Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to the weak, healing to the sick, and freedom to the demon-possessed. He fed the hungry and raised the dead. Even after his ascension, the miracles of Jesus were carried on through his apostles, “Even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched [Paul’s] skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:12). But what did these miracles mean? Why do they matter? How can they help us think more accurately about what it means to follow Jesus?
The Miracles of Jesus Challenge Christian Dualism
Many of us prioritize things of a “spiritual” nature over things of a physical or material nature. In other words, we tend to believe physical or material things are less important than spiritual things. Many who hold to this type of dualistic worldview assume they learned it from the Bible. However, this dualism actually comes from Greek philosophy (especially Plato). Unfortunately, it has remained deeply ingrained in Western thought, and even Christian theology, for centuries.
Christian dualism wrongly presupposes that Jesus wants to liberate people from their physical bodies and transport them to a celestial realm, free from physical entanglements. The miracles of Jesus directly challenge this presupposition. If Jesus wanted to free people from their physical existence, or if he thought the material was unimportant, why would he raise the dead or heal the sick? Why would he prolong anyone’s physical existence if he wanted to free people from it?
In direct contradiction to dualistic presuppositions, healing physical bodies was one of Jesus’ top priorities. Though he sometimes drew teaching parallels between physical ailments and spiritual conditions (John 9:39-41), he never minimized physical suffering. He saw physical needs as significant and he lovingly served those needs out of genuine “compassion” (Matthew 14:14; Luke 7:12-15).
As the body of Christ, the church should embody Christ’s compassion. We should serve people’s physical needs. A claim such as, “The church exists to meet spiritual needs, not physical needs” reflects a dualistic ideology. The miracles of Jesus contradict such ideology.
The Miracles of Jesus are Signs About His Identity
The miracles of Jesus were not an end in themselves. After all, even if he had healed a million people, what would that have ultimately accomplished for the world? The miracles of Jesus pointed to something else, a much bigger reality. This is why they were called, “signs” (see John 6:2). But what is the bigger reality to which these signs were pointing?
The primary reality (truth) to which these signs were pointing was Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (John 5:36; 10:24-26). The Apostle John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
However, we must not think the miraculous signs are like fireworks or magic tricks, performed to get people’s attention but disconnected from the reality to which they point. Every miracle Jesus did was deeply reflective of who he is. For instance, Jesus raised the dead, because he is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). And Jesus gave sight to the blind because he is “the light of the world” (John 8:12).
The healing that people experienced was the result of coming into contact with the very embodiment of life, light, healing, and power. To touch Jesus was to touch life itself (1 John 1:1-4). That isn’t a metaphor. Jesus is literally the embodiment of God’s life-giving power and strength.
When we read about Jesus’ miracles, we are not just learning about what he did, but about who he is. And when we put our trust in him, we have eternal life because he is eternal life. In other words, because our faith is in the Person of Jesus Christ, our mortal bodies will be resurrected and transformed to be like his resurrection body.
The Miracles of Jesus are Signs About the Kingdom of Heaven
Mark’s Gospel ends, “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mark 16:19–20). What message was confirmed by these signs?
In addition to the identity of Jesus, the message that was being confirmed was the Good News about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth. Disease, disability, and death were not originally part of God’s good world. They are all the consequences of sin; the consequences of the world coming under Satan’s influence and control. Where we see very common medical ailments, Jesus saw the power of Satan. When Jesus healed someone, Satan’s hold on that person was being broken (see Luke 13:10-17; 10:17-20).
Throughout his ministry and the ministry of the apostles, Jesus was waging war on Satan’s kingdom. The kingdom of heaven was spreading throughout the world. The miraculous signs confirmed that Jesus had begun to set the world right. But these miracles were just flashes and glimpses of what is yet to come. One day, Satan, all of his works, all of his followers, and even death itself will be destroyed (Revelation 20:7-15). On that day, the people of God will experience the kind of life in the kingdom to which all of the miracles were pointing.
Every miracle of Jesus points forward to our future life in God’s kingdom. Reading about these miracles should make us long for the day when disease, disability, and death are undone and destroyed. On that day, the blind will see with perfect vision, the deaf will hear every sound, the lame will run without growing weary, and the dead will be raised to live forever. This is the future to which every miracle points.
I love you and God loves you,