Paul Little writes about the contrast between the miracles of the pagan soothsayers and Jesus: “[Jesus’ miracles] were never capricious or fantastic. They were not scattered helter-skelter through the record without rhyme or reason. There was always clear order and purpose to them….They always had as their purpose to confirm faith by authenticating the message and the messenger, or to demonstrate God’s love by relieving suffering. They were never performed as entertainment, as a magician puts on a show for his patrons. Miracles were never performed for personal prestige or to gain money or power.”
When Jesus was asked by His mother to do something about the shortage of wedding wine, Jesus told His mother “Dear Woman, why do you involve Me…My time has not yet come” [John 2]. In a way that was far from “magical flair”, Jesus calmly told the servants to fill the wine jars to the brim with water and then draw out some and take it to the master of the banquet. When they did, they realized they no longer had a wine shortage. He did what He was asked without fanfare [and even seemed reluctant to perform the miracle].
Jesus was asked by a Royal Official to heal his son. That was becoming more common as news of Jesus spread. Jesus said to the official “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders…you will never believe [John 4]. Again, Jesus seems reluctant to perform this miracle, not wanting to make a big deal out of what He knew He could do. Jesus performs the miracle “long distance.” He told the official “You may go. Your son will live.” The official left Jesus, believing Him I suppose. It is only when he arrived home that he realized the power of Jesus’ healing. He found out that his son was indeed healed from the sickness at the exact time that Jesus spoke the words “Your son will live.” I can see an attention seeking healer surrounded by people, standing over a bed-ridden child. The exhortations are shouted and the sick child arises from the bed as the crowd has loud intakes of breath.
The Pool of Bethesda had been a prime location for disabled people to lie, hoping for a healing from the special waters. Jesus arrived at the pool, but the people didn’t realize He had the true power of the healing miracle. There was a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years; he was on his mat, hoping for a chance to get to the pool when it bubbled. At that time people felt the pool could heal. He never had a chance to get in quickly because he could not move well enough. Then Jesus arrived and said to the man “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” [John 5]. He did. Jesus made no big public claim at that location. He just slipped away in the crowd, leaving people to wonder who He was.
Word was beginning to spread about Jesus despite His efforts to remain low-key. Sometime later, Jesus was at the Sea of Galilee and a great crowd of people had followed Him. The Jewish Passover feast was near and Jesus wanted to feed the crowds but how was He going to do it? He asked his Disciples and they did not see a way. Phillip said it would take eight months wages to feed that many. Andrew said the only food was five loaves and two small fish, carried by a boy. How will that be enough? Jesus did not make a big show of His power; He just gave thanks for what they had and said pass it out. It was enough; in fact, there were leftovers. The people were impressed but instead of pressing them to adore Him or asking them to take some action against the controlling forces of the day [the Romans or the Pharisees], Jesus withdrew to the mountain.
It was inevitable that Jesus began to get more attention but He continued to handle it in a humble manner. He walked on the water but it was in the dark with His Disciples looking on. He healed the man born blind and after the miracle the Pharisees wanted to know who did this. They question the man. It is obvious that Jesus is beginning to be a concern but they don’t know much about Him; who is this Man and where is this Man are their main questions.
The raising of Lazarus is the miracle that confounds many because Jesus did not hurry to Lazarus’ grave to bring him back to life. Some think that was to heighten the drama but I am not sure. I go back to the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the confidence that Jesus had in His ability to feed the people. Is it possible that Jesus does not rush to Lazarus’ grave because He knows that He will be able to bring him back from the dead? Mary confronted Jesus when He arrived on the scene with the word “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died” [John 11]. Don’t forget that Jesus was upset because everyone else at that location was upset. “Jesus wept” over the death of Lazarus but He also said “Where have you laid him.” When He arrived He did not make grand gestures and exclaim loud words. He had three simple commands: take away the stone, Lazarus come out and take off the grave clothes.
He knew He can do this.
In John 10: 25 Jesus says to those who question Him about His identity as the Messiah “I did tell you, but you did not believe. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak for Me.”
Indeed they do.
I think they speak two ways: first of all they are miracles brought about by a Divine person; secondly they are brought about by a humble man.
Jesus fought the problem that many of us have; the need to draw attention to ourselves. He did what He did because His Father asked Him to do it. He did what He did because He knew He was no trickster, no magician, no soothsayer.
He was the real deal.
He was God.