The Miracles of Jesus
The Gospels record 37 miracles of Jesus in some detail. These include:
Water Turned into Wine: This is the first of Jesus' miracles. Jesus attends a wedding in Cana in Galilee. When the wine runs out Jesus converts water into wine to allow the feast to continue. In total about 550 litres of water is converted. (John 2:1-11)
Healing of Centurion’s servant: Here a centurion (an officer in the army of Herod Antipas) has a servant who is seriously ill. The centurion sends messengers to Jesus, asking him to heal the servant. Ultimately Jesus heals the servant from a distance; he does so without meeting the servant or speaking to him. (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10)
The feeding of the five thousand: This is a miracle which took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in which Jesus fed five thousand men, plus an unknown number of women and children, using only a very small amount of food. It is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)
Jesus Walks on Water: After the feeding of the five thousand Jesus climbs a mountain to pray, alone, to God and the disciples row away across the Sea of Galilee. A contrary wind slows the boat down, and after a while the disciples see Jesus walking towards them on the surface of the water. Jesus joins the disciples and they complete their journey with him in the boat. (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21)
Lazarus is Raised from the Dead: Lazarus died and had been buried for four days when Jesus arrived and raised him from the dead (John 11:1-46). This is the most spectacular of the miracles where Jesus raised the dead; other examples include the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the raising of the Widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17).
The number of Jesus’ miracles is a witness to his power; some of the miracles are also extremely impressive. Many of Jesus’ miracles are healings carried out to relieve the pain of some sufferer. Others are there to illustrate Jesus’ teaching. Yet the miracles are not used to raise crowds of followers or to overcome the arguments of enemies. There is no record of any miracle of Jesus which harms the recipient.
The miracles of Jesus fall into two categories:
Actions which are unlikely to occur at the time of the miracle. An example of this is the calming of a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25). Storms come to an end very often, but it is highly unlikely that one would come to an end immediately after it had been commanded to do so.
Actions which violate the laws of nature. An example of this would be the occasion when Jesus walked on the water. This would not be possible under normal circumstances. It is only because a miracle was being worked that Jesus could do this.
The recorded miracles of Jesus were not insignificant. They left a great impression on those who saw them, although they were usually done in circumstances where no miracle was expected.
For example, consider the raising of the Widow of Nain’s son. The account of this appears in Luke 7:11-17. There is a considerable amount of detail in this passage.
v11 tells us the name of the town concerned - it was Nain.
v12 tells us that the miracle took place in a specific part of the city, near the city gate.
v12 also tells us that the miracle took place at a funeral, as the deceased was being carried out of the town, presumably to a place of burial.
After Jesus had performed the miracle, the news of it became widespread (v17). This means that it would have been easy to check up on the account. All one had to do was to ask a selection of people from the region about the miracle; anyone of the right age would have been likely to remember it. Certainly anyone in the city of Nain would have found the occasion to be fixed in their memory.
The existence of these details is good evidence that the account is not invented. This kind of evidence is seen for many accounts of miracles performed by Jesus.
The main miracle associated with Jesus is, of course, his resurrection from the dead. There is a great deal of evidence which shows that this miracle did indeed occur. The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead shows that miracles happen. It is therefore quite reasonable to believe that the person who was raised from the dead also performed miracles of healing and teaching during the time before this.
Another important point about Jesus’ miracles is that they did not fail. He never came to a crowd of people and managed to heal only some of them, or failed to heal someone once he had undertaken to do so. The miracles of Jesus have a 100% record of success.
For example, consider these two occasions in the Gospel of Luke:
"Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them." (Luke 4:40)
"And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all." (Luke 6:19)
There are occasions when Jesus singled one person out from a crowd (for example the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5), but Jesus made the choice and no-one else asked him for a cure. Jesus never began to make a cure and then failed; he never announced that of the many people before him who were suffering he would heal only one or two.