Vs 35 After a very full day of ministry, Jesus gets up early the next morning to spend time with the Father. I know the human tendency after a full day of ministry is to sleep in the next day. I think this illustrates that Jesus’ strength came from the Father.
Five reasons for sickness:
It is biographical because it centers on the person of Peter who needs a lesson on fishing. This is ironic, because his profession was fishing. It is his boat, the conversation is with him. He is the central figure.
The basic idea of the miracle is “The Faith Needed for Fishing.”
The relationship that Jesus has been developing with the disciples. There are five callings or challenges to the disciples:
So the backdrop is the authority of Jesus.
Isa 9:1-2 says Galilee would be where Christ would demonstrate His Messianic authority.
The crowds are pressing in, so they move out to the water for some space. After He had finished teaching, He tells Peter to take the boat out into deeper water because he wants to teach Peter a lesson.
I don’t think so
Because you say so
I will do so
Peter catches himself in the middle of a bad response and changes to the right response. What does Peter respond to? The word of Jesus. “Because you say so...”
One application for us is what will we do because He says so?
Trench says that the best fishing in Galilee was before dawn. (p. 138). Also, Peter was a professional fisherman and Jesus was the son of a carpenter, so the initial response is understandable.
There is a fearful astonishment on the part of Peter. He gets a glimpse of who Jesus is and the result is a recognition of his own sinfulness. This is the proper response to the revelation of God. Cf. Isa 6:1f
There are many passages which show the response of fear to the revelation of God. Gen 15:1, Ex 20:20, Josh 8:1, Isa 41:10. Matt 1:20, Luk 1:13, 30, 2:10, 5:10, 12:32, John 6:23, ... Here we see that when Jesus say “Fear not...” in verse 10, there is more to it than what we would first think. The claim inherent in Jesus’ statement is that He is God.
“You will be catchers of men.” It literally means, “to take alive.” The irony is that they have been catching live fish to put them to death. Now they will be catching dead men to give them life.
In that context, speaking to fishermen, Jesus said that they would be fishers of men. Today, talking to a computer programmer, He might have said they would be programmers of men. If they had been construction workers, He might have said they would be builders of men.
There is a guarantee of results in the passage. He did not say that they would try to catch men.
The left everything and followed Jesus. I don’t know if it would be stretching to make this comparison to modern day, but what if you had been playing the lotto for the past two years and Jesus came to you and said, “Try these numbers.” Wouldn’t you’re initial reaction be that it’s no use. I’ll never win. And then you give the numbers a try and win the lotto. Would you leave “everything” and follow Jesus? Or would you go collect your money and think about how you were going to spend it?
Also in Matt 8:1-4
Cause/effect relationship. The miracle is designed to gain a reaction among the priests.
One person outlined this as: A Bold Request, A Healing Caress, A Warning Transgressed
Leprosy was especially bad because:
In Mark 1:38, after the disciples come to Jesus to tell Him that “Everyone is looking for him,” Jesus tells them that He came here to preach. There will be something that happens in the miracle that will relate back to this. So, don’t forget this statement.
This miracle follows the sermon on the mount in Matthew’s gospel. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus had said in Matt 5:17, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” Then right after the sermon, a leper comes up to Jesus and He touches him, which is a violation of the Law. Perhaps that is significant.
Ray Stedman has some very good observations on this passage:
I think this indicates something of an awareness on the leper’s part of a divine purpose there may have been in his affliction. It may perhaps be difficult for some of us to handle the concept, but the Scriptures are very clear that sometimes God wills us to be sick. Not that this is the expression of his ultimate desire for men, but that, given the circumstances in which we now live and the fallen nature of humanity, there are times when God wills for his children to pass through physical affliction. You see numerous examples of this in the Scriptures. Paul came before the Lord and asked three times for the removal of a physical “thorn in the flesh”. Finally the answer came, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul understood that God wanted him to put up with it, learn how to handle it by the grace of God. So it is clear that it is not the teaching of Scripture that everybody must be healed.
This leper is a case in point. Evidently he sensed some purpose in this, and when he said, “If you will, you can make me clean,” he did not mean by that, “If you’re in a good mood at present...” He meant, rather, “If it is not out of line with the purpose of God, if it is not violating some cosmic program God is working out, then you can make me clean.”3
He does not doubt Jesus’ power, and he submits to His will. He submits to the person of God. We need to do the same. We are to know God can do whatever He wants and trust Him. If He is willing, He will. We just have to trust in the goodness of God.
The leper models a humble approach and makes a humble request. This is actually the language of worship - bowing down, kneeling, etc. Jesus accepts it.
Verse 41 says, “Moved with compasstion…” There is a textual variant here.4 Some manuscripts have “moved with anger” instead of “moved with compassion.” (splagne or orgisthes) If he was angry, it was not at the leper. Splagna is the bowels. The verb means to “move the bowels.” And it came to mean “to move with compassion.” You might say that to not have compassion equals “spiritual constipation.”
Jesus says, “I am willing, be cleansed.” Going back to what Stedman said, Jesus’ statement, “I am willing” is like a green light from God. It says the time has come for the healing to occur. Whatever purpose the leprosy may have served, it has been accomplished, and the time was come to set it aside.5
He reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus doesn’t always lay hands on those that He is healing. When He does, we ought to ask if it has significance. What is the significance here? Were you supposed to touch a leper? No. That would make you unclean. Haggai 2: talks about becoming unclean by touching something unclean. If a doctor scrubs down, puts on his gown and gloves and then shakes hands with someone on the way to the operating room, does he make the other person sterile? Of course not.
The only way you can touch someone or something unclean and not become unclean yourself is if you make the other person or thing clean. You can’t both stay the same. There is only one person who can transfer cleanness. God. When Jesus touched the leper and healed the leper, he was making another claim to deity.
Jesus told the former leper to “tell no man and show himself to the priest.” He wanted the man to keep his healing a secret. Scholars often talk about something called the “Messianic Secret” in the Gospel of Mark. The liberal German scholars said Jesus didn’t want people he healed to tell others that He was the Messiah, because Jesus knew He really wasn’t the Messiah. That is ludicrous. But if that is not the reason, then why does He often tell people not to say anything?
I think there are a couple reasons: First, from the context (cf vs. 38) we know that Jesus’ primary purpose was to preach. He didn’t want the crowds clamoring to Him to be healed. He wanted them to come to hear His words. If word got out about the healing of a leper, it would distract from his main purpose. A second reason that Jesus didn’t want them to go around proclaiming that He was the Messiah was because their expectation of the Messiah was that the Messiah was a political deliverer. The Jews wanted someone who would free them from the Roman rule and set up a political kingdom. During this advent Jesus’ role was as a Suffering Messiah who came to serve and to die. He was going to set up a spiritual kingdom. So, Jesus didn’t want to use the misunderstood title and substituted other titles for Himself such as “Son of Man.” As a matter of fact, He’ll use that title in our next miracle.
It is hard to believe that that someone who benefits from a miraculous healing by Jesus would turn right around and disobey Him. But this man did just that. Ryrie and Stedman both say that the man didn’t go show himself to the priests.6 We don’t know for sure if the man told the priests because the text doesn’t say that he did or didn’t. I think that he probably did obey the first half of the command (to show himself to the priest). We have to remember that he had been an outcast. If he wanted to re-enter society, he would have had to go to the priests to be pronounced clean so he could re-enter the community. We do know for sure that he doesn’t remain silent. Perhaps he was too excited. You might call it “impulsive proclamation.”
The disobedience is deplorable because it hindered the ministry of the Lord. So many people were coming to Him to be healed that He couldn’t do what He really wanted to do, which was to preach (cf. vs 38). He knew that this would happen. That’s why He told the leper to be silent.
This is the stated purpose for the miracle in Mark 1:44. Leprosy was incurable by human ability, so the priests should have recognized the healing of the leper as a sign that Messiah was present. This is an announcement to the priests that the Messiah is here. Does this contradict what we talked about earlier concerning the people looking for a political Messiah? No. The priests should have been looking for a Savior Messiah, that is why Jesus didn’t mind them knowing about the cleansing of the leper.
In Matt 11:5 John’s disciples are questioning Jesus to see if He is the Messiah. Jesus quotes from Isa 35. Jesus’ response to John the Baptist is look at my works. They fulfill the prophecies. Healing lepers was one of the signs. Also cf. Luke 7:22.
They were to do likewise.
Sending the ex-leper to the priests was as much for the man’s benefit as it was a sign for the priests.
Jesus responded to the man’s faith and healed him. If there were any doubts in the man as to the identity of Jesus, they were erased.
Remember in Mark 1:38 that Jesus said He came here to preach. That was His primary purpose at that point in His ministry. When the man disobeyed, He forced Jesus to go to a different place to preach where He was not so well known.
3 Taken from Ray Stedman’s lessons on the gospel of Mark at http://www.pbc.org.
4 A possible explanation for the difference in the Greek manuscripts is this: In Aramaic the word for pity is ethraham. The word for anger is ethraem. Perhaps someone was copying an Aramaic version of Mark’s gospel into Greek. When it was translated into Greek, it was two different words that didn’t sound the same.
5 Ray Stedman at http://www.pbc.org.
6 Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord, p. 44; Ray Stedman at http://www.pbc.org.
It’s the longest. Also found in Matt 9:2-8 and Luke 5:17-26
Jesus uses a question of logic as part of the miracle. “Which is easier to say....”
He called Capernaum home because his hometown rejected him.
This is the first mention of the Pharisees observing Jesus’ ministry in Luke. Mark will mention them in the next section following this miracle. Matthew will also mention them in 9:9-13 just after his record of this miracle. “The Pharisees were a nonpriestly or lay separatist movement whose goal was to keep the nation faithful to Mosaic faith. In order to do this, they had a very developed tradition that gave rulings on how the law applied to a variety of possible situations not addressed directly by Scripture.”7 They had rules for every possible situation and Jesus kept violating those rules. That is why there was so much conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The point of the Pharisees showing up is that word of Jesus’ ministry had spread to the point where the Pharisees are curious and are showing up to check Him out.
Critics use this miracle to show conflicts in the Bible. Mark says “digging through.” Luke says “they removed tiles.” Matthew doesn’t say. Is there a conflict? Some say the reason for the difference is that Luke could have used a Gentile word to describe the scene to a Gentile audience. It’s like if I said, “They pulled the shingles off ...” This is possible, but not necessary. The way houses were built was with wood for truss support, then a layer of reeds on top of the trusses and clay on top of the reeds. The word keravmwn (keravmwn) translated “tiles” in Luke also means “clay” and Luke is probably just using a word that describes the material and its function at the same time.
“When Jesus saw their faith” Their faith is demonstrated by their creativity, boldness and persistence to open the roof. They allowed nothing to stop them.
Ryrie points out several things about Faith from this passage:
Luke mentions that Jesus was filled with the power to heal. Why is Luke telling us that? Luke is stressing that Jesus is a God empowered man. He is filled and led by the HS.
He says, “your sins are forgiven.” He simply makes a statement. The authority and power of Jesus’ word is demonstrated.
I don’t think this necessarily means that the man’s paralysis resulted from personal sin. I think it is just that Jesus recognized that the man’s greatest need was spiritual and not physical. And, He wanted to shake up the categories of the Pharisees who were present.
Jesus says “your sins are forgiven.” This blows the categories off the Pharisees. Only God can forgive sins. They think this is blasphemy.
You could commit blasphemy by:
Jesus knew what they were thinking. We think “of course he knew,” but what about them. Were they also asking themselves, “How does he know what I’m thinking?” Who knows the heart? God knows the heart. Forget the miracle for a minute...He knows what I’m thinking! Even while the miracle is taking place there are other things happening that give proof that Jesus is God.
Which is easier to say?
Some try to argue that it is easier to say one or the other based on the number of words in each sentence. That is unlikely. More likely is the logical or theological argument behind each statement. What do you think is easier to say?
Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man” which is His favorite name for Himself. Perhaps because it stresses His humanity. Perhaps it is because the term is vague enough that it forces people to make up their minds about Him. Is he “a man” or “the Man?” This also fits with the Messianic secret idea that we discussed in the last miracle. Jesus doesn’t want to claim too clearly that He is the Messiah, because He wasn’t the political Messiah that they were looking for. If you were looking for a spiritual Messiah, then you would recognize that He was that.
Here he is saying I’m a human who has the divine authority to forgive sins. Later He will claim to be the Son of Man who is Lord of the Sabbath. This title becomes a title of the Messianic combination of God in the flesh.
The healing is visible to all and they were amazed. But again, I must point out that amazement doesn’t equal belief.
The miracle is designed to teach us something about the person of Christ. He makes an overt claim that He is God and confirms His message through an activity. In other words, the message is authenticated by the miracle. So that you know that what I’m saying is true (your sins are forgiven, (I.e. I’m God), I will perform a miracle.
We see a miracle and then much emphasis on the results of the miracle. So there is a cause effect relationship.
This is another Sabbath miracle. I think Jesus works on the Sabbath on purpose. He is forcing the issue that the religious leaders were missing the original purpose of the Sabbath and that He is Lord over the Sabbath. In the other Gospels, there will be a number of Sabbath controversies following this miracle.
The Feast of Pentecost, Passover and Tabernacles obligated all males to attend. Perhaps it was one of these feasts. It might have been Passover, but some doubt that because it would have been too cold for people to be lying around the pool. Probably not the Feast of Tabernacles because that is the backdrop of chapter 9. That leaves us with the Feast of Pentecost as the probable setting.
John sets this miracle up almost like some movie introductions where the camera starts off with a view of the NY city skyline, then moves in closer to the city, amidst the buildings, into a crowd of people and then focuses on the main character.
Here we see the occasion is a feast, in Jerusalem, near the sheep gate, at the pool of Bethesda, near the colonnades, amidst the multitudes, with a number of disabled and finally he focuses on a man who had been sick for 38 years.
Jesus focuses on one man out of a whole crowd of people who are all there for the same purpose. He does not heal the whole crowd. He heals just one. Why?
If it was true then, is it true today? A lot of people say, “If God did this for them, then why doesn’t he do this for me?” Why doesn’t God heal my cancer or my mother’s cancer, he healed theirs....
Older literature called this man the “impotent man.” That word has sexual connotations in our day, so it might be better to say the “infirm man.” If we put “The Healing of the Impotent Man” on our marquee in front of the church, we might draw a larger crowd though.
These pools were just discovered by archaeologists in the early 1960’s. This is just another example of how archaeology continues to affirm the factuality of scripture.
What were the sick people waiting for? They were waiting for an angel to come and stir the waters. Some manuscripts leave this out. That is why your bible has square brackets around this section. Perhaps they left this out because it wasn’t true that an angel came and stirred the waters. In our day, people believe that the waters of Hot Springs will heal them because someone claimed to have been healed there. Where the tradition came from in our passage we don’t know. Someone may have been healed there or just claimed to have been. It doesn’t really matter if it is true or not because the sick people believed it anyway (cf. 7). John is not saying it is true or not. He’s just telling us why these people hung out at this pool.
I think it is interesting to note that the solution to the man’s problem was Jesus, but he couldn’t see it. He was focused on getting to the pool. He wanted to use Jesus to help him get to the pool. He wasn’t looking to Jesus for the healing.
I think there are a couple of applications we can make from verse 7.
Jesus asks the question “Do you want to get well?” Perhaps we could paraphrase it, “Do you want help from me?” The man just wants to get to the water. He doesn’t realize who Jesus is and what Jesus can do.
“Pick up you mat and walk” is the statement of healing. That he does it is the sign of the healing. What I think is very important and applicable for us is that when Jesus gives a command, He also gives the enablement to carry out the command. If we see a command in Scripture that we are to follow, we don’t do it by our own power. We do it through the power that God supplies.
They are upset because of their over concern for the Sabbath. Although there were 613 commands in the OT, they had added prohibitions to the law as a hedge around the law so that people would not break the law.
It is important to understand that their “hedge” commands were not really a hedge at all. They were designed to allow the Jews to break all the 10 commandments. I’m sure they would deny this and perhaps they didn’t do it intentionally, but because of their natural evil human nature, they had ways of getting around all the commandments. For example: they could swear on the door of the temple and that was not binding but to swear on the doorknob of the temple was. That allowed them to get around the command to not bear false witness. They had very liberal divorce laws which allowed them to get around the command not to commit adultery. They just got divorced, married the one they wanted to be with and then divorced her when they found someone new (cf. Matt 5:32). The sermon on the mount goes through this in detail.
They set up 39 prohibitions to supposedly protect the Sabbath. #39 was that you can’t carry your bed on the Sabbath. Jesus goes right for that to challenge the tradition. In reality, their Sabbath prohibitions kept them from bringing rest to mankind as the Sabbath was originally intended. Jesus was going to bring rest to this man who had been sick for 38 years.
This man had no faith. He didn’t even know who Jesus was. This account destroys the idea that miracles are always the consequence of faith. Later we will see that raising a dead person is also not the result of the person’s faith. Only a few of the 35 miracles were the consequence of faith.
Vs 14 makes me think that sin was probably the cause of his ailment. This is the only miracle when someone is told this. This tells me that we need to be real careful not to jump to any conclusions about the cause of someone’s sickness. There are certain Christian groups that attribute most sickness to sin. I think that is wrong and dangerous. It is dangerous because those that believe that, logically believe that if they stop sinning, they will get well. If they don’t get well, then they can only conclude that they haven’t figured out which sin it is that caused this.
Jesus says, “Don’t sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.” What could be worse than 38 years of sickness? Perhaps he is referring to Hell. That would fit the following context of John 5:29.
Why is the man in the temple? Perhaps he is now a believer. Perhaps the fact that Jesus commands him to stop sinning is an indication that he is now saved/a believer because unbelievers do not have the capability to not sin anymore. Others take this command to be a message of conviction. Perhaps Jesus warning of worse consequences is designed to convict him further.
Vs 15. Why does the man go tell the Jews? He had to have known that they were angry at Jesus because of what they said in verses 10-12.
Persecution - they plan to kill him. Because of their Sabbath traditions, they missed the Savior.
After this, Jesus goes into a major discourse on His equality with God. As always, the signs are given to validate a sermon that was just given or about to be given.
The Jews knew that God did not cease to work on the Sabbath. People were born and people died on the Sabbath, and that was from God because He gives life and causes death. When Jesus says My Father is working now (on the Sabbath) and I am working, it is an obvious claim to deity.
Withered Hands and Hardened Hearts
Also in Matt 12:9-13 and Mark 3:1-5
In Luke 4:19 Jesus read from Isaiah 61 which says that the Messiah would preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, heal the blind, set free those who are downtrodden and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. After Jesus read this, he sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In some ways this passage is a purpose or mission statement for Jesus. In the following chapters of Luke we see him focused on preaching the gospel (Luke 4:43) setting free the captives (those demon possessed are liberated) bringing relief to the downtrodden through several miracles and we see Him working on the Sabbath on several occasions. The Sabbath controversies are important and often overlooked. When Jesus reads the statement “to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord,” and then in the next moment says that this is fulfilled, I think He is stating that He is the Sabbath rest. The Favorable Year of the Lord was the year of Jubilee which was the 50th year. It was the Sabbath of Sabbaths. Jesus is stating that He is the fulfillment of the Sabbath and ultimate rest is found in Him. So He goes around violating the rules of the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath to show that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath, as they know it, is over. But notice that it is always in a context where Jesus is providing for someone’s needs – whether hunger or disease, etc. He is bringing relief and rest to the people.
He has just healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. Then he is picking grain on the Sabbath on the way through a field. According to the OT, it was OK to pick some grain as you passed through someone’s field. What the Pharisees were concerned with was that He was doing it on the Sabbath. Jesus defended what the disciples were doing was not sinful with examples from OT.
“. . . another Sabbath” connects to the previous Sabbath controversies.
Check out Deffinbaugh’s lesson 18 in the Luke series for details on the Sabbath observances. (On Eating Drinking and Being Merry (Luke 5:27-39))
(1) Their purpose: to test him
Some raise the question as to whether or not it was permissible for a disabled man to be in the synagogue. We know that he could not go to the temple, we are not sure about synagogue tradition. Perhaps this man was a plant by the leaders to trap Jesus. It says they were watching to see if Jesus was going to heal “him.” They are trying to find something with which they can accuse Him. This shows us two things:
We’ve already discussed the preceding context where Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 to them, saying that God desired compassion more than sacrifice or ritual. The point of Hosea is God wan’t us to worship Him and love people. The Pharisees did neither.
(2) His purpose: to silence them
In the Matthew passage (Matt 12:11) He gives an illustration about a sheep in a pit to show that doing good on the Sabbath is OK. Doing what is right is OK. That is the issue. It also shows us that it is wrong to do nothing when you have the ability to do something.
What does Jesus’ argument assume? It assumes that people are more important than animals. Jesus indicts them on the issue of the value of people over animals. God prescribed animal sacrifice as the substitute for men. By the time of the NT, there was such a perversion of human value, animals were more valuable than people. Is that not true in our society? We save spotted owl eggs but abort millions of babies a year. We stop our cars and carry a turtle across the road and then go kill someone for a car stereo or a pair of tennis shoes. It is obvious from the Bible which is more valuable, but since our society no longer considers the Bible the authority, everything is relative and we have no argument with the animal rights activists.
In Matt 6:26 and 10:31 Matthew also deals with this issue of the superior value of humans over animals.
Jesus asks them if it is lawful to save life or destroy life on the Sabbath. What is the irony with the statement?
He is trying to save life and they are trying to destroy life (His to be precise.) Perhaps that is why they remain silent (cf. Mark 3:4). He is setting them up because after this they are furious and go out to plan his death.
(1) His answer to them
It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. They won’t answer Him, so He takes the initiative. He states that it is OK to do good (cf. Matt 12:12).
(2) His anguish over them
He was disappointed, righteously angry, etc. (cf. Mark account) over their hard hearts. Although I’m sure He had compassion on the man with the withered hand, this miracle is partly motivated by anger against the Pharisees.
(1) His action
He cures him. Ironically all he does is speak. He is not really working on the Sabbath. Can’t He just talk? The main point is that his word is powerful and sufficient.
(2) Their antagonism
Although He does not lift a hand to work and does not break the Sabbath, the leaders are enraged anyway and get together with the Herodians (the enemy) cf Mark 3:6 … on the Sabbath … to plot a murder … of someone who just performed a good deed. The obviously didn’t learn anything from Jesus’ question as to whether it was legal to save life or destroy it. This shows the absolute irrationality and insidiousness of sin and its blindness.
(1) The occurrence of the miracle on the Sabbath is important. We learn :
(2) Jesus is throwing down the gauntlet challenging the Pharisees. He is confronting them and exposing their misunderstanding of the law. They misunderstood the sign of the law and in reality, they misunderstood the whole law. The Sermon on the mount exposed them in detail. The leaders don’t have a clue and He silences them.
(3) Missing the purpose of the law caused them to miss the Lord.
Rank has its privileges
Also in Matt 8:5-13. Read both accounts and notice differences.
The main idea is faith, but the miracle could also be outlined around the centurion.
There are differences in the gospel accounts of this miracle. Some think these are two different miracles. But I think they refer to the same miracle because:
The main reason some think these are two different miracles is because Matthew says that the Centurion himself went to see Jesus. Luke says that the centurion sent subordinates. Did the centurion go himself or send others? It is passages like this that the critics hold up to show that the Bible is full of mistakes. It is the epitome of arrogance for a man to come along and say that the Bible is wrong. Through the years men have made many claims that the Bible is wrong. Then, archaeologists come along and prove that the Bible is right after all. One of my favorite examples is that for years critics denied the truth of Jonah, because Ninevah didn’t exist, but archaeologists discovered it about 100 years ago.
So, we need to assume that the Bible is inerrant, and just ask, “For now, until I know all the facts, what possible explanation is there for this difference?”
Who wrote Romans? Paul? or Tertius? Paul was the author but someone else wrote it for him. Good secretaries can write letters for their bosses that only need to be signed. Are the letters from the secretary or the boss? Nixon was not at the Watergate hotel. Why was he impeached? Because he was responsible.
The answer to the differences between the two passages is -- The official was a man in authority and he sent representatives, but it is the same thing as him going as far as his faith is concerned. Matthew’s style is to give summations of the miracles. For his purposes, it was easier, but still accurate, to just say it was the centurion.
Luke says, “When He had completed all His discourse…” In the preceding passage (Luk 6:46) Jesus has just asked them, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and then do not do what I say.” One issue that He is dealing with is not recognizing His authority. Now we will have a miracle in which a Gentile recognizes Jesus’ authority.
The Centurion believes in Jesus’ power. He approaches Jesus through Jews. That was the proper way for a Gentile to come to God in OT economy. Here is a Gentile who really understands and recognizes Jesus for who he is.
He also was very concerned for a servant and that was very untypical. His knowledge of God and love for God is shown by his love for his fellow man.
He was a generous man and had built a synagogue so that he could worship the one true God with the Jews. He couldn’t go into the temple, since he was a Gentile.
(1) His humility
The centurion, a man in authority is placing himself under the authority of Jesus. He feels he is not worthy. Again, we see the extraordinary godliness of this man. This is in stark contrast to the Jewish leaders who think that they are worthy of and deserving of God’s blessings. They are self-righteous. That is the hurdle that keeps them from experiencing the grace of God. This is the same point of Luke’s account of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
(2) His faith
He knew the word of Christ and His authority were enough. This miracle is an illustration of the final statement in the sermon on the mount that the crowds were amazed that Jesus spoke with such authority (Mat 7:28-29). Most people didn’t do anything with that amazement. Here is one man who did. Perhaps he heard the sermon on the mount.
He believed Christ’s words before He saw the works.
Jesus is amazed at the man’s faith. He doesn’t need to see the signs. This Gentile really does understand a lot, believes it and acts on it. This is an indictment against the Jewish nation which insists on seeing signs as proof and then still doesn’t believe even after they see the signs.
Matthew includes Jesus’ comment about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob eating with Gentiles in the kingdom (Matt 8:11). Luke leaves this out because he is writing to a Gentile audience. There are a couple of things we can learn from this:
See Weeping and gnashing of teeth discussion: Appendix B.
The effect of the miracle on the crowd is the emphasis.
A large crowd is following Jesus as he approached Nain. At the same time, a large funeral procession was leaving Nain headed for the cemetery.
In our culture, if you are driving along and you see a funeral procession, you are supposed to pull over out of courtesy and respect and let the whole procession pass. According to Jewish tradition, if you intersected a funeral you were obliged to join it. So we have the collision of two parades. The question is which parade will follow which?
This is the first of three people Jesus will raise from the dead. In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, she had just died. This guy was on the way to the grave when Jesus brought him back to life, and Lazarus was dead four days before he raised him. It doesn’t matter to God how long you’ve been dead. He can bring back all the sailors buried at sea that are now fish food or those that are just ashes. He can take care of it.
Nain is located about 10 miles southeast of Nazareth, just south of Mt. Tabor. It is about a day’s journey southwest of Capernaum where he had healed the centurion’s servant. Archaeologists have found a burial site east of the city about 10 miles away.
They are going out of the city. Jesus is going in. The funeral atmosphere was one of weeping and wailing and sadness. It was especially sad because this woman was now all alone.
Jesus’ procession was one filled with joy.
This woman was already a widow and had now lost her only son and only means of support. She was at great social risk and embarrassment. Jesus felt great compassion for her. The word for compassion is splagcnivzomai (splagcnivzomai). It is only used of Jesus and the Good Samaritan. And everytime it is used, the result of the compassion is not just detached concern or kind words, but always involvement and action. He tells her not to cry and raises the boy from death.
Touching a corpse caused defilement in the OT. Jesus could have been defiled, but instead he raises the dead. He touches the coffin. The word translated “touch” is a strong word in the Greek meaning to “lay hold”. Perhaps it indicates that he grabbed hold of the coffin firmly to stop the procession.
He speaks and it happens. Even the dead hear him.
The immediate effects - fear came upon them all and then they glorified God. They conclude that Jesus is a great prophet like Elijah and Elisha. There are allusions to both these prophets in the miracle account. The phrase - “he gave him back to his mother” is the same phrase used in 1Ki 17:23 when Elijah raised the boy from the dead and “gave him back to his mother.” The location of the miracle in Nain is also possibly an allusion to the raising of the Shunamite woman’s son by Elisha because Nain is only a couple of miles north of Shunem (cf. 2Ki 4:). So the event and location are both allusions to Elijah and Elisha. Their conclusion is true. Jesus is a great prophet. But their understanding is incomplete. Jesus is in fact the greater prophet spoken of in Deut 18:15f.
Remote effects - the report went out to the surrounding district.
Also in Matt 12:22-32 and Mark 3:22-30
The effect of the miracle on the audience is the emphasis.
In Matt 12:9-17 Jesus healed the man with the withered hand and the pharisees were upset because He healed on the sabbath. Then Matthew quotes from Isa 42:1 in which Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would minister to the Gentiles. This prediction is related to the pharisees reaction to the healing of the man on the Sabbath, but I think it is primarily setting us up for what follows – the miracle we are studying now.
This miracle is extremely important because it is the turning point in the ministry of Jesus. After this miracle He begins to focus more attention on the Gentiles.
The demon was characterized by its effect on the man. Luke mentions that the demon caused speech impairment. If the Matthew account is the same one, we see he was also blind. I think they are the same because the reaction of the religious leaders is the same in both miracles and Jesus’ words are very similar in the following comments.
According to both Luke and Matthew the crowds were amazed. People openly question whether or not this is the Messiah. Their questions force the religious leaders to decide or at least voice their already formed opinions. And the fact that the common people are close to accepting Jesus as their Messiah leaves the Jewish leaders with less of an excuse for their response to Jesus and much culpability for leading the common people to hell.
The Pharisees reaction is that Jesus gets his power from Beelzebul. In Philistia Baal ze bul meant Lord of the flies. The Jews began to use this term as a derogatory name for Satan. So they are saying that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan.
Others ask for a sign from heaven. How could they? Jesus has shown his power and authority over every single sphere possible and this latest miracle was a miracle over the spiritual realm. That seems to me to be as close a sign from heaven as possible.
No other sign would be given except the sign of Jonah. What does this mean? We have at least 20 more recorded miracles that we are going to study. Weren’t those signs?
From here on out, the miracles are really repeats of earlier miracles, with just different contexts. When he says in Luke 11:29 that no other sign would be given, that doesn’t mean no more miracles would take place. It means that no new type of miracle would occur. There is one remaining sign that hasn’t been performed. He has dealt with death, disease, the demonic, nature (fish), etc. The only sign left is the sign of his own resurrection.
Also, in the context of Matthew’s gospel, what follows this is Jesus begins speaking in parables. Matthew 13:10f says why. He speaks in parables to obfuscate the message for those who don’t want to hear. If you are hungy and listen, you can understand. Otherwise, they just sound like nice stories.
This is the turning point in the ministry of Jesus. From this point on He is secretive in Jewish territory and very vocal in Gentile territory. Prior to this (Matt 10:5f) he had told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans.
Structure of Matthew
Sermon on Mt
Lost of Israel
Mystery of Kingdom
Every time they get in a boat it is test time. Every time they are out in a boat with Jesus and He performs a miracle, it is a miracle that deals with discipleship. It is not a miracle for the multitudes.
Also in Matt 8:18-27 and Luke 8:22-25
In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus has spent a full day teaching and preaching the parables. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus has just healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many others and then there is a break and Matthew records that a crowd had gathered. All three gospels record the healing of the demoniac after this, so these are parallel accounts of the same miracle. What we can gather from the context is that Jesus has been very busy and was in great demand. He was worn out.
Notice Jesus says, “Let us go over to the other side.” I think that statement is important. His intent is to go to the other side, not to go to the middle of the lake and drown.
It says they took Him “Just as He was.” “Just as he was” probably means he was exhausted. After all, He fell asleep in the boat. He needed to rest after a long day of preaching. Here we see His humanity emphasized.
In the midst of his exhaustion, Jesus wants to teach the disciples a lesson.
If you take a bucket of water and blow across the top of it, it doesn’t disturb the water too much. If you take a plate of water and blow across the top of it, it disturbs the whole thing. Sea of Galilee is very shallow and very large. Just a little wind will make 6 foot waves. Imagine at night in a storm there would be 10 to 12 foot waves at least. ISBE vol. 2, p. 1166. It is a very bad storm when professional sailors are afraid and think they are going down.
A good picture of the theanthropic man. Theanthropic means god-man. His humanity is seen in his sleeping after an exhausting day. But whenever we see a clear picture of His humanity, His deity is not far behind and that is what we see next.
He could sleep through the storm, but not through their cries. That is comforting to know.
Matthew’s account tells me that He rebuked them before he rebuked the wind. I would rather have the theology lesson after the trial is over, but I’m convinced that we learn more during the trial than after. He rebuked them for their absence of faith. This is not saying they are not believers. They just aren’t walking by faith or trusting in him for that situation.
In Mark’s account he rebukes them after the miracle.
What would the disciples have done if they had had faith? If they had believed that their Lord was in control and that He cared for them? They would not have awakened the Lord (it was obvious that he needed rest). They would have known that the boat would not sink with the Lord in it. And they would have known that the storm was not going to last forever. They would have been able to ride out the storm and waited.
When we face difficulties, we need to have faith in God’s goodness and God’s control. The storms He sends our way are to build our faith. The storms He sends our way will not last forever. That is not to say they may not last the rest of our natural lives, but one day, all the storms will be over.
Parallel passages: Matt 8:28f, Luke 8:26
Tracking the miracle as the characters in the event relate to Christ.
Historical Context - Did this happen in the Gerasenes, Gadarenes or Gadara? Matthew, Mark and Luke all refer to a different place. No one is sure where this happened or where Gadara is or was. The present town of Gadara is 30 miles from the water. That would be a long way for pigs to run into the water and to make it worse, the land between modern day Gadara and the water is flat - no cliffs - and no caves. Up in Kersa on the northeast portion of the Sea of Galilee there are in fact some small caves that a man could hide in and small cliffs for the pigs to fall off of. So this is possibly the place where it happened. The Arabic name of Kersa is probably related to the Greek name Gerasa and is probably the location.
Literary Context - We have just dealt with his power over the natural world, but now we come to power over the supernatural world.
We see the effect on the personality of this man. He had superhuman strength. He was self-destructive. And he was dangerous (Matt 8:28). So the demons are very powerful. But when the man sees Jesus, even with all the power that “binds” him, he comes and falls at Jesus’ feet. This is a testimony to the surpassing power of Jesus.
(1) The revelation
When the man goes to Jesus for help, the demons immediately recognize Jesus. They had called Him “the Holy one of God in an earlier miracle, (the Isaiah affirmation) now we see that they identify him as the son of the most high God.
The demon said his name was Legion. A legion was 6000 men. Whether or not there were actually 6000 demons in this man, we don’t know, but I’m sure it means that there were a number of demons in this man.
(2) The request
The demons were worried that their judgment was coming now. They say in Matt 8:29, “ Have you come to torment us before “the time.” This shows us that they know that they are doomed. But they think that their judgment is coming a little early. This could mean that they understand the events of prophecy a little and recognize that some things have not yet happened. Or they could be referring to the fact that some demons will be confined to the abyss until they are released for a short time in the tribulation (2Pe 2:4; Rev 9:1-3). Luke 8:31 says that they were afraid of being cast into the abyss. The abyss is not the sea of Galilee. The abyss is a place of confinement until the final judgment. This shows us that they understand their destiny
The demons want to stay where they are because they had a foothold in that area and they ask if they can go into the swine (2000 of them).
What do the pigs think about demon possession? The swine can’t stand the demons and commit suicide. There may be some symbolic value to what happens to them. Giving them a taste of final judgment, etc.
The people are so glad that this man is healed that they applaud Jesus....wrong.
Some have asked, “If these are Jews what are they doing raising pigs?” This was actually a Greek area called the decapolis, so they probably were not Jews.
Losing 2000 pigs does not settle well with the people. They don’t applaud Jesus for healing the man of this terrible plight. Instead they ask Him to leave. They respond in fear (vs 15) but also in rejection.
Would a group of people reject God over a bunch of pigs? These did. Their value system is messed up just like in the miracle of the man with the withered hand where Jesus pointed out the Pharisees’ concern about sheep over people.
Here they are more concerned with their money than the man.
They have tried to bind this man/satan with no success and Jesus handled 6000(?) demons with no trouble.
The man wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go and tell others in the area about God. He was to tell, “What great things the Lord has done..” Tell about the work of God. And, “How He had mercy on you.” Tell about the character of God.
Remember that we said that some teach that Jesus tried to keep his identity secret because He knew that He really wasn’t God. But there is no secrecy here. Perhaps there is no secrecy because this is not Jewish territory. If our chronological ordering of the miracles is correct, this fits with what we saw in the last miracle where Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders and is now turning to the Gentiles. He is more open with Gentiles because it fits His purpose about revelation to the Gentiles and the new inclusion in the kingdom. Also, He is sometimes more open with outsiders/Gentiles than Jews because the negative reaction by the Jewish leaders would hinder his ministry more than rejection by Gentiles.
Jesus told the man to tell everyone what “The Lord” had done... The man goes and tells everyone what “Jesus” had done for him. Mark wants us to make the connection between “Jesus” and the “Lord.”
Found in: Mark 5:25-34; Matt 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56
This miracle will be dealt with with the healing of Jairus’ daughter in the next lesson.
Also found in: Matt 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56
Biographical because of the different people involved in the miracle and the comparisons and contrasts going on between them.
In both Mark and Luke, Jesus has just calmed the storm on the sea and cured a demoniac at Gadara. Now we come to a double miracle in which Jesus deals with both death and disease. The message from Mark 5 and Luke 8 is that Jesus has power over the natural world and the supernatural world and now we see He has power over disease and death. The point of these chapters is that Jesus is the Messiah, He can deal with any problem and He can be trusted.
The context which follows these miracles in both Mark and Luke is one of the commissionings of the disciples. Jesus sent them out, giving them authority over the unclean spirits and told them to take nothing with them for support. The miracles have demonstrated Jesus’ power and care for those who follow him and now the disciples must have faith in Jesus to care for them as they go out to minister. So, I think these miracles are an object lesson for the disciples to give them confidence in Jesus’ power and build their faith in Jesus.
Matthew places the miracle in a different location chronologically and changes a few details. As a matter of fact, this is one of the toughest passages in the Bible to solve the harmony problems between the gospel writers. The problem is with timing. When is Jesus told that Jairus’ daughter is dead? In Matthew Jairus comes to Jesus, falls to his knees and says that his daughter has died (past tense). But Mark and Luke say that the daughter is about to die. In the Greek, the three authors used three different words for death. One means she had died, one says she was dying and the other says she is at the point of death. When did death take place?
I. Howard Marshall, a well respected evangelical in Europe, was unable to sign the Chicago statement on inerrancy a few years ago because of this passage. He felt sure that there had to be errors in one of the gospel’s accounts of this miracle. There was an obvious contradiction here.
The real problem is reconciling Matthew’s account with the other gospel writers. I think the explanation is that Matthew often telescopes or condenses his miracle accounts and leaves out some of the details because he wants to stress other things. He does this with the account of the centurion who comes to Jesus asking Jesus to heal his servant. In that miracle account Luke says the centurion sent Jewish representatives. Matthew simply says that the centurion came to Jesus. It is basically the same thing because when someone in authority delegates a task, he is responsible.
Here the correct sequence of events is that the daughter was not dead yet, but would be before Jesus got to Jairus’ house. Matthew just relates that she is dead and doesn’t have to add the details about the person coming from Jairus’ house to inform Jairus that his daughter was now dead. Matthew also leaves out several other details. He doesn’t mention the crowd pressing in on him, the thoughts of the woman who touched him, Jesus’ question as to who touched him and the disciples’ response to Jesus’ question.
These differences really bother some people, but we have to remember that the gospel writers had different personalities, different audiences, different points that they were trying to make, etc. Most apparent contradictions between the gospels can be explained by taking these differences into account. Those that we cannot explain I attribute to my lack of understanding rather than jump to the conclusion that the Bible is in error.
The intertwining of these two miracles has a sandwiching effect. Jairus and his daughter are the bread and the woman is the “meat.” Jairus’ daughter is twelve years old. The woman was sick for 12 years. What does that mean? Who knows. We don’t know, but it is probably just a literary device to link the two stories together. Jairus is a synagogue ruler. The woman was unclean because of the blood problem. So you have an insider and an outsider compared and contrasted. There is a woman and a child, death and disease, a public miracle and a private miracle. Lots of contrasts and comparisons going on. Perhaps the point is that it doesn’t matter what your social status is, Jesus is the answer.
He is stopped by the man and pressed in by the crowd. Luke uses the word sunepnigon which is the same word used of the thorns which choked the word in the parable of the seed (8:14). The crowd is crushing Jesus. Matthew doesn’t mention this which is in keeping with what we just said about his tendency to condense the accounts.
For The Synagogue Ruler
Jairus is the leader of the local synagogue. It could very well be the synagogue in Capernaum. We don’t know what his reaction to Jesus was prior to this. Perhaps he witnessed the casting out of the demon in the synagogue and the healing of the man with the withered hand in the synagogue. Since he is one of the leaders, and the leaders didn’t typically respond well to Jesus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jairus didn’t think too highly of Jesus prior to this. But now that his daughter is dying and he is desperate, He comes to Jesus. I wonder if it was difficult for him to kneel before Jesus? We can only speculate, but I doubt that Jairus’ faith was that Jesus was the Messiah—only that He could heal people and might be able to heal his daughter.
Jairus’ daughter was at the point of death. He wanted Jesus to hurry and come to his house to heal her. Jesus consents to go with Jairus, but soon after they get started, there is a delay. A sick woman comes up and touches Jesus’ garment. I can imagine that Jairus is probably frustrated at the delay. And the delay adds to the drama of the story. It also shows us that Jesus did not neglect the needs of a lowly woman to impress an influential religious leader.
For The Woman with the 12 year Hemorage
Because of her condition, this woman was continuously unclean according to Lev 15:25-31. She could not go to the temple to worship. She could not touch anyone or they would be unclean for the rest of the day. If she sat in a chair, it was unclean for the rest of the day, etc. So she was basically cut off from normal fellowship with others and with God.
Mark wants you to know that the doctors couldn’t help her. He says, “She suffered much at the hands of many doctors, had spent all her money and was not helped at all.” Luke doesn’t mention that she suffered at the hands of many doctors, nor that she had spent all her money on medical bills. He just mentions that she could not be healed. Why do you think Luke left that part out? Because Luke was a doctor.
In contrast to the physicians of the world, we see the capabilities of the Great Physician.
Superstition said that power was in the robe of a great man, priest, rabbi, etc. Her belief was that touching the fabric would make her well. In fact, when she did touch His garment, she was healed.
Jesus was aware of the fact that a miracle had taken place. Was she healed by touching his garment? Was it the garment that healed her? No, Mark 5:30 says Jesus felt the power flow from Him. Mark wants to distinguish between the fabric and her faith in Him.
Matthew says she was healed from that hour, which might seem to mean she was healed after Jesus spoke, but again I think this is just Matthew’s summary style at work.
The woman is probably ashamed and embarrassed. She was unclean and her touch would have made anyone she touched unclean. But as we have seen before, the reason Jesus doesn’t become unclean when He touches an unclean person like a leper or a corpse, is because He transfers cleanlines and life. Haggai 2:10-14 makes the point that if something clean touches something unclean, then the thing that was clean is defiled. Not so with Jesus. The details of the miracles where Jesus transfers cleanliness parallel the spiritual healing that Jesus brings where He cleanses us of our sin.
I also think that the numerous events where Jesus touches unclean people illustrate the doing away with the law and the whole idea of ritual uncleanness. Something new was happening and Jesus accepts all people who believe in Him no matter what their status is in the society.
Jesus declares to the woman that it was not the touch but her faith which healed her.
First, I want to point out that Mark uses the word swzw to indicate that she was healed. But the word usually means “saved.” There is a double entendre or double meaning here. Not only was she healed physically, she was healed spiritually. She was saved.
Second, we need to ask, “When did she demonstrate her faith?” She had faith that He could heal her when she approached Jesus. She demonstrated her faith further when she touched him. She was focused on touching His garments as if they had some magical powers, but God was gracious enough to respond to her faith even though it was not mature.
I think one of the reasons Jesus stopped was to tell the woman that it was her faith that healed her so that she wouldn’t continue in her superstition.
Does God answer children’s prayers? Do they understand how it all works? There are still times when I don’t pray very smartly, but God still understands my heart and answers. God uses inadequate faith, imperfect faith, immature faith, etc. He responds and then clarifies it later.
How many of you became Christians through hearing or reading a verse in the Bible that is truly a justification passage like John 3:16? How many of you became a Christian after hearing some passage or passages that were not justification related, but convicted you anyway? Since not everyone raised their hand, maybe I should ask how many of you have not yet become a Christian?
I think many people have come to Christ based on Rev 3:20 which says, “I stand at the door and knock...” That is not primarily a salvation passage. It is talking about Jesus wanting to have fellowship with some lukewarm Christians. But God lets people become Christians and then maybe they’ll learn the truth later. Maybe not. I’ve heard people criticize others for using Rev 3:20 out of context to lead someone to Christ. But God is sovereign and can lead people to Him any many ways.
Back to Jairus
(1) The report (35)
Jairus is with Jesus and when Jesus stops to help the woman, Jairus is probably wishing Jesus would hurry. Then some men from Jairus’ house find Jairus and Jesus and report that Jairus’ daughter is dead.
(2) The response (36)
Do not be afraid, just believe. It must be possible then, not to fear, even in the face of death. And if faith can eliminate fear in the worst scenario that you can face, then faith can eliminate fear for any situation.
When they get to the house, He tells them not to cry because she is not dead and they laugh at Him. Was she dead? Yes. The text says, “Her spirit returned.” Why does He say she is only asleep? Because He knew it was not permanent. She wasn’t going to stay dead. Jesus says the same thing with Lazarus, the disciples misunderstand and he corrects them saying, “no, he is really dead.” Sleep is a euphemism for “temporal” death. Paul even uses this term for believers. 1Co 15, 1Co 11.
(1) His privacy
He did not let anyone follow except the three. This was going from a public to a private instruction. This miracle is for Jairus’ family and for the disciples.
(2) His power
Matt 11:5 quoting Isa 35 says that it will be a combination of his message backed by his miracles that prove who he is. He is different from the prophets because none of them do all the miracles nor make the claims he does. He does all the miracles and claims deity, Messiahship, that He is the son of man who has authority to forgive sins, that He is His Father’s son, etc., but He never says “I’m a prophet.” He was more than a prophet. Even though Elijah and Elisha each raise a widow’s son, they have to go through a complicated ritual of lying on the child, blowing in their mouth, etc. They are obviously trying to get God to raise the children. Jesus is God. He simply speaks.
When Jesus tells them to give the little girl something to eat, I think it just shows that Jesus is not only concerned with our big problems, He is also concerned for the little details.
Tracking on the idea of faith.
There are several other passages where blind are healed - Matt 12:22, 20:30, 21:14, Mark 8:22-26; John 9. This one does not seem to be a parallel to any of the other gospels.
Determining the order and timing of the miracles is very tricky. I seem to remember hearing that we only have about 50 days recorded out of three years of Jesus’ ministry. The gospel writers recorded different sayings and events and placed the events in a certain order to help make their points. For example, Matthew organizes this section of his gospel around 10 sermons, 10 miracles and then 10 rejections. It is a very symetrical presentation, but is it the order in which Jesus said these things and did these things?
If this miracle follows the healing of Jairus’ daughter, then after leaving Jairus’ house, two blind men hear that Jesus is passing by and they call out to Him. But Jesus doesn’t stop, He goes into a house. I assume that at least Peter, James and John are with Jesus after they left Jairus’ house. So it is probably one of their houses in Capernaum since He does not have his own house (Matt 8:20). If so, that lends support to my speculation last week that Jairus was the synagogue official in Capernaum.
Also, if our chronology is correct, it is one of several miracles performed just before the disciples are sent out to witness to Israel.
Two blind men call Him the “Son of David.” This is a title which emphasizes His Messiahship. Especially in Matthew with his Jewish audience and emphasis on the Kingdom is this true. This is the first time Jesus is addressed this way, and it shows that these blind men recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Also, the mercy to heal comes from God and they recognize that too. It is amazing how much these blind men see.
Some question why Jesus would pass these men by, and then even after they call out to him, keep on going into the house. Bruner identifies three possible reasons: messianic, modesty and the testing of faith.13
(1) His Person (27)
They know that God is merciful and they know that the Messiah, being from God, would be too. So they have faith in who He is and that He would be disposed to show mercy. What is mercy? Is it feeling sorry for someone? I think it may involve that sometimes, but the main idea is to offer practical help to someone in need. We needed salvation, and God provided it, even though we didn’t deserve it. These men could not see. They needed help and Jesus could help them.
The question that comes to my mind is this. If Jesus passed them by, was He not intending to help them? Was it their appeal to His mercy that caused Him to respond? Was it their persistence? Was it their faith? What does this say about election? I don’t know the answer.
(2) His power (28)
Since they already believe that He has mercy, Jesus inquires as to their belief in His ability (not his will). It seems that the emphasis in this section of Matthew is the need to believe that Jesus has the power to heal. And the logical conclusion is that He has the power to save.
They respond, “Yes, Lord.” The word “Lord” could just be a term of respect and just mean “Sir” as in, “Yes, Sir.” Or it could be that they understand that He is “The Lord.” We can’t know for sure. I think it means more than just “Sir.”
(1) The touch of Jesus
He touches them and heals them. In the Near East, eye diseases were as repulsive as leprosy.14 So touching them has special significance. He doesn’t just talk to them. He touches them at the point of their oppression.
Then He tells them to tell no one. Relating this back to what was mentioned before, this is possibly because Jesus wants to avoid the political aspirations of the multitudes that would result from the blind men’s identification of Him as “Son of David.”
(2) The transgression of the men
They disobey. They don’t follow his will for them. This is the same thing that we saw in the miracle of the leper who was told to be silent, but didn’t. They experienced his mercy, but disobey the mandate. I have to wonder what it was that Jesus wanted them not to tell. Certainly, if someone asked how they were healed, they could have said, “Jesus healed us.” But, going back to the messianic reason we mentioned earlier as to why Jesus didn’t stop… perhaps what Jesus didn’t want them saying was “The Messiah, Son of David, is here to deliver Israel from….” I imagine that would have been their inclination because of the way they addressed Jesus.
We see the miracle with various responses. Cause/effect relationship.
Matt 9:35 is a key verse in determining how to organize Matthew’s gospel and understanding the context. Matt 4:23 is almost identical to 9:35, so what we have here is something called inclusio. Matthew states up front, in 4:23, what Jesus is going to do, then he gives us the 10 speeches and the 10 miracles and then summarizes what Jesus has been doing in 9:35.
This is miracle number 10 in the list.
Word kophas can mean mute, deaf or deaf and mute (deafness which resulted in a speech problem). Here, however, only the speech seems to be affected.
What is left out of this miracle is the man’s faith, Jesus’ method, His words, etc. What is emphasized is the response of the people and leaders. So let’s look at the responses:
The man spoke. We know nothing about his spiritual response.
The masses marveled. This statement that the masses marveled is a fitting statement to punctuate Matthew’s list of 10 miracles. They had witnessed the greatest display of power in Israel’s history (possibly referring to all 10 miracles just explained).
The leaders reject Him. The leaders have seen the same thing, but they attribute the power to Satan. 9:34 is an important part of Matthew’s argument. It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t deal with the leaders rejection here. He will wait until 12:30f.
Also in Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17
The main idea that is set forth is that Jesus is the source.
This miracle is in all four gospels therefore it is important. Why? I think it is because the message of the miracle is so important.
The location according to the text is in a “desert” region. There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren. The word “desert” means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people.15
Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples for several possible reasons:
It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him.
After teaching all day, the disciples approach Jesus (according to Luke 9:12 and Mark 6:35) and suggest He send the crowd away to find lodging and food. Evidently many of the people had travelled a great distance to hear Jesus.
Jesus tells them to feed the people (Matt 14:16), and He asks Philip where they should buy bread to feed the people (John 6:5). Jesus is testing Philip. He already knew what He was going to do. He was asking Philip to see if he knew, to stretch him. Is this deceitful or misleading? No. It is like asking your son, “OK, How are we going to fix the bike?” You know how you are going to fix the bike, but you want your son to use his head, come to some conclusion and act on it. This was a test designed to teach. Jesus wants them to deal with their own thoughts and their own solutions before He shows them what He is going to do. His goal was for them to come to Him and ask Him to do it.
He also questions Andrew as to the amount of money (Mark). There is not nearly enough money to feed this crowd. Jesus is showing them that there is no way they can solve the problem on their own.
What do they have? Just a little boy’s lunch. Children were of little value in that culture. They weren’t even counted with the 5000. I think the significance of this is that God uses someone of no account to perform the miracle.
We can’t help them, send them away. (Matt 14:15) Rather than turn to Jesus, they give up.
Feed them. Now that they recognize their inability and inadequecy, He tells them to feed the people. If they can’t do it in their own power, what should they do?
Perhaps Jesus has them organize them in groups of 50 because it will make the crowd easier to count and the disciples will then have a concrete number to remember. There wouldn’t be any estimating later that would sidetrack the issue.
He gives thanks to God for providing the food. It shows His dependence on the Father. He is modeling for the disciples.
He breaks the bread and distributes to the disciples to give it to the multitudes. The impact of this routine on the disciples should have been overwhelming as they went back to Jesus time and time again to get what they needed to feed the multitude.
How many trips would you have to make before it came to you: “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.”
(1) They recognize Him as a prophet (6:14)
They think he is the great prophet of Deut 18:8. He is the one who is greater than Moses. Perhaps they were taken back to Moses with the manna, Elijah with the widow, Elisha, etc. Now, here’s Jesus doing it on a much grander scale.
(2) They want Him to be a king (6:15)
Isn’t this great? They finally recognize Jesus is the King.
Do they really recognize Jesus as the King? What kind of king were they wanting? They wanted a king that would put a chicken in every pot, put bread on the table, someone to deliver them from Rome, etc.
In the next discourse the multitudes leave him because they don’t like the message that He is the bread of life. They like the whole wheat bread, but they don’t want a Savior. The problem with self-righteousness is that they don’t want to admit that they need a savior. They do not see sin as serious enough for God to send His Son to die.
As we read through the gospels we see the reason people don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. One of them is that people don’t think that they are that bad of a person. We can always find people who are worse than we are. Sure, they will admit that they do wrong things, but they are not that bad. It takes humility - the poor in spirit - to admit it.
Their problem was this: Their view of the kingship was physical and their view of the Lord was partial.
Also in John 6:15-21, Mark 6:45-52
Jesus has just been offered the crown, but without the cross. He’s fed the 5000 and sent them away, now He sends the disciples ahead of him to Bethsaida, and He stays behind to pray.
The disciples are in the boat in the middle of the lake (3 miles from shore). 3:00-6:00 in the morning. They’ve been rowing a while, probably against the wind.
We mentioned once before that every time the disciples get in a boat, it is time for another test.
Mark says Jesus was intending to pass them by. Picture it: The disciples are exhausted, they’ve been rowing for hours against the wind and are probably going nowhere and here comes Jesus, making good time.
The disciples think it is a ghost. We laugh and ridicule them, but their blunders are there for us to learn from . This is an example of their lack of faith.
(1) The response of Jesus
“Don’t be afraid. It is I.” The phrase “It is I” also means “I am.” It was the normal response of a person identifying themself, but with Jesus it takes on special significance. Here He is identifying himself to them as the one who can walk on the water, i.e. God. He will use the phrase later in the Garden and knock the soldiers back with the power of the statement.
(2) The request of Peter
“Lord, if it is you...” Peter models for us what we do. Lord, I know it is you, but.... Lord, I know you are sovereign, but... Lord, I trust you, but.... Peter is asking for proof. We all want proof.
Jesus just says, “Come.” What control. What gentleness. He didn’t lecture Peter.
(1) In success
This is not rash or impulsive. The Lord does not rebuke him.
(2) In failure
This is rash. He is successful and soon forgets where his success came from. Verse 30 says, “seeing the wind.” He begins looking at the circumstances. He gets his eyes off God. Then he sinks.
We sometimes do great things for God and are ok until we start to think about it. When we do start thinking about it and analyzing it, we are in trouble. It is then that we often start thinking that we are doing it on our own.
(1) His condition
He looks at the circumstances. Peter’s story is the story of all of us. We usually begin good. But in the middle of the situation, we get our eyes off Jesus. We begin to look at our situation and we have no faith.
(2) His cry
The only thing one bound for destruction can cry. “Lord, Save me!”
(3) His conviction
Jesus says Peter’s problem is his lack of faith, his doubt. When the circumstances appear overwhelming, it is the result of doubt. If we are trusting God, then nothing will seem overwhelming, because nothing is overwhelming to God. When my kids have a problem, break something or get their shoestrings in a knot, it is overwhelming to them and they come to me and ask “would you fix this…” They assume that I can do anything. They are still young. But they have the attitude that we should all have towards God.
When they climbed in the boat the wind died. John also reports that the boat immediately arrived at the other side, which in itself seems like another miracle.
In Matt 14:33 the disciples say, “You are certainly God’s Son!” How do you reconcile their confession in Matt with the hardness of heart statement in Mark? The Mark passage points out that they did not understand who He was before now. Now they are beginning to understand.
Jesus He wanted to be alone, but couldn’t escape the crowds and people in need so He goes to Tyre. This is the only time He left Israel during his ministry.
The discussion on kosher food and defilement in the previous context is very related to our story. The importance of these things was that they made Israel separate from the rest of the world. But Jesus is going to do away with some of these distinctives. In Jn 4, with the woman at the well, Jesus foretells the doing away with worship in Jerusalem. Here we have a removing of the dietary laws.
This miracle is a hinge to show the movement from the Jews to the Gentiles.
She has everything going against her. She is a Gentile woman - a Canaanite woman - with a demon possessed daughter. There are many barriers - racial, social, cultural, spiritual.
“Lord, Son of David...” She is coming with understanding of who He really is. This is very impressive. But Jesus doesn’t answer her. Why not? I think He is leading her along to develop the understanding of the disciples. He is setting up what is going to happen. He will respond to her later.
The disciples were annoyed. Over and over again we see their great pastoral hearts. She is persistent.
Jesus was sent only to minister to Israel. Rom 15:8 He came to make a legitimate offer of the kingdom to Israel.
(1) Her reverence
She has understanding and faith. (vs 25)
(2) His rejection
Who were the children? Who were the dogs? Is this politically incorrect language? Gentiles were dogs to the Jews. This argues for authenticity of the scriptures because it would be tempting to tone down Jesus’ seemingly cruel words here.
(3) Her response
She responds with amazing understanding and faith. She is asking if Jewish failure can’s result in Gentile blessing. Can’t Gentiles have what Jews reject. She reveals what God is doing in the world. Israel’s failure will result in Gentile blessing. Rom 9-11. He fed 5000 Jews, now he will go feed 4000 Gentiles. There are no more restrictions on the basis of food. Peter didn’t learn this till Acts 10. Jesus doesn’t call Gentiles “dogs” anymore because they are no longer outsiders.
Matt 8:, Luke 7:, John 4:, Matt 16:21f. All miracles of healing of Gentiles. All done from a distance. Gentiles were viewed as far away and Jews as being near. There may be some significance to this.
(1) Jesus hails her faith
(2) Jesus heals her daughter
Still with the Gentiles. He has been for several months. Some think that the trip from Tyre through Sidon lasted about eight months as he ministered to the Gentiles in that area.
The term used means “deaf/stammerer” Stop and think about what it would be like to have the condition of the person being healed.
(1) The manner
(2) The method
They want him to lay hands on him, but He does it a different way. He touches the ears and then touches his tongue (spits) and then touches the tongue of the other. Perhaps this is a way of communicating visually with the man what He was about to do.
It is the command which heals not the power of the saliva. The most repeated method of healing in the miracles is the “WORD” of God.
(3) The miracle
A complete healing. All of the miracles are complete healings except one which is accomplished in two steps for teaching purposes. That separates true miracles from what we witness on TV today.
(1) His request
He tells them not to tell anyone. Perhaps to keep the multitudes from looking for a miracle worker. He was looking less for a following than for people of faith to follow. We like crowds (quantity). He likes quality.
(2) Their response
Astonishment but not salvation.
Contrasts Between the Feeding of the 5000 and the 4000.
(Some think it is the same, but that is not possible. Matt and Mark record both.)
sat on the grass
sit on ground (no grass mentioned)
Jesus wanted rest before
Jesus traveling before - no mention of rest
afterward there is a storm
multitude from nearby
multitude from a long distance away
with him 1 day
been with him 3 days
5 loaves and 2 fish
7 loaves and a few fish
Not enough money
Can’t find enough
different word for basket (hand basket)
remain: 12 basketsfull
7 basketsfull (not tied to Israel’s number 12)
found in all gospels
found only in Matt and Mark
Jesus mentions both Matt 16: 5-12, Mk 8:20
Also in Matt 15:32
(Contrasts between the 5000 and the 4000)
Syrophoenecian woman’s daughter healed in Tyre. Now He’s in the Decapolis. Dealing with Gentiles.
Dietary Laws in Matthew - shows movement toward Gentiles since Israel was rejecting Him.
(1) Of the multitudes (1-3)
(2) Of the disciples (4-5)
No faith. How could they commit the same sin twice in a row? We would never do that.
(1) The supply (6-7)
(2) The satisfaction (8-10)
Gentiles experiencing the blessings of Messiah.
You need to understand the movement from the feeding of the 5000 to the 4000. Jesus was showing the disciples that everything they need for ministry they get from Jesus. The miracles also showed a movement from the Jews to the Gentiles. Jesus was preparing them for a world wide ministry after He left.
Whomever God chooses for ministry, he prepares them before and provides for them during their ministry. Don’t every say, “How am I going to do all this?” except to recognize that “you” can’t but “He” can and will provide.
Then they are in the boat and are afraid. They ask Jesus if He doesn’t care. What is wrong with that? Does presence of hard times mean God doesn’t care? That implies that if God doesn’t care, He will not provide for us.
Mark 8:9bf show that the pharisees ask for a sign. How many miracles have we seen so far? 23. It is amazing that they could ask this. So, neither the people nor the disciples are “getting it.” From here on out, Jesus starts performing private miracles or miracles in remote places away from Jerusalem. He gives up on the pharisees and focuses on the disciples.
The disciples are now in a boat and have forgotten to bring bread. Jesus asks them why they are talking about bringing the bread. They have still not understood. They still think the problem is that they don’t have enough - like they are supposed to supply it. They don’t need to worry. Jesus could supply bread if they got hungry. If Jesus could feed 5000+ and 4000+ couldn’t he feed 12?
How much was left after the 5000+ were fed? 12 baskets. How much after 4000+? 7 baskets. There were more crumbs left after the Jews ate than the Gentiles. There may be some significance to this. It may mean better response from Gentiles.
Now we come to Bethsaida and there is a miracle performed in two stages. It is not because Jesus’ batteries were low. It was a symbol for the disciples. It represents the two stages of understanding of the disciples.
Takes place back near the feeding of the 5000. Another reminder.
(1) Presentaton of the man
(2) Privacy with the man
(1) Healing (23)
(2) Result (24)
This is private and so there is no chance of a “blurred” testimony to the nation.
(1) The healing
This does not teach that some miracles happen gradually. This was a very deliberate teaching opportunity for the disciples and done in two distinct stages not a gradual improvement over a day, week, etc.
Some think the two stages teach that some things are hidden now, but when the Spirit comes all things will be seen clearly. That is not in the context. In fact the context teaches that they should have understood everything already.
(2) The prohibition
The text doesn’t say that the man disobeyed, so we can assume he did obey.
Reasons for secrecy
It is not because He knew He wasn’t really the Messiah and didn’t want people to think that. Some teach this (cf. Ried ... )
Ray Stedman suggests the following application from this miracle:
If you have the spiritual blahs, here we have a model of what todo:
First, “Do you not perceive or understand?” Study the revelations of God to you — scripture and events. Use your mind.
Second, he asks, “Are your hearts hardened?” Analyze the state of your heart. Are you dull, or do you respond? If we are not excited, if we do not feel a response of joy, it is because the mind has grasped it but the heart has not.
Third, Jesus repeats the phrase, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” Do not just look at the events you are seeing and think that is all there is to it. It is a parable, a parallel to something deeper and more important, concerning your spirit. As these men were being fed by the loaves and the fishes, he was saying to them, “Don’t think of this merely as a way of getting a good, quick, free meal. Understand that I am the source for everything in life
Finally, “Do you not remember?” Look back at what has happened and recognize that God has been at work in your life. What is happening right now is not just an accident. It is part of a bigger plan.
Also in Matt 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-42
The main idea revolves around the faith of all those involved.
Chiastic structure of miracle:
Son - Demon
Control - it’s history
Faith is the point
Son - Demon
Control - it’s end
Confession of Peter and transfiguration have just occurred.
How many have heard about the mountain top experience followed by the valley of defeat? What is wrong with that? It is a different group of disciples. This is a “meanwhile, back at the ranch” account.
The transfiguration is a confirmation of the faith of the inner core of the disciples who have struggled with the concept that he has to die so he gives them a taste of the coming glory to bolster their faith. While he is bolstering these disciples’ faith, the other disciples down in the village are having their faith tested.
The disciples and scribes are arguing, but when Jesus shows up, the crowd leaves and runs to see Jesus. Surely this didn’t settle well with the scribes.
Why was the crowd amazed and run to see Jesus? Mark 9:15 Some say it was because Jesus’ face was glowing like Moses’ was after He cam down off of Mt. Sinai.
(1) The hopelessness of the son
Over the condition of his son. The demons were really damaging the son. Luke points out that it is life threatening. It could kill him.
(2) The helplessness of the disciples
He convicts the disciples and others for their lack of faith. He makes reference to the fact that He is going to have to leave, and what are they going to do when He is no longer with them? If they don’t have faith, they are going to be helpless.
He asks the father to bring the son.
It demonstrates its control over the boy.
The father says, “If you can.” I think somehow God is offended when someone says this. Jesus’ response is “If I can?” My ability is not the problem. Your faith is the problem, “All things are possible to him who believes.”
Do we really believe that? Do we pray with faith that God can change my situation? We have not because we ask not. We shy away from the name it and claim it televangelist crowd and condemn them, but we have thrown out the baby with the bath water. What is your impossible situation? Are most of your prayers over things you can handle even if God doesn’t do anything.
“I do believe...” What is happening with the father that should have happened with the disciples? The father ASKED. The disciples never asked for help.
Why were they unable? Because they did not ask for help. No prayer.
Most manuscripts add “fasting” here, but the two oldest don’t have it. It was probably added later due to the popularity of fasting in the early church. I can’t imagine that if you run into a demon possessed person, that you would have to postpone the excorcism for several days so that you could fast, and then cast out the demon.
What is the connection between prayer and faith?
Illustration in natural world that leads to understanding of supernatural. The logic of analogy.
There are actually fish in the sea of Galilee which pick the fertilized eggs off the sea floor and hold them in their mouths until they hatch. Some use this to prove that this was not a miracle. But the response to that is how did Jesus know that that particular fish had a coin in its mouth, that Peter would catch the right one and how did he know its denomination or amount.
It seems that Jesus had not been at the Passover - perhaps up in Gentile territory. Therefore he wasn’t around to pay the tax. When the temple tax collectors ask if Jesus pays, Peter’s impulsive response is, “Yes, he does.”
Royalty goes free. Sons are exempt. They don’t pay taxes. This is a political / kingdom illustration, but we are not talking about kings and taxes and politics. This is a religious issue - temple tax. Who pays the temple tax? All the citizens of Israel. Who goes free? The Son of God. After all the temple is God’s House.
Jesus didn’t have to pay the tax. What is the claim? His deity for one and that other believers are exempt too.
Jesus pays the tax just to avoid offending, but He’s already made His point. This is yet another instance where we see that the old system is finished and Jesus disengaging from Israel.
In John 6: Jesus fed 5000 and then said He was the Bread of Life (John 6:35). In John 8:12 he claimed that He was the Light of the World. Now he provides physical and spiritual light to a blind man.
This miracle has messianic significance. In the OT it is God himself who is associated with the giving of sight to the blind (Ex. 4:11, Ps. 146:8). In a number of passages in Isaiah (29:18, 35:5, 42:7) it is considered to be a messianic activity:
John 8:59 shows that they wanted to kill Him. They understood his claims.
(1) The question of the disciples (1-2)
In light of the placement of this account in the narrative, it appears that the Evangelist wants to suggest that this man is representative of all humanity. The fact is that mankind is not by nature receptive to the light (1:5,10). Rather all mankind is spiritually blind from birth. It is the role of the Light who comes into the world to enlighten every man (cf. 1:9).16
The disciples are guilty of a “Job’s friend” type of theology. They assumed that there was something sinful about the conception or the lives of the parents or the man sinned in the womb.
One of the main reasons this type of theology is so popular, is because if we can assign blame for misfortune, then it offers us the false hope that if I am good, nothing like that will happen to me.
(2) The answer of Jesus (3-5)
The purpose is for the benefit of the man and the witness of Christ. “While it is day” is a metaphor for present opportunity. He is here now and able to do things in front of them, soon he will be leaving.
He repeats the statement that He is the light of the world (cf 8:12).
(3) The result for the blind man (6-7)
The means - spittle and touch again. Here he makes mud pies (which violates the sabbath rule against kneading). The word “siloam” means “sent” and may be a reference to the fact that Jesus was sent by the Father and Jesus sent the man.
(4) The report of the blind man (8-12)
A man called Jesus. I don’t know where he is.
(1) The man and the Pharisees (13-17)
They want to know how he had received his sight? They were not interested in the welfare of the man, just that someone had worked on the Sabbath. (Another Sabbath miracle.)
The Pharisees conclude He can’t be from God, because he is a Sabbath breaker. The man concludes he might be a prophet.
(2) The Jews and the parents (18-23)
The parents are afraid of the leaders and wouldn’t say anything.
(3) The man and the Jews (24-34)
They know he is from Nazareth. The question might be referring to who his father was. Perhaps they think Jesus is illegitimate because he was born too soon after the marriage. Or the question could
No one has ever heard of opening the eyes of someone born blind - increase in the power factor here.
The formerly blind man makes several true statements, follows the logic and comes to the correct conclusions. Thus, the Pharisees are indicted for not coming to the same conclusions and being the godly leaders they were supposed to be.
Jesus found him out... Jesus healed him of his blindness, but the man didn’t really understand who it was that healed him. So Jesus found the man a second time to deal with his spiritual blindness. Perhaps the man wasn’t ready at the time of the healing to believe, but after the questioning of the Pharisees, he had had time to think about everything and was now ready.
(1) The faith of the man (35-38)
Although the majority of Greek manuscripts read “Son of God,” the oldest and best manuscripts read “Son of Man.” I think “Son of Man” fits the context of judgment better (cf. Dan 7:13) The “Son of Man” phrase means more than just any son to this man. It has special significance and the blind man recognizes it. He just hadn’t made the connection before now that Jesus was the son of man. It is at this time that he becomes a believer. Not when he was making deductions earlier.
(2) The function of Jesus (39-41)
He reveals the truth and gives sight to the blind.
He conceals the truth and further blinds those who can “see.”
(i) The purpose of Christ’s ministry
His purpose is both salvation and judgment. He saves those with faith and judges those with lack of faith. In this context the condition for salvation is the confession of need (recognizing blindness) And those who say they see are self-righteous. Saying you “see” means you don’t recognize your sin. Therefore you don’t see a need for salvation.
Christ’s purpose was to save the world, but the consequence of rejecting His salvation is judgment. Priority desire is to save. Resultant action may be condemnation. Did I know when I had children that I would have to spank them. Yes. Did I have children so that I could spank them? No.
(ii) The problem of Israel’s mentality
Another Sabbath miracle.
In the central section of the travelogue, in the center of a giant chiasm are two miracles which frame the very center.-- The doubled over woman and the man with dropsy.
O. Doubled Over
P. International mission and growth
P’ Israel rejection
Note the twofold problem and the twofold solution: Physical ailment caused by a demon
It is hard to believe the comment of the synagogue officials. Surely no one could be this calloused.
He rebukes their hypocrisy and of their mixed up value system.
They would release their ox. Jesus released the woman from what bound her (satan). I think Satan was not the only thing that was binding. The religious leaders were too.
Same as bent over woman
Same as bent over woman
The death of Christ serves the framework for the raising of Lazarus. John mentions Mary’s anointing of Jesus before the story of Lazarus and she actually annoints Jesus after the story. Chapter 11 is one big chiasm.
The city of Bethany is now called Lazaria (The city of Lazarus). Why would an Arab town’s name be changed and survive for 2000 years if something amazing had not happened there. Arab’s aren’t going to do that for Christians benefit.
(1) The difficulty (3)
Lazarus was sick and about to die.
In verse 3 we see that Mary and Martha know Jesus loves Lazarus. Then in verse 5 John points out again that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Why the repetition? Obviously, John wants to emphasize the love between Jesus and this family. Perhaps the reason for the repetition is that Jesus is about to do something that doesn’t seem very loving. He’s going to let Lazarus die. Maybe John is just trying to emphasize that just because bad things happen to us, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. Later on in the account, we see Jesus “deeply moved” and “troubled” and even weeping. So there should be no question that Jesus cares.
Jesus points out that the purpose of the sickness was so that God and He himself might be glorified.
(2) The delay (4-6)
Jesus delays going to Bethany until after Lazarus has died. Again, the delay was so that God would receive more glory.
(3) The discussion (7-16)
(i) Safety (7-10)
Jesus could have healed or raised Lazarus from a distance, but perhaps he wants to go to Bethany to test the disciples willingness to follow Him into danger. This was more preparation for the persecution they would experience after His ascension. Interestingly, it is “doubting” Thomas who has boldness and encourages the rest of the disciples to follow Jesus.
(ii) Sleep (11-16)
Here we see the omniscience of Jesus. No one told Him that Lazarus was dead.
(1) His anguish (33-38)
Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, He wept with the others. We have an advocate with God who understands us and empathizes with us.
(2) His actions (39-44)
(3) His audience (45-46)
Jesus has been speaking about humble service. One should not have the attitude that he deserves special treatment or reward for service and obedience. Very important concept to remember as we study this miracle.
(1) The condition of the lepers
Lepers required to live outside the community. Lev 13:46
(2) The cry of the lepers
They recognize his authority and ask for mercy. There is not a demand for healing. However He might help them is up to him.
(3) The cure of the lepers
Lev 14:3-4 says to gain acceptance back into society, they had to be declared clean by the priests. That is why leprosy is such a picture of sin. Jesus is the priest that declares us clean (righteous).
He doesn’t heal them until they are on the way, which means that they had to exercise a little more faith than the last leper who was healed first and then told to go to the priest.
(1) One thankful Samaritan
(2) Nine unthankful Jews
We assume they are Jews because he refers to the one as a foreigner, which implies they are not foreigners.
The Samaritan’s faith was the reason for his cure. What was the reason for their cure? Do they have faith? He has healed some without faith. What was the demonstration of faith? Thanksgiving. The Samaritan showed thanks to a Jewish Messiah for his healing. The Jews were not thankful. Was it because of their lack of faith? We don’t know. They did approach Jesus correctly as Master and they did obey by heading out to the priest.
Also in Matt 20:29-43 and Luke 18:35-43
Matthew says two got healed. Mark and Luke only mention Bartimaeus. Perhaps the explanation is that Mark and Luke are being more specific and Matthew is condensing his account to save space. He’s done that many times before. Bartimaeus was perhaps the more well known of the two that got healed.
Another difference is that Matthew and Mark say Jesus was leaving Jericho and Luke says He was approaching Jericho. This looks like a contradiction, but it seems that there were two Jerichos—an old and a new city—and the healings could have occurred as the crowd was leaving old Israelite Jericho (Matt. 20:29; Mark 10:46) and entering new Herodian Jericho (Luke 18:35).
Again, we have the blind recognizing Jesus for who he is.
Shows their lack of love.
He stops to pay attention. He speaks to the crowd. He solicits the man’s faith. He saves the man - Greek word is “saved” not “healed”
Word cheer used in: Mat 9:2,22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11 In all of these references the basis of cheer is Christ.
Although the other writers mention the event, Luke is the only one who records the miracle. (Matt 26:51; Mark 14:43f; John 18:10)
Will we see Malchus in heaven? Probably. How do we know his name is Malchus? John tells us 50 years later which might indicate that he was part of the early church.
This is the only external wound that Jesus heals.
Shall we strike with the sword? The disciples wanted to defend Jesus and themselves. I’m sure they were confused by Jesus’ lack of defense or attempt to escape.
John 18:10 tells us that Peter is the one who strikes with his sword. Perhaps the others are asking and Peter is acting. Why don’t Matt, Mark and Luke mention Peter? John writes after the destruction of Jerusalem. The others wrote before. Maybe it would have caused harm to Peter.
Jesus had just told Peter that he would deny Him, but here we see Peter standing up for Jesus. Luke points out that it is just a piece of the right ear. Perhaps this shows us that by ourselves we can accomplish nothing - except to make matters worse.
Matt records that all those who live by the sword, die by the sword. If you think that is the way you will be protected, then you are wrong. Jesus tells Peter to put away the sword. It is part of the need of the suffering Messiah. He had the power to escape but the purpose to stay.
They were out of the boats and then got in.
They were in the boat and got out
Conversation before miracle
Conversation after miracle
Net was breaking
Pulled the net to shore
Peter says depart from me
Peter dives in and swims to shore
A commission to fish - evangelism
Commission to pastor - feed the sheep
One question: Are they wrong to go fishing? The opinions are divided. Some say “Yes,” because he has already given them their instructions on what to do. Others say, “No,” because there is no reprimand for going fishing. I think that the answer is, yes, because Jesus had told them to wait for Him in Galilee (Matt 28:10). Peter’s decision to go fishing was a failure to wait, a failure to obey. Jesus was evidently taking his time to meet the disciples. I think we can assume the reason was to give the disciples time to wait and to fail, so He could teach them another lesson. Peter’s occupation was fishing. It is what he knew best. In the aftermath of the crucifixion and resurrection Peter was not sure what the plan was. He reverted to handling life the way he knew best. To get busy and do something.
I think we can identify with Peter. We all have things that we can do well and we often depend on them to make life work. We like certainty. Waiting on Jesus was full of uncertainty. Fishing was certain (sort of). At least it seemed certain to Peter. I like computers and movies. I can bury myself in a computer project or a movie and forget about the uncertainty of life. I think most men become work-aholics because it brings them some measure of certainty.
What we usually need to do in these situations is trust God and wait on Him.
I think it is important that the disciples caught nothing on this outing. They were attempting to do things their own way and out of their own power, and it didn’t work.
(1) His request
The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. I don’t know if this means Jesus changed His appearance, or was it simply because dawn was just breaking, and although they were within hearing distance of the shore, in the dim light they could not recognize the face of an individual at this distance.
Designed to draw faith and acknowledgment.
(2) Their response
No argument. They obey. And they catch a bunch of fish.
John reports that there were exactly 153 fish caught in the net. Almost all the commentators agree that John has a reason for giving the number. Some of the guesses as to what that number means, however, are amazing, to say the least. One man said it probably indicated that 153 A.D. was a very important year. I have never been able to find out anything unusual about that year, however. Another suggested that the number 100 stood for the Gentiles, the largest number, 50 stood for the Jews, because they are only half as important, or as many, and 3 stands for the Trinity. Another obviously mathematically-minded commentator added the numbers from 1 through 17 and found they added up to 153, but he failed to say what was the significance of that!
The most likely answer, as some commentators say, is the suggestion of Jerome, the early church father, who said that among the Greeks it was widely regarded that there were 153 kinds of fish in the sea. Modern science, of course, has discovered that there are many more species than that. If this was widely thought in that day, however, this was God’s way of saying that the gospel is a universal gospel; it is for everybody, no matter what their background, color, culture, education, whatever. The same gospel is designed for men and women everywhere on earth. It has been true through all of history that wherever this wonderful word has spread it has never been found to be out of place. Once the artificial cultural barriers to understanding are removed the word of the gospel always speaks right to the human heart. No matter what kind of fish we may be dealing with they can be caught by the gospel net.17
In my opinion the number 153 just means there were a lot of fish and is characteristic of an eyewitness account giving the facts to make the story credible.
(3) Their recognition
Undoubtedly, this reminds them of the time that Jesus called them as disciples with a similar miracle, and John is the first one to catch on. At least they don’t say: “It’s a ghost.” So we see progress. Peter may have put his clothes on so he would be dressed when he came to the Lord.
(1) The Lord’s self-sufficiency
The Lord didn’t need them to fish. He has what He needs. I find it interesting that the Lord used some of the fish that the disciples caught. I think that is a picture of how the Lord uses us to further His kingdom and allows us to partake in the reaping. He could do it without us, but He doesn’t.
(2) The Lord’s supply
He also has what we need. They are dependent on him for supply and service. What he had done for the multitudes, he now did for the disciples.
The same two symbols (fish and bread) are usd by Jesus to show He is the source of supply in evangelism (salvation) and ministry (sanctification). Jesus is all they need and want. He doesn’t need to use them; He chooses to use people in the process of His work and will.
What does it mean they didn’t question Him knowing that it was the Lord? I think this indicates more than just recognition that this was Jesus. I think the idea is that they recognized they were in the presence of God.
Here we see a charcoal fire. The only other charcoal fire is where Peter denies Jesus. I’m sure Jesus set this up as a reminder to Peter. Now Jesus and Peter have another conversation. Then he asks Peter if he loved Him more than these.
There is some debate about what the “these” refers to, but it seems likely that there is some irony here: Peter had boasted in 13:37, “I will lay down my life for you,” and the synoptics present Peter as boasting even more explicitly of his loyalty to Jesus (“Even if they all fall away, I will not,” Matt. 26:33; Mark 14:29). Thus the semantic force of what Jesus asks Peter here amounts to something like “Now, after you have denied me three times, as I told you you would, can you still affirm that you love me more than these other disciples do?”
Some try to make a big deal that Jesus uses ajgapa/’“ twice and filei’“ once. But it seems best to regard the interchange between ajgapavw and filevw in these verses as a minor stylistic variation of the Evangelist, consistent with his use of minor variations in repeated material elsewhere, and not indicative of any real difference in meaning.
As for the significance of the entire scene, it seems clear that it is intended to indicate Peter’s complete restoration to a position of apostolic leadership after his threefold denial. Three times Peter had denied Jesus; three times Peter now affirms his love for his Lord, and three times Jesus commissions Peter to care for the flock of God. There could be no question on Peter’s part or on the part of the other disciples that he had been completely restored.
17 Ray Stedman at http://www.pbc.org.
There have been a tremendous philosophical and theological shifts in history. For most of history, tradition and the church dominated western civilization. With the reformers came a rejection of the tradition and corruption of the church and an emphasis was placed on the sufficiency of scripture. Their slogan was “sola scriptura” or scripture alone. Scripture was the authority, there was absolute truth with right and wrong defined and people were held responsible for their actions. Everyone was religious, either Jewish, catholic or protestant, and their theology affected their culture.
Then came the Enlightement where human reason ruled and the conclusions of finite minds was that there was either no supernatural being or at least He was not involved in human affairs. Scripture was rejected as being from God since He probably didn’t exist or had not revealed himself. Consequently, there were no absolutes. The shift in theology often parallels the shift in the culture. During the enlightenment, the German scholars, who didn’t believe in the supernatural (divine revelation included), took the supernatural events and predictive prophecy out of the Bible by claiming that the books were all written after the events happened, not before, and by claiming that the supernatural stories (like Jonah being swalled by a fish) were just myth.
Now we have come to an age sometimes called postmodernism. In this age experience has replaced both scripture and reason. The emphasis in society is on self and self-fulfillment. In almost every commercial you hear the message that “you deserve better.” There is still no right or wrong. There are no absolutes. People are not held accountable for their actions. Their crimes are blamed on society. There is also more acceptance of the supernatural as seen in the new age movement, channeling spirits, the popularity of TV shows about angels, etc.
Our latest philosophical shift is represented
The doctrines of the past were just intellectual truth rarely applied and therefore fruitless. The study of scripture should have resulted in the worship of God and the stirring of the emotions, but it rarely did. Consequently, some have returned to the reading of the puritans and reformers because they are intrigued by their emotional response to God and their worship of God. Others are turning to a different source--a search for miracles. The charismatic and signs and wonders movements stir the emotions through experience, and so some chase after the emotional highs and scripture is often neglected. The pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other. Both extremes are wrong. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
I think it is helpful to recognize cultural shifts because our cultural world view affects our theology. We need to do some self-examination and understand why we might be attracted to this or that theology. We need to recognize that there is a world view that drives us and it drives our understanding of Scripture. It ought to be the other way around, but it often is not. What I hope is that we are open minded enough to let scripture shape our world view. What we need to be real careful of is adopting a theology that goes against 1930 years of orthodox church history. So we need to study the arguments and be sure before we jump into something new.
In 1901 a Pentecostal revival began in the United States which taught that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the NT are still in effect today. The one they were and are most concerned with was and is the gift of tongues. Although the original Pentecostal doctrine taught that the Holy Spirit was given at a “second blessing,” most modern Pentecostals would agree that the new believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. But after conversion, the Holy Spirit comes in special empowering experiences, sometimes known as the baptism of the Spirit or sometimes called “the second blessing.” When they talk about being “refilled” they do not mean you get more of the Holy Spirit. You get more of His power. When this happens a person will speak in tongues as a “sign” that they have received this second blessing. They teach that all Christians should seek this experience and consequently speaking in tongues becomes a main focus of many Pentecostals.
In the 1960’s the Charismatic movement began. This was a renewal movement among evangelicals that emphasized that all the gifts were still active - tongues, miracles, healings, etc. They have not formed their own denominations, but have existed within existing denominations. Pentecostals and Charismatics are very similar in their theology.
In the 1980’s another movement began. It is sometimes known as the Third Wave. (Pentecostalism being the first and Charismatics being the second). It is more commonly known today as the Vineyard Movement. It was begun by and made popular by C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber and Jack Deere. They believe that all the spiritual gifts are functioning today. Their emphasis is not on tongues, it is on miracles and prophecy. Like the Charismatics, they teach that the Holy Spirit can “come in varying degrees of intensity” after salvation, so that the believer is overwhelmed, empowered, etc. These later events are identified as being “filled with the Spirit.” They teach that one can get more of the Spirit at various times in the Christian experience to help with such things as martydom, persecution, special tasks, etc. Another manifestation of getting more of the Spirit would be the ability to perform miracles, healings, speak in tongues, prophecy, etc.
They teach that the proclamation of the gospel, done properly, is done with signs and wonders. Thus it is also called the Signs and Wonders movement. So, Third Wave, Signs and Wonder Movement and Vineyard Movement all refer to the same thing.
John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, in his revised book on Power Evangelism, writes:
The explanation of the gospel -- the clear proclamation of the finished work of Christ on the cross -- comes with a demonstration of God’s power through signs and wonders. Power evangelism is a spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, empowered presentation of the gospel. Power evangelism is preceded and undergirded by demonstrations of God’s presence, and frequently results in groups of people being saved. Signs and wonders do not save; only Jesus and substitutionary work on the cross saves.
Through these supernatural encounters people experience the presence and power of God. Usually this takes the form of words of knowledge...healing, prophecy, and deliverance from evil spirits. [(John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism: Revised and Expanded with Study Questions (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992), p. 78.]
All of the above groups think that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue to be in effect today. So we can call them Continuationists. From this point forward I will use the term Continuationist to include Pentecostals, Charismatics and Vineyard people. Although there are some differences, they all believe that sign gifts are still active today.
Many believe that individuals having the gifts of apostle, prophecy, healing, tongues, or performing miracles at will have ceased. These people are called Cessationists. Continuationists claim that cessationists put God in a box, but that is not true. Cessationists teach that God can still do miracles. He does still heal people when people pray. God, through the Holy Spirit can do anything He wants. But they believe, from their study of scripture and history, that God has chosen to “circumscribe His activity and to structure it according to certain patterns...”18
Another view which I had not heard of until I read the book, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? is the “open but cautious” view. This view recognizes that there are no explicit verses in the New Testament that say that miraculous gifts have ceased, and so, this group wants to stay open to the possibility that the miraculous gifts may still exist, but at the same time, they are uncomfortable with the teachings and practices of the charismatic and vineyard movements. I would guess that this is the view held by most evangelicals. It is probably held by most evangelicals because they too are uncomfortable with what they’ve seen practiced among Pentecostals, Charismatics and Vineyard people, but they don’t want to be accused of putting God in a box, and so they remain open, but cautious. When I read the position of the Open but Cautious view in the book Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, I could see little difference between it and the Cessationist position. In reality, these people are practical cessationists.
Thus, we can divide the debate into two parts—the Continuationists and the Cessationists. It is a very difficult debate to sort through. I’ve spent numerous hours reading the arguments on both sides, trying to keep an open mind and study the passages used to support each side. What is confusing is that both sides use the same verses to prove their case. Which group has the correct interpretation? They can’t both be right. It is impossible to go to the Bible and be totally objective. If you were raised a Charismatic, you will understand verses one way. I was raised a cessationist, so I automatically see things the other way. Right now, I would have to say I fall in the open but cautious view. I am a practical cessationist. After reading the arguments of both sides, I can understand how each side feels scripture supports their conclusions.
Right up front I will say that I don’t think we can go to any specific verse to prove that the miraculous gifts have ceased or to prove that they are still in effect today. That is probably why there is such a big debate about this. Here are some of the more commonly used verses in the debate
1 Cor 13:8-10 says that gifts of prophecy will be done away, tongues will cease and knowledge will be done away ... when the perfect comes. Both sides use this verse for support. Charismatics say that the perfect is the return of Jesus at His second coming, therefore, tongues, prophecy, etc. will continue until that time. Some cessationists have taught that the perfect is the Bible (i.e., the completion of the canon). If you take it to mean the completion of the canon, that makes for a very neat package that proves cessationism, but it is very doubtful that Paul is talking about the completion of the canon. What Paul is talking about in the context is our imperfect knowledge and how that will change when the perfect comes. Understanding the “perfect” to be the completed canon implies that Scripture is only sufficient when we have the completed canon. Just having the OT or a few letters from Paul was not enough. I don’t think anyone wants to say that. I certainly don’t get that impression when I read the Psalms. And the prophets didn’t excuse the people’s wickedness because they didn’t have the completed canon. I doubt that Paul even had the concept that there would be a completed NT canon some day. He thought Jesus would be back in his life time. Also, in the context, it implies that when we have the completed canon, we will no longer know only partially. Our knowledge will then be complete. That obviously isn’t so. I think we have to conclude that “the perfect” refers to the return of Christ. Therefore, this verse doesn’t prove that miraculous gifts will cease when the last book is added to the Bible. BUT, and a very important BUT, it also doesn’t prove that they will continue until Jesus returns as Continuationists say. Paul does say these gifts “will pass away,” and the Greek emphasizes that tongues will “cease,” so I would say that it argues more for cessationism than for continuation, but that doesn’t tell us when they will pass away. It doesn’t say they will pass away in the first century. We will have to look elsewhere for support.
The context is this: These Jewish Christians are wanting to return to the old Jewish law. The writer of the book of Hebrews is trying to convince them not to. Part of his argument is that in the same way that the law was confirmed by supernatural signs (vs 2)19, so also was the gospel about Jesus confirmed by supernatural signs. Therefore it is also from God and supercedes the old.
Both Continuationists and Cessationists use this verse for support. The debate about the grammar in this verse. In the statement: “God, bearing witness by signs and wonders and various miracles…” the word “bearing witness” is a present participle. Continuationists argue that since this is a present participle, the miracles were still being worked among the readers of Hebrews.20 The problem with this is that 90% of the time, participles in a genitive absolute construction are temporal and linked to the main verb. Our main verb in this passage is the aorist verb “confirmed.” Aorist tense means past tense. Thus the “bearing witness” should be understood to be simultaneous with the apostles attestation of the message by signs and wonders. In other words, those who heard (the Lord first hand, i.e. the apostles) confirmed their message by performing signs and wonders.
What about the “us” in verse 3? Undoubtedly, there were many first generation believers in the congregation that had witnessed the miracles performed by the apostles. The “us” doesn’t require that all the people witnessed the miracles, just that some of them had.
So, the verse does refer to miracles worked among the readers of Hebrews. But it does not say that the miracles were still occurring. It also does not say that the Hebrew readers were performing signs and wonders. The emphasis is that this was all past tense.
In fact, the writer of Hebrews could have made his argument much stronger if he had just pointed to miracles currently taking place among the Hebrews. Instead, he can only point to miracles performed by the apostles. Since he didn’t point to their current experience, the logic is that miracles must have ceased by then. Compare Gal 3:5, written much earlier. There Paul points to miracles occurring among the readers as proof that the new system of faith is superior to the old system of law. Why didn’t the writer of Hebrews do the same? I recognize that this is an argument from silence, and we have to be very careful when making such an argument, because one can argue almost anything from silence, but to me this silence is deafening. The problem is Continuationists can’t hear it.
This verse is also significant in that it shows that the purpose of signs and wonders was one of authenticating that the messengers and their new revelation were from God.
Matt 12:39 “An evil and wicked generation looks for a sign” Luke 11:29 “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign…” Some use these verses to prove that there are no more signs and wonders.21 They say any generation that looks for a sign is evil. And since the Third wave people are looking for signs, then they are evil.
Is that what the verses are saying? Let’s first look at the meaning of the verses in their context. Jesus had been performing miracles (signs) for two years. The leaders accuse Him of operating by the power of Satan and then ask for a sign. Jesus is saying that a generation of people that demands that he do miraculous signs to prove to them who he is, in order that they might believe is a wicked generation. Even if he did give them a sign (which he had been doing) they would not believe.
The question we need to ask is this: Are the Continuationists demanding that they see miracles in order to believe the gospel to be true? No! They already believe. They simply affirm that He wants to work in the lives of believers and perform supernatural works for those who believe. If you come to the Bible with a preconceived idea that miracles don’t exist, then this sounds like a great catch-all verse. But I think that from the context, all we can say from these verses for sure is that the unbelieving scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of that generation, who watched Christ preach and perform miracles for two years, was a wicked generation because it still wanted more proof. It was just an excuse for them for not believing.
If Continuationists are teaching that people need to see miracles to believe, then I would say they are wrong. And this verse might apply then. But what would apply more is the recognition that Jesus performed numerous miracles, raised Lazarus from the dead, was himself resurrected, but most did not believe. In fact, several times, Jesus criticized people who only believed after they saw a sign and praised those who believed without seeing. If a continuationist says we need miracles for people to believe, then I have to ask, “If it didn’t work for Jesus, why do they think it will be any different today?
The real clincher to me for proving this verse is worthless in arguing against Continuationists is Acts 4:29-31. There the apostles prayed for God to work miracles.
2 Cor 12:12 is often used to prove that miracles were only done by apostles and that it was the sign of a true apostle. The logic is that this would be no argument for Paul’s apostleship if anyone could do miracles. The problem with this view is that the Greek grammar does not support only that interpretation. It allows it, but does not prove it. The first word “signs” is in the nominative case, but the “signs, wonders and miracles” are in the dative case. If Paul wanted to say that the signs of an apostle were “signs, wonders and miracles” he could have been more precise by putting them in the nominative in apposition to the first word “signs.” The NIV wrongly translates the verse this way.
In fact the signs of an apostle that Paul is talking about with the first “signs” word are probably the changed lives that resulted from Paul’s preaching; the transformed Christ-like life of Paul; his sufferings, hardships and persecution, spiritual power in conflict with evil, his jealousy over the welfare of the churches, not taking material advantage of churches, etc.22 There are numerous verses in 1 and 2 Corinthians that show these are what Paul considered to be the most important signs of an apostle. It also makes more sense to understand that these “signs” were worked with “patience” or “perseverance.” It doesn’t take patience to do miracles. It takes patience to go without pay, to suffer hardship and persecution, to disciple and preach, etc. I think the miraculous signs were also evidence of his apostleship, but less important to Paul. The verse should better be translated, “The signs of a true apostle were worked among you with all perseverance accompanied by signs and wonders and miracles.”
This verse does not prove that signs were unique to apostles. It does not prove that only apostles performed signs, wonders and miracles. I think the false teachers, claiming to be true apostles, could have been performing signs (perhaps by Satan’s power) and trying to lead the Corinthians astray. Paul points to something they couldn’t fake, personal self-sacrife and the changed lives of others, as proof of his apostleship. In contrast to Paul, these super apostles were lording it over the flock ruling like kings - not functioning as servants.
This verse does point us to two important principles. First, Paul downlplays the importance of the miraculous and emphasizes his personal life and the changed lives of his converts. Second, we see the importance of examining the message, the focus of the message, the results of the message in the audience, the life of the messenger, etc. These evidences are more important proof than signs and wonders.
Well, I’ve just shown that some of the most used verses to prove cessationism are also used to prove the continuation of the miraculous gifts. I think Hebrews 2:3-4 is pretty strong for cessationism, but it doesn’t prove it. What are we to do? I think we could look at the historical argument.
When I refer to the history of salvation, I’m referring to those periods in history when it is real obvious that God is working in history to bring about the salvation of man.
Also, we need to distinguish those special periods when miracles were performed by individuals from God’s sovereign power and providence. Sprinkled throughout history are the miraculous acts of God Himself. E.g. Joshua had miracles take place (i.e. sun stood still), but Joshua didn’t do it. The writing prophets performed no miracles even though they were getting divine revelation from God. Hezekiah’s life was extended. That was miraculous, but Hezekiah didn’t do it.
Through the ages, as God has unfolded His plan of Salvation, there have been several turning points where some big changes were made. At these points, various individuals were instrumental in bringing about the changes.
The first big event in the history of salvation was when God picked Abraham from among the nations and promised that He would bless the world through Abraham’s descendents. The ultimate fulfillment of this promise was the birth of Jesus, His death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. There were not a lot of people that needed to be convinced of this revelation -- just Abraham, and he believed, therefore, no miracles were performed.
In history there really were only five periods in which miracles occurred regularly and were performed by an individual.
Let me point out that some Continuationists teach that just because miracles weren’t mentioned in between these periods doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.23 They argue that they did occur, but were not recorded in scripture. That statement is an argument from silence. We’ve already discussed the danger of using “arguments from silence.” If we go to the Bible to try to observe some sort of pattern in God’s dealings with man, we have to analyze the evidence that we are given. We can’t just ignore it. Which attitude is correct? “I don’t care if the Bible only mentions three people in the OT with the ability to perform miracles. I think it happened all the time.” or this: “Why is it that only three people in the OT performed miracles? What could the reason be?”
One explanation or reason is this: There are special periods when God is more obviously at work to bring about the salvation of mankind, and it is at those times when God chooses to use certain individuals in miraculous ways to authenticate the messenger and his message. Therefore, the ability to perform miracles is not the norm throughout history. Yes, miracles did occur throughout history, but not miracles performed by a miracle worker.
A related argument made by Continuationists is that Cessationists define the “miraculous” too narrowly. If we limit our definition to signs performed through human agency, then we can claim that miracles only happened at three distinct times in history and consequently leave out most of the miracles in the Bible which prove that miracles are normative. What about the sun standing still for Joshua, the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ resurrection, the earthquake that delivered Paul and Silas from jail, the instantaneous death of Herod in Acts 12:23, etc.24 It’s true we don’t count those, but I don’t see any signs and wonders people claiming to have experienced anything on par with the sun standing still, earthquakes, virgin births, people being raised from the dead, etc. If miracles are normative throughout history and those are “normal” miracles, then where are those types of miracles. The miracles that occur today are healing miracles brought about by laying on of hands and prayer, or someone’s life being saved because a dog walked in front of a car and kept the car from going into the intersection just as an armored truck sped through the intersection. Certainly, God caused that dog to be there. Certainly, God healed the person of the cancer overnight. But do these qualify as gifts of miracles. Couldn’t the healing also be attributed to what James talks about when he says, “If anyone is sick, call the elders and have them pray…”
Continuationists argue that none of the spiritual gifts have ceased. At the same time mainstream Continuationists would all agree that we have a completed canon. No new inspired revelation is being given today to be added to the end of our Bible. The gift of apostle and prophet involved the giving of revelation which was recorded in scripture. If we aren’t receiving new revelation, then at the least there is some measure of discontinuity or cessationism. Either the revelatory gifts have changed in quality or they have ceased. If those gifts have ceased, then why can’t other gifts cease? Especially those gifts that typically accompanied the messenger and new message to authenticate them as being from God.
The continuationist argues that they haven’t ceased, they just changed in quality. That brings us to our next point.
As far as I can tell all continuationists agree that modern tongues, prophecy, and healing gifts are not the same as first century gifts. Tongues were a known language then, they are gibberish now. Prophecy was infallible and often incorporated into scripture, it is now ok to make mistakes when prophecying and nobody has added anything to scripture in 1900 years. Those with the gift of healing could do so at will then, now it is only an occasional thing and usually the result of prayer. And Gordon Fee, a charismatic scholar admits that nobody knows what the difference is between a word of wisdom and a word of knowledge.
This raises a couple of questions in my mind:
(1) How can we have gifts of prophecy, tongues, etc. coming from the Spirit that are not inspired and infallible. If it is directly from the HS, then it is inspired and there can be no errors.
(2) Does the Holy Spirit who gives gifts to unify and edify work in such an ambivalent, uncertain and confusing way?25 There is no confusion about the exercise of the other gifts.
The book of Acts is extremely important to the Continuationists’ argument. They see the events of Acts as being normative for the church throughout the Church age. Since the Holy Spirit filled people and they spoke in tongues in Acts, that should happen today. Since the apostles and others in Acts prophesied and performed miracles, then we should do that today.
They like to take you to Acts 4:8, 31; 13:9, 52 to show that the same group that was filled with the Spirit at Pentecost was again filled with the Spirit on other occasions. They use that as proof that believers can have several fillings. What I find interesting is, for a Continuationist, being filled with the Spirit results in speaking in tongues or prophecying or performing miracles. When I go read those verses they cite in Acts that describe this subsequent filling of the Spirit, I notice that, in all these verses, whatever being filled with the Spirit meant, it didn’t involve speaking in tongues. In fact the result of all these fillings was that they spoke the Word with boldness. So, if the Continuationsts want to go to Acts for proof of subsequent fillings of the spirit as their model for what the Holy Spirit is doing, they should be also use it as the model for what they should be doing when they receive those extra fillings. They need to be doing public evangelism after each filling instead of speaking in tongues or prophecying. What they have done is take the event at Pentecost where the people were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues and then found several other places that mentioned believers being filled with the Spirit to prove that it still happens today. What they refuse to see is that only at Pentecost was miraculous phenomenon the result.
They take you to Acts 4:29 where there was prayer for the ability to do signs and wonders and say that we should pray for that too.26 However, the context shows that it was the apostles who prayed for the signs and the apostles who performed them. As already discussed, the apostles are in a class all by themselves.
What we have to recognize is that the book of Acts is just what its name implies - the acts of the apostles. In Eph 2:20 Paul says that the Church is built on the foundation “of the apostles and prophets.” Acts describes the building of the foundation of the church. We are not still building the foundation today. To carry the building analogy a little farther, we use different tools to lay a foundation than we use to put up the frame, sheet rock, cabinets, etc.
One thing to keep in mind when studying the book of Acts is this: The salvation provided by Christ—His death, resurrection, ascension, sending the Spirit at Pentecost was one big salvation event made up of several components. The giving of the Spirit at Pentecost was the culmination of the salvation event. It is not necessarily descriptive of a process that is normative for today. To go to Pentecost for proof of what the church should experience today is very debatable.
Additionally, using the miracles of the apostles in Acts as proof that all believers can do miracles and speak in tongues is also debatable. If miracles were common among all Christians in Acts, why was it that they had to bring their sick to the apostles for healing (Acts 5:12-16)? Acts gives us the historical account of how Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 was fulfilled by his apostles. It is the account of the apostles spreading the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth (Rome). What the apostles did was unique. The gift of apostle was a temporary gift that only a dozen men had who were responsible for establishing the church. When the gift of apostle ceased, it makes sense that the miraculous gifts ceased.
Throughout church history belief in the continuationation of the sign gifts existed only among a very few fringe denominations or sects. One could always argue that these continuationists were the true remnant and that most of the Christian world was wrong, but I have a hard time believing that all the church fathers, the reformers, the pilgrims, the great missionaries and preachers of the past 200 years missed it.
I think one of the strongest arguments against the Pentecostals, Charismatics and Vinyard movements is that the emphasis in scripture is on walking by the Spirit and producing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc. When Paul deals with the use of the sign gifts in the church, it is to downplay their importance and re-emphasize love (which is the summary word for the fruit of the spirit) and to emphasize the other gifts. If we examine the Continuationist groups who think miracles and tongues are still in effect today, we see that for the most part their emphasis is on the miraculous gifts. Every Christian can have them, should seek them and is not complete until he or she has them. We have to examine the fruit of their teachings. And when we do, we see that they have terribly missed the emphasis of scripture.
The emphasis on scripture is that being filled with the Spirit means forsaking our attempt to control life and submitting to God’s control. The Holy Spirit’s control gives us a supernatural ability to love, have joy, peace, patience, etc. inspite of the circumstances. Nowhere does being filled with the Spirit result in speaking in tongues and doing miracles except in Acts, which we have already shown is not a good book to use to determine what is normal for today.
Another emphasis from scripture is the importance of studying scripture and applying it. I was recently listening to a series of tapes of Jack Deere’s book, Surprised by the Voice of God. In it he describes how he converted from a Cessationist to a Continuationist. He began hanging out with John Wimber and a few other Vineyard people and witnessed their prophecies, healings, etc. and began praying that God would speak to him. One day he had his own vision and began pursuing God’s voice in his church meetings. He claimed that he was the best Bible teacher in his town, but in his church of 500, over an 18 month period, only two people were evangelized by his church, no one was cured of their need for prozack, etc. He says he realized that traditional Bible Church teaching was not changing lives. It wasn’t until they started listening for the voice of God and several people started prophecying in the church meetings that lives started changing and God became real. For some reason, people couldn’t receive comfort from scripture, but they could receive comfort and believe the words of the modern prophets. These words and illustrations from Deere’s book certainly seem to me to deemphasize the role of scripture in attaining life and godliness. Just because his church was lifeless, does not mean that no one experiences God with only scripture to guide them.
It is obvious from recorded church history that mainstream Christianity did not experience the sign gifts. Jack Deere teaches that the reason for this is because there was a conspiracy to cover up all the miraculous events that have happened in the past 1900 years and that they really were common occurrences.
How is it that we need prophecy and tongues and healings for God to minister to us and change lives here in the 20th century when it didn’t happen for the past 1900 years.
We could discuss this issue for the next six months and not solve the debate. Our purpose is not to prove that miracles don’t happen. It is to put miracles in perspective. We must remember that God can do anything He wants, with anyone He wants, anytime He wants. There are plenty of modern day stories of miraculous events in which God obviously got directly involved in a situation. We need to be careful not to become pharisaical and say this is what God cannot do, what God can do, or what God must do, etc. Miraculous things do happen, even today, but the question is whether or not people are going around performing miracles at their will, receiving direct revelation from God or speaking in tongues.
After saying all this, I realize that if you have personally experienced or know someone who has experienced tongues, miraculous healing or visions from God, then none of what we’ve said matters. What I want you to walk away with is the emphasis of Scripture on the other gifts and on applying Scripture.
21 I have heard this argument in my discussion with some local pastors. In fact, one pastor actually told me that he only needed one verse to prove that miraclulous gifts were finished and settle the whole debate -- Matt 12:39. Everything else in his theology is black and white too.