Why Did Jesus Stop Doing Miracles?

The story of how Jesus brought Jairus’s dead twelve-year-old daughter back to life resonates with our souls (Matt 9:18-23). The deep sorrow of associated with burying a child has few equals. It is a special kind of anguish that brutalizes the heart. What parent would not run to Jesus as Jairus did, longing to hear his child laugh again?

The story also presents us with a problem of eternal proportions: Where is Jesus now? What about today’s children who are wasting away in hospitals? Why does Jesus not come to our homes?

Since no Christian can see into the secret mind of God, we should not speculate about the intent of God’s secret will. We do not know it. We do not know why some live to 80 and others die at 8 weeks.

Why Jesus Left

But we do know why Jesus left earth. He could have set up a permanent health clinic in Judea and healed the sick without end. People today could still be talking of that time when Jesus spoke over Fred and his cancer disappeared. But they don’t because Jesus understood that such healings were temporary. Everyone whom Jesus healed in the New Testament has long since died. Had Jesus hung up a shingle and gone into the professional healing business, his ministry would have never ended. Such a healing ministry would have addressed the symptoms of humanity’s problem (though not in a universal since as Jesus was bound by the limits of time and space) without addressing the root cause of our problems: the curse of sin and death. In other words, Jesus goes and dies on the cross so that humanity can spend eternity in a world with no sin, death, and misery. The empty tomb addressed the root cause of all our problems. In short what is even greater than an extended life on earth is an eternity in heaven.

In 1929, the famous preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones reflect upon a similar dilemma when he had exchanged the doctor’s stethoscope for the pastor’s pulpit in 1925. People would have easily understood and celebrated Lloyd-Jones had he given up being a bookie to preach. But giving up medicine…surely the healing of the sick was a noble profession. Lloyd-Jones responded:

I want to heal souls. If a man has a diseased body and his soul is all right, he is all right to then end; but a man with a healthy body and a diseased soul is all right for sixty years or so and then he has to face an eternity of hell…We have sometimes to give up those things which are good for that which is best of all – the joy of salvation.

Jesus no longer walks among us because he wanted to free us from the whole tragedy of death and dying once and for all. Because he died, we get to live forever without sickness. As Jesus tells us in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus left to conquer sin and death for us.

Does God Still Heal?

Though Jesus ascended into heaven, Christians should continue to take their health concerns to Jesus. When their children feel the weight of illness, mom and dad should ask Jesus to heal their precious child for he instructed his followers to ask him to “Give us this day our daily bread.” No one can doubt that health proves to be one of our must urgent daily needs. God still dispenses the gifts of healing sometimes supernaturally and sometimes through normal medical means. Jesus still heals.  

What About My Loss?

But when he does not heal, we should not despair for as Jesus told Jairus and later those who mourned the death of Lazarus, death proves not to be the permanent end of human existence but rather to be a type of sleep, a transition to eternity (Matt 9: John 11. In other words, the goodness of God reigns even during and after death. The puritan, pastor John Flavel beautifully encapsulated Jesus’s sentiment when he wrote:

Look not upon the dead as a lost generation; think not that death has annihilated and utterly destroyed them. On no, they are not dead, but only asleep; and if asleep, they shall awake again. You do not…make outcries and lamentations for your children, and friends, when you find them asleep upon their beds. Why, death is but a longer sleep out of which they shall as surely awake as ever they did in the morning in this world.

The dead in Christ are not lost. The end goal of Jesus’s ministry was not an eternal life of misery here on earth but rather an eternal life of glory in the new heavens and the new earth. Those who trust in Jesus though they die reside with him forever.

As for those of us left behind, we too need not despair. The Jesus who responded kindly to the simple and slightly misinformed faith of a woman with the flow of blood who touched his clothes invites us to bring our problems to him. Even those who struggle with fear, anger, and fractured theology will find deliverance and life if they will but make Jesus the object of their faith. As the Puritan Richard Sibbs helpfully reminds us, “God can pick out sense out of the confused prayer (50).” No problem is too great for God and no amount of faith is too small. If we will but go to Jesus as Jairus did, he will come to our home and deliver us from our griefs and sorrows. Jesus reigns.  

Final Thoughts

Do not begrudge, Jesus for going back to heaven and removing the miracle shingle. In doing so, he did something far greater than extending our loved one’s life for a few years. He made it so we could all spend eternity with him in a world forever free from sin and death. God is Good. May God help us all trust him more.

Where Did All the Miracles Go: Jesus, the Supernatural, & the Empty Tomb

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?

The Kingdom is Real: Understanding the Promises of Jesus

Even the youngest of souls grasps the difference between making a promise and the fulfilling of that promise. Any parent can promise their toddler a trip to Disney World or to Lego Land. But only those with the means and ability to take their child to a theme park and to pay the price of admission can make their children’s dreams come true. Ability is found not in words but in action.

Do Jesus’s Dreams Come True?

The writer of the gospel of Matthew grasps this reality. He anticipates the concerns of both his ancient and modern readers who observe the great beauty the Sermon on the Mount. While all people long for a world in which hate is overcome by love, most assume that it cannot be achieved by the fickle and relationally clumsy souls that make up our cultures and churches. In one sense, the writer of Matthew shares in the readers pessimism, noting that human religion falls short of Jesus’s grand vision. Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you (Matt 5:21-22; 27-28; 31-32; 33-34; 38-39; 43-44).” But unlike Matthew’s many readers who wonder how the next generation of religious ne’er-do-wells can do any better, Matthew directs the reader’s attention not towards humanity but towards Christ. If the kingdom of God is to arrive and if selfish, hateful, and malicious people are to become selfless, peaceful, and kind, Jesus must do it.

The question remains: can he? Can Jesus turn his words into actions? Can he get us to the amazing world of the kingdom of God?

While ever pessimistic about the human condition, Matthew remains ever hopeful in the abilities of Jesus (Matt 5:18-19). According to the Gospel writer, Jesus can and will establish the kingdom of God for he makes the unclean clean. In short, the answer is an emphatic “yes!”

Making the Unclean Clean

To prove that the Sermon on the Mount is not just another somewhat inspirational and yet totally unfeasible mandate for souls exhausted by a lifetime of failed promises, Matthew recounts how Jesus miraculously healed a leper.   

In Jesus’s day, the term leprosy covered a wide range of skin diseases that could cause everything from the discoloration of the skin to the losing of fingers and toes (Lev. 13-14). If a person did not recover from their disease by the end of seven days, they would be exiled from their community and from the temple. Leviticus 13:45-46 prescribed the following:

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Though the possibility of healing existed, the law and the priestly system could only diagnosis and condemn. Such actions prevented others from contracting the disease but essentially condemned the leper to a humiliating death shrouded in uncleanness. As an old Israelite king noted when the Syrian general Naaman asked from permission to visit Israel in the hopes of finding a cure for his leprosy, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy (2 Kg 5:7)?” Men and women could not make the unclean clean. Leprosy proved fatal.

But, Jesus can. When the leper approaches Jesus in Matthew 8:1-2, modern readers can grasp the shock value of this moment having lived through the COVID-19 pandemic. Where the text to be updated into today’s context, the leper’s actions could be equated to a man profusely sweating, coughing, and stumbling about with all the demonstrative signs of the coronavirus raging through his body. Undoubtedly many in the crowd would openly question the leper’s actions for he has put all kinds of people at risk. But unlike the crowds of his day and those of us afraid of diseases, Jesus does not recoil from the leper. When the leper says, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean,” the text reports that “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleaned.” Jesus triumphs over uncleanness. When sickness touches Jesus, he does not become unclean, the uncleanness becomes whole. He restores that which is broken.

Jesus is Better

In that moment, Jesus does something that no other human being can do. Even the youngest of children know that when you pour dirty water into clean, the clean does not purify the dirty. For this reason, Paul reminds Christians that, “Bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor. 15:33).” When Christians embrace and touch abuse, sexual immorality, gossip, greed, or any other number of sins in their midst, the sinners do not become pure, the healthy Christians become sick. The human condition remains as it was when that when the old Israelite king encountered Naaman’s request. We cannot make the unclean clean.

Only Jesus can. His ability to heal the sick reveals that he is the Messiah. Matthew notes in 8:17 that this miracle and the others that follow were done “to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illness and bore our diseases.” Jesus can bring the kingdom of God to bear. He can promise greatness and achieve it.

Jesus can heal the sick and overcome both physical and spiritual uncleanness for he has dealt with the world’s fundamental problem: sin. The apostle Peter following the lead of Matthew and Isaiah concludes that Jesus, “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wound you have been healed (1 Pt 2:24).” In other words, the healings that Jesus accomplished in Matthew 8 point to his death and resurrection in Matthew 27-28. Because Jesus makes the unclean clean, the reader knows that Jesus can truly absolve us from all sin and guilt and empower us to live the ethic of the Kingdom of heaven both today on earth and tomorrow in the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus can do it.

Final Thoughts

The knowledge of Jesus’s ability to make the unclean clean should cause hope to burst forth in every soul. No soul proves too dirty for the saving grace of God. No stain of sin proves permanent. If we will but ask Jesus to heal us, he will make our spots as white as snow.

The Sermon on the Mount proves not to be a philosophical daydream of what could be. It is what is. Jesus possesses the ability to fulfill his promises. Lepers are healed. Sinners are saved and sanctified. The kingdom of God is real.