One of the most important parts of Christianity lies in recognizing the fact that Jesus Christ was divine, himself an extension of the Jewish God. One of the ways in which his divinity is proved by Biblical scholars is to point out the many miracles that Jesus was recorded performing during his time on Earth. In academic circles, Jesus’ miracles are often categorized according to the act that was carried out. Thus, miracles that involved healing are cures, those that involved overcoming physical barriers are considered miracles of nature, and those wherein Jesus cast out demons are known as exorcisms.
Jesus’ miracles of healing are the most well documented in the Bible, perhaps because so many of the diseases he encountered and cured were considered a death sentence by the cultures of the time. Jesus’ healing miracles also tended to have a second dimension which offered some insight into his character and his mission as a whole.
For example, lepers were the outcasts of society. Everyone lived in deadly fear of catching the disease which caused digits and limbs to rot and then fall off in a painful and incurable manner. When diagnosed with leprosy, a person was sent away from the rest of society to live out their remaining days in colonies consisting of similarly struck people. They had to carry bells and cry “unclean” whenever they approached other people. In order to cure lepers, Jesus would often touch them, to the dismay of his followers. The examples of the lepers offer several insights into Jesus’ character. First of all, he was determined to overcome social barriers. He would approach even the most avoided people in society. He also demonstrated his storied mission of loving the unlovable, all the while of course demonstrating his divinity.
Jesus also made it clear through his healing that it was the faith of the people that he healed that caused the cure. His words after healing several people are the same; “through your faith, you are healed” (Matt 9:22). Through this, Jesus demonstrated that people come through him through their own faith rather than through his compulsion.
Miracles of Nature
Jesus’ miracles sometimes did not involve people, although they usually served an illustrative purpose (the main one being to demonstrate his divinity). These miracles are known as miracles of nature.
Jesus’ first miracle of nature recorded in the Biblical canon is turning water into wine at a wedding. His mother Mary was a guest at the wedding, and he and his followers also came. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother approached him, and he told her that his time had not yet come. However, he proceeded to turn the water that was to be used for cleansing into wine, which the master of ceremonies declared to be the best wine he had ever tasted, in stark contrast to normal conventions which had the host brining out the inferior wine second. This miracle can be interpreted to demonstrate Jesus making the unclean clean, of using all things to his ends, and of being straightforward in the presentation of his message.
Miracles of nature also included feeding large crowds with relatively little food, walking on water, and causing his disciples to catch many fish though they had been failing all night. (He also walked through a crowd that wanted to hurl him off of a cliff, and several times raised people from the dead).
Miracles of Exorcism
The last category of miracles that Jesus performed involved casting demons out of afflicted individuals. These differ from the miracles of healing in that they clearly portray a struggle of good versus evil instead of conquest over the natural. He is recorded as having cast demons out singly and in large groups, after having them name themselves and recognize his authority.
All of Jesus’ miracles were enacted on different individuals, and many served several purposes. All, however, had the ultimate point of pointing to himself as a divine being, sent by God.