“Who Can This Be?”
While all of the miracles attributed to Jesus are fascinating, some are frankly more arresting to the imagination than are others. All three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) record the incident where Jesus and His disciples are in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee and are assailed by a violent windstorm. The disciples, fearing for their lives, turn to the Lord for their salvation and He, after questioning their faith, “rebuked the winds and the sea” (Matt. 8.26) resulting in “a great calm.” It must have been overwhelming to the men in that boat when they felt the wind die and saw the turbulent, lashing water subside. In fact, so astonished were they that they pose the question, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Who indeed?
Throughout the Bible we read of events that are miraculous in nature, that is, occurrences that simply cannot be explained in keeping with the normal laws that govern our physical world. I would note that most of the supernatural events in the scriptures seem to center around three significant periods of history – the record of the exodus of Israel from Egypt (Exodus thru Joshua); the prophetic work of Elijah and Elisha as they counteract the influence of Jezebel and baal worship in Israel (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13); and the lives of Jesus and the apostles (Matthew – Acts). That is not to say that all of the Biblical miracles occur in those eras, but there is clearly in them an increase in the imposition of God’s divine power upon the physical world. And such is the point of the miraculous – to affirm and confirm that this book is a record of God’s activity in the history of mankind as He brings to completion His plan for the redemption of man. Accepting the supernatural is imperative to real faith in the God of the Bible and in His Son, Jesus Christ. But that is problematic for many in our educated and technologically advanced world. The Biblical record is often met with doubt and derision, and the miraculous is frequently at the center of that dismissal. “Do you really believe that Eve talked with a serpent?” “Do you really believe that God flooded the entire earth?” “Do you honestly think that fire came from heaven and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah…that God rained manna from heaven…that the sun stood still for Joshua…that Jesus walked on the water, fed 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, was born of a virgin, arose from the dead?” Yes, I really believe all of that. In fact, I don’t know how you can believe in God or in the person and work of Jesus Christ without accepting the miraculous.
Ridicule and dismissal are not new reactions to the miraculous elements of the Bible. Even in the record itself we see such doubt. Pharaoh disregarded the plagues as mere parlor tricks that could be duplicated by his magicians (at least for a while – Ex. 7-12). Gideon questioned “where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?” (Jud. 6.13). And the Pharisees in Jesus’ day attempted to discredit Him, attributing any apparent supernatural element to the power of Beelzebub (Matt. 9.34; 12.24). Paul battled with those who dismissed the possibility of a bodily resurrection (Acts 17.32; 1 Cor. 15), and Peter warned that scoffers would come who question the idea that God will return and bring destruction and judgment on this world (2 Pet. 3). It may well be that we as followers of Jesus will be subjected to the ridicule of people in our day who think themselves too intelligent, too educated, too advanced to believe in the miracles of the Bible. They may consider them fables, fairy tales, fantastic but fictional folly. But we must come to grips with this fundamental truth about the supernatural powers attributed to God’s spokesmen, and especially to Jesus Christ: the very existence of the kingdom of heaven and Jesus as our King is completely dependent upon the reality of the miracles in the Bible.
The Bible proposes, and we as Christians must accept, the concept that there is a spiritual realm in existence even now, and that Jesus of Nazareth arose from the dead and ascended into that spiritual realm where He now reigns over all of God’s creation as the omnipotent King. Moreover, He offers citizenship in His present kingdom to any who would submit himself to His rule. Our faith demands that reality. To reject that God expressed His supernatural power in this world is to reject the Bible story. One demands the other. And whatever stigma attaches itself to us as believers in that truth will simply have to be borne.
Please appreciate the significance of the miracles which Jesus performed. Witnesses were consistently astounded by His works. “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men” (Matt. 9.8). “The multitudes marveled, saying, ‘It was never seen like this in Israel!’” (Matt. 9.33). “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” (Matt. 14.33). “Those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” (Jn. 6.14). “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (Jn. 9.33). Even His opponents could not deny His power. “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (Jn. 3.2). “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” (Jn. 11.47). It is no wonder that the multitudes of His day, who were looking for a king like David to come and cast off the bonds of Roman oppression, would flock to Jesus. With Him at the head of a physical army, they would be invincible. He could feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes; He could heal the wounded with a touch; He could command the very forces of nature; He could raise the dead who fell in battle. Who wouldn’t want to follow that king? And such is the nature of the kingdom that many religious people believe in even today. Premillennial doctrine looks to just such a future, and while such is certainly appealing, it is also completely ungrounded in Biblical truth.
The apostles preached a kingdom that is now in existence – one that began with the ascension and enthronement of Jesus to the right hand of God in the heavens (Acts 2.29-36). That spiritual kingdom is opened to any who would submit (Acts 2.36f; 8.12f; 19.18f; Col. 1.13; Rev. 1.6). And one powerful evidence for the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as God in the flesh and King over all is to be found in His miracles. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn. 20.30-31). Again, we have no reason to accept salvation in Jesus Christ if the miracles of the Bible are discounted.
But even on a practical level, the supernatural powers of our Lord are significant. We need an omnipotent King – One Whose power extends beyond this temporal realm – if we are to entertain the offers of the Bible. How can I have confidence in forgiveness unless my Savior has power in the moral and spiritual realm? Thus His miracle in Matt. 9.1-7, “that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” (v.5). How can I know that God will raise my dead body, transform it into a glorious spiritual body, and give me eternal life? Because He proved His willingness and ability to raise the dead (Matt. 9.18-26; Luke 7.11-17; Jn. 11.34-45). How can I trust that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability to resist (1 Cor. 10.13)? How can I know He hears my prayers? How can I know He cares for me? How can I know He will return in judgment? How can I know that my faith in Him and the sacrifices of my life are well founded? Very simply because He proved His power – that it is not limited to this world, but extends to the very spiritual realm that awaits us all.
The Bible describes some pretty incredible events in the history of God’s dealings with man. And we are often exposed to derision when we acknowledge a belief in the literal reality of such things. We have to face that, and stand our ground. Because there is absolutely no hope in the rule of Jesus Christ in the absence of His divine power. But what marvelous hope the reality of such affords us who believe.