The gospel accounts attribute more than thirty miracles to Jesus, everything from walking on water, raising the dead, and curing the sick, to exorcizing demons, feeding a multitude of people with just scraps, and calming a violent storm. In all four gospels, he is portrayed as a miracle worker. Skeptics argue, however, that these narratives are mere folklore added by the disciples after Jesus’ death to buttress their claims about his divinity.
But as we learned in our earlier message series, CSI: Christ Scene Investigation, the gospel stories are not tales written in a mythological genre, like other literature that tended to deal with the distant past, were set in primeval times, and featured fantastical creatures. By contrast, the gospels were written in a sober fashion with detailed historical information and not merely imaginary events.
Also, the reports of Jesus’ miracles are based on actual eyewitness testimony and not common fables. In fact, the very earliest material about Jesus describe him as a miracle-working healer and exorcist, so the stories are not merely the efforts of the disciples to legendize Jesus after the fact.
Non-Christian sources also detail Jesus’ wonderworks. Jewish rabbis, as well as the anti-Christian Greek philosopher Celsus, agree that Jesus was a miracle worker. They may have tried to suggest that the amazing feats were the result of some kind of sorcery, but they still contain a clear acknowledgement that they happened.
In addition, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Jesus was a wise man who “worked starting deeds.” There is some disagreement whether this was a later addition to Josephus’ work snuck in by Christian apologists who were copying the original manuscript. But the Jewish historian Geza Vermes of Oxford later analyzed the writing style of Josephus and concluded that this particular miracle claim in Josephus’ writing was authentic.
In light of all this evidence, the Christian claim that Jesus worked miracles and many amazing feats during his earthly ministry is quite strong. All we need to do is believe. In fact, believing is the key ingredient to expecting a miracle this Christmas season.
So far in our Sunday message series called, Expect Miracles, we’ve said that people who hope for miracles are more likely to receive and recognize them when they happen. We also have learned how to prepare for a miracle by acknowledging our contribution to the problem and resolving to remove the obstacles we have created for God intervening in our lives. We also came to understand that miracles are often events that require a great deal of patience and waiting.
This week, we discover another key ingredient to expecting miracles. It’s perhaps the most important element of all. We have to believe. Like Joseph who believed the dream God sent him and like Mary who believed the angel, we too must believe in order to receive.
Join us this Sunday or online for the next installment in our hopeful series on miracle.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson