Some of us... more than you realize struggle having faith in the stories we hear about Jesus. But if we look to historical evidence, we will be encouraged and strengthened. Dr. Mark Strauss, a New Testament scholar, professor, and teacher explains:
- The historical evidence that Jesus was renowned by his contemporaries as an exorcist and miracle worker is overwhelming [obviously New Testament accounts and associated source documents]. Sources outside the NT also refer to Jesus' miraculous activity. Josephus states that Jesus was "a doer of startling deeds"... a probable reference to his miracles. The Babylonian Talmud claims Jesus was executed because he practiced magic and led Israel astray. While this passage is a strong polemic against Jesus and Christianity, it admits as reliable the tradition that Jesus performed supernatural acts... Even Jesus' opponents had to acknowledge that, whatever the source of his power, Jesus had extraordinary authority to perform miracles. (brackets and comments within are mine to shorten - quote taken from Mark (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Mark L. Strauss)
Now for the text: That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak. Mark 1:32-34, NLT
There is much we can say about these few verses but I will discipline my comments to what I consider the big idea. What is going on here beyond the obvious working of miracles? The miraculous is the micro topic, even as GREAT as they are; they're so so small! What's the big picture stuff? I know, the big picture doesn't sound too exciting if it was your loved one being healed... you'd probably say, "Bless God!" and that would pretty much wrap it up. Give me a chance here... the big idea is so big it effects you and I in a personal - micro way as well.
Jesus' miracles... they are the inauguration of the kingdom of God - the restoring and renewing of a fallen world. And this is just an appetizer of what is to come!
God's mission here is not just physical, it is cosmic - that's why the demons are freaking out... there's a new sheriff in town! Jesus silences them not because of what we always hear... it's not his time yet... well of course... but there's more... he dictates the terms of his mission... no one else.
God has compassion on us - We have a creator who is also our redeemer. No matter our failures and shortcomings, our weaknesses, our faithlessness, and our doubts, he has compassion.
Not all hired shepherds care for the sheep. In fact, most flee at the first sign of danger. Thieves come to steal and kill. Our shepherd, the true One has authentic concern for each of us. He is not motivated by self-interest and wages but by self-sacrificial love for his sheep. So, for us who call ourselves pastors, we must not be motivated by anything other than love for God and compassion for people.
Now back to the title of this post... How should we view miracles today? There seems to be two extreme ways of thinking.
1. Some say Jesus' ministry was a special time in history and should not be considered part of God's plan today. His miracles were to prove his identity and therefore increase faith in his followers. The problem with this kind of thinking is the same Spirit that worked in and through Jesus and his apostles is the same Spirit with us today and to think Jesus needed to prove anything misses the whole point of his coming.
2. The other extreme thinking says something like this: "If you have enough faith, you'll be healed." It's that simple. While I would agree that one can argue faith is required for healing, there is no sound doctrine that tells us God always provides healing. Remember the apostle Paul? Did he not ask for his "thorn in his flesh" to be removed? Yet God responded with a different answer (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Christians should realize God still heals today and answers prayers. He is the same God today as he was in the first century, at creation, and even before. We should pray for healings. Scripture tells us to pray for the sick. The Scripture teaches us to touch and serve. In the end, we pray "Your will be done". After-all, we appreciate this life as a gift from God; how much better must life be in heaven?