I have been asked the question, “In which situations did Jesus decide or know to use His miraculous power?” The Bible records that crowds of people were amazed at His miracles. For example, after Jesus healed a paralyzed man, “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today’” (Lk. 5:26NIV). That’s a healthy response to a miracle, like the disciples who worshipped Jesus after His resurrection (Mt. 18:17).
The Bible records about 36 miracles that were associated with the ministry of Jesus. When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus said, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” and Luke commented, “Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind” (Lk. 7:21-22). The context of these miracles is given below.
The situations when miracles occurred
When preaching and teaching
Jesus healed the sick when He was preaching and teaching in the synagogue about the good news of the kingdom of God (Mt. 4:23-25; 9:35). When news spread about this, large crowds followed Him and He healed all those who were sick. When Jesus was preaching, He forgave the sins of a paralyzed man and healed him (Mk. 2:1-12).
Those who came to Him
Jesus also healed those who came to Him (Mt. 8:1-4). This included those who touched Him (Mt. 9:20-22; 14:35-36). He even raised dead people back to life (Mt. 9:23-26)! And He healed two blind men after asking if they believed that He could do this (Mt. 9:27-31). On a least two occasions, Jesus fed a crowd of people in a remote place when they needed food (Mt. 14:15-21; Mk. 8:1-9).
Those He was told about
Jesus even healed people when someone else came to Him on their behalf (Mt. 8:5-13). So the person didn’t need to be close to Jesus to be healed. Even the daughter of a Canaanite woman was healed in this way (Mt. 15:22-28). She was healed because her mother had “great faith”, even though Jesus’ ministry was to Jews and not to Gentiles.
Those He saw
Jesus also healed those He saw during His daily life (Mt. 8:14-15; 28-34). When confronted by a demon possessed man, Jesus delivered him from the demon (Mk. 1:23-26). Jesus told blind Bartimaeus, “your faith has healed you” (Mk. 10:46-52). And He knew the Samaritan woman’s life story (Jn. 4:18-19).
As a witness to His disciples
Near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus turned water into wine when the wine ran out at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-11). His disciples were at the wedding and because of this miracle they “believed in Him”. John called such miracles, “signs through which He showed His glory” (Jn. 2:11). So the miracles were evidence of His divine power as the Messiah (the Son of God).
Jesus calmed a storm when the disciples urged Him to save them from drowning (Mt. 8:23-27; Mk. 4:35-41). On another occasion, He walked on water so He could calm a storm (Mt. 14:22-33). Jesus showed His omniscience in obtaining money for the temple tax from a fish that Peter caught, and predicting Peter’s denial (Mt. 17:24-27; 26:33-34).
The purpose of miracles
Confirmation of Christ’s divinity
Many of these miracles were done publicly. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). So Christ’s miracles were well known.
The miracles of Jesus demonstrated His divine power over disease, nature, the spirit world, material things and death. These miracles showed that Jesus is the Messiah (Mt. 11:1-6; Lk. 7:18-23) and the Son of God (Mt. 14:25-33). The Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to perform miracles, such as giving sight to the blind (Is. 42:7). The apostle John witnessed most of these miracles and wrote, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30-31). This purpose can still be achieved today when people read the account of Christ’s life in the Bible. But some people still rejected the evidence of Christ’s divinity despite the miracles He performed.
Confirmation of Christ’s message
Jesus came to preach the good news that He was the Messiah through whom salvation is possible (Mk. 1:14-15; 38; Lk. 19:10). In a warning about returning to Jewish practices, the early church was told, “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those (the apostles) who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” (Heb. 2:2-3). So miracles were God’s confirmation of the gospel message. Although this passage applies to the early church, the same principle applies to the time of Jesus – the miracles were God’s confirmation of Christ’s message. They confirmed that He was the Messiah and that His message was from God. That’s why miracles accompanied Christ’s preaching and teaching.
To help Jews accept Christ’s message
Christ’s ministry was to Jews who demanded to see miracles (Mt. 12:38; 16:1,4; Mk. 8:11-12; Lk. 11:16, 29; Jn. 2:18; 4:48; 6:30). They would believe a message was from God if a miracle was shown to them (1 Cor. 1:22). Christ’s miracles were “signs through which He revealed His glory” and because of these, “His disciples believe in Him” (Jn. 1:11). After the Jewish people saw a miracle, they believed that Jesus was the Messiah (Jn. 6:14-15).
To bring people to belief, repentance, and eternal life
A major purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to bring people to repentance (Mt. 11:20-24). That’s why He denounced the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. And He could not do any miracles at His hometown of Nazareth, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith – they didn’t believe that Jesus could heal (Mk. 6:1-6). The Pharisees and Herod hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Mt. 13:38; Mk. 8:11; Lk. 23:8). And those who had seen Him feed 5,000 men asked for another miracle (Jn. 6:30). In these instances, Jesus didn’t do miracles because He knew they wouldn’t believe His message.
Large crowds followed Jesus because of His miraculous healing of the sick (Jn. 6:2). When Jesus used five small loaves of bread and two small fish to feed over 5,000 people, they thought He was a prophet (Jn. 6:14). Then Jesus told them that God’s will for the Jews was to look to Jesus (“the one He has sent”) and believe in Him to receive eternal life (Jn. 6:36, 40). So, the miracles were evidence that Jesus was more than a prophet. Instead He was the Messiah who had been sent by God the Father.
A blind man was healed to display the works of God (Jn. 9:1-38). Afterwards the man believed that Jesus was the Messiah and he worshipped Him. Lazarus was raised from the dead “for God’s glory so that God’s Son (Jesus) may be glorified through it” (Jn. 11:4). After this miracle, the Jewish religious leaders said that if they let Jesus continue to do such miracles then “everyone will believe in Him” (Jn. 11:47-57). So they planned to arrest and kill Jesus.
An expression of compassion
Jesus healed people when He had compassion on them (Mt. 14:14; 20:34). He fed a hungry crowd when He had compassion on them (Mt. 15:32). And He raised her son from the dead when He had compassion on the widow of Nain (Lk. 7:13). In these examples, He was relieving people of suffering. So, although the spiritual needs of people are paramount, we see that Jesus was concerned about their physical needs as well. But Jesus only healed one of the many disabled people at the pool of Bethesda (Jn. 5:2-9). So Jesus was selective in using His miraculous power.
We have seen that the Bible says Jesus used His miraculous power when preaching and teaching, when people came to Him, when He was told about people, when He saw people, and as a witness to His disciples. And He was selective in the use of His divine power. The purpose of these miracles was to confirm Christ’s divinity; to confirm His message; to help Jews accept the message; to bring people to belief, repentance, and eternal life; and to show compassion. So Jesus used His miraculous power when these purposes could be achieved
Written, November 2016
Also see: How did Jesus do miracles?