Jesus as Miracle Worker. Ruins at Bethsaida. Fisherman’s House at Bethsaida. Main Road at Bethsaida. Site of Chorazin. Sea of Galilee. Galilee. The Purpose of Jesus' Miracles in the Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels.
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The Synoptic Gospels
Matthew 11: 20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles (dunameis) had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida. If the miracles (dunameis) that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles (dunameis) that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
Why are the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum condemned? To which other cities are these cities compared? What does this imply about the purpose of Jesus’ dunameis?
The Synoptic Gospels
Mark 6:1-3 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him and such dunameis as these are performed through his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him…6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
How did Jesus expect that his miracles (dunameis) would function? Why did the people from Nazareth reject Jesus as someone extraordinary?
The Synoptic Gospels
Luke 19:37: When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles (dunameis) they had seen.
How did the people respond to Jesus’ miracles (dunameis)? Why did they respond in this way?
Gospel of John
Jesus’ signs (semeia)
John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
Jesus’ works (erga)
John 5:6: "But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about me, that the Father has sent me"
How did Nicodemus respond to Jesus’ semeia? How did Jesus interpret his own erga?
Gospel of John
John 9:16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.... 39 And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things and said to him, "We are not blind too, are we?" 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."
Why was there confusion about Jesus’ identity? How did some interpret Jesus’ signs? How might the Pharisees have explained them?
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was a doer of amazing deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared."
Based on the hypothetical original text, how did Josephus present Jesus to his readers?
How does Jesus intend that his "miracles" would function? How do people respond to Jesus' miracles?
Mark 6:35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." 37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" 38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five—and two fish." 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." 4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." 11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
What are the kinds of “miracles” that Jesus performs?
Two categories available by which to interpret Jesus as Miracle Worker.
Sorcerer (or Magician)
Jewish “Holy Man”
Once it happened that they said to Choni the circle-drawer, "Pray that rain may fall." He replied, "Go forth and bring in the Passover ovens, so that they might not be softened." He prayed, but no rain fell. What did he do? He drew a circle and stood within it, and said before Him, "Master of the universe, Your children have set their faces to me, because I am as a son of the household before you. I swear by Your great Name that I will not move from here until you have compassion on Your children." Rain began to trickle. He said, "Not for such rain did I pray, but for rain that will fill the cisterns, pits and caves." The rain began to fall with violence. He said, "Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, blessing and graciousness." The rain fell according to their preference until the Israelites had to go up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount because of the rain. They came to him and said, "Just as you prayed for the rain to fall, so now pray that it might stop." He answered them, "Go and see if the Stone of Strayers has been washed away." Simon ben Shetach sent to him saying, "If you had not been Choni I would have pronounced a ban of excommunication against you. But what could I do since you are petulant before God and He performed your will as a son who importunes his father and he does his will." (m. Ta‘an. 3:8)
Now there was a certain Onias, a righteous man and especially loved by God, who had once in a rainless period prayed to God to end the drought, and God heard his prayer and sent rain; this man hid himself when he saw that the civil war continued to rage, but he was taken to the camp of the Jews and was asked to place a curse on Aristobolus and his fellow-rebels, just as he had by his prayers, put an end to the rainless period. But when in spite of his refusals and excuses he was forced to speak by the mob, he stood up in their presence and said, "O God, King of the universe, since these men standing beside me are your people, and those who are besieged are your priests, I ask you not to pay any attention to them against these men, nor to bring to pass what these men ask you to do against those others." And when he prayed in this manner the evil ones among the Jews who stood around him stoned him to death. (Josephus, Ant. 14. 22-24)
What was Onias (Choni) reputed to have done? How is he parallel to Jesus as a religious figure (as a Jewish “holy man”)? How did his contemporaries respond to Onias (Choni)?
Davidic Messiah and Miracles
John 7:31: When the Christ comes, he will not perform more signs (semeia) than those which this man has, will he?
4Q521 (Messianic Apocalypse): [For the heav]ens and the earth will listen to his Messiah....and the Lord will perform marvelous acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id] for he will heal the sick and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the poor.
How do these two references suggest that the expectation was that the Davidic Messiah would perform “miracles”?
How could Jesus' contemporaries have explained his ability to perform "miracles"? Are Jesus' miracles consistent with and supportive of his being the Davidic Messiah?
Mark 8:10 And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came out and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 Sighing deeply in His spirit, he said, "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation."
Matt 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But he replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?“ 4 "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And he left them and went away.
How does Matthew modify his Markan source? Why does Jesus condemn his generation for seeking for a sign? In Matthew’s version what comparison does Jesus use in his criticism?
Luke 11:16 Others, to test him, were demanding of him a sign from heaven..... 29 As the crowds were increasing, he began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the son of man be to this generation."
Why does Jesus condemn those Jews who look for a sign? Why is the “sign of Jonah” not really a sign?
John 4:46 Therefore he came again to Cana of Galilee where he had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to him and was imploring him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders (semeiakaiterata), you simply will not believe." 49 The royal official said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.
Why does Jesus criticize people for not being willing to believe without signs and wonders?
Why does Jesus sometimes criticize those who asked him for a sign?
John 12:37 Even after Jesus had done all these signs (semeia) in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" [Isaiah 53:1] 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40" He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them." [Isaiah 6:10] 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.
How does John explain the fact that Jesus' contemporaries did not respond positively to his "signs"?