The western preoccupation with the supernatural leads modern men and women to prioritize accounts of healing and of spectacular alterations within the physical world. Even in the imaginary worlds of comic book heroes which often mimic societal norms, the heroes validate their uniqueness through displays of self-healing and superhuman strength that defy the limits of nature. When modern readers encounter the Jesus of the New Testament, many somewhat predictably demand that Jesus prove his divinity through the manipulation of scientific laws within the modern context. They want to see Jesus heal someone today.
Why Jesus Did Miracles
While Jesus certainly carried out hundreds of miracles throughout his lifetime as attested to by the first four books of the New Testament and by secular authors such as Josephus and Tacitus who labeled Jesus “a miracle worker,” Jesus never saw the miracles associated with his teaching ministry as the ultimate proof of his divinity. He performed healings, led exorcisms, and calmed storms to prepare his audiences and the modern reader for the greatest act of all, the resurrection.
In Matthew 9:1-8, the Pharisees take issue with Jesus when he tells a disabled young man, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” They complain that Jesus’s sentiment while nice is completely unprovable. Anyone can promise the remission of sin. Only God can grant it. To prove that he has the power to forgive sins, Jesus responds to his critics and says,
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he then said to the paralytic – “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.
In other words, Jesus heals the man to establish that he can do something even greater. He can forgive sins. The means of accomplishing this forgiveness proves to be the ultimate miracle of all, the theological telos of all miracles past and present.
Just One More
When the Pharisees come back to Jesus in Matthew 12:38-40, asking for one more proof of his divinity, Jesus responds to their demand with a cryptic allusion to the prophet Jonah whose ministry prefigures Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (40).” The implication remains clear. The greatest sign of Jesus’s divinity is the cross and the empty tomb.
Men and women who walk about with contempt for Jesus because he has not performed a miracle in the last decade fundamentally misunderstand the point of Jesus’s miracles. They do not stand in isolation. Yes, they affirm his Messiahship, but they do something more. They point to the cross. If that does not convince someone that Jesus is the Messiah, nothing will. Nothing proves harder than overcoming sin and liberating sinners from death. Abraham failed, Moses failed, and King David failed at this. For all their greatness, they all fell victim to sin. Only Jesus was able to resists the temptations of the devil and conquer death. He alone can heal sinners. In other words, Jesus does not have to perform additional miracles today for nothing is greater, mightier, or more significant than living a sinless life, dying unjustly, and then rising from the dead. The forgiveness of sins depends exclusively upon this miracle. Nothing can top it.
Jesus concluded in Matthew 12:41:
The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold something greater than Jonah is here.
Those who demand that Jesus must do one more miracle so they can believe devalue the empty tomb, the vary apex of Jesus’s ministry on earth. If the greatest earthly miracle cannot convince a person to believe, the miraculous curing a quadriplegic will undoubtedly prove ineffective. Even if God where to raise someone from the dead, the skeptical modern soul still would not believe (Lk 16:29-31). The problem facing modern men and women is not one of a lack of miracles but one of a lack of faith. The empty tomb is more than enough. Will you believe?