No Magic!

The Lord Jesus was accused of working miracles by the power of Satan, Matthew 12:21-27. He was never accused of illusions, tricks or rigged setups. The authenticity of his miracles were not questioned, they were powerful overwhelming evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was more than a mere man. The idea that the source of his power was evil has led many people to argue that Jesus was simply a very good and wise magician. It was early on historically that the philosopher and critic Celsus made a public record of that allegation around 200AD. Sometimes these critics point to the fact of Jesus making money appear in the mouth of a fish as proof that Jesus did magic.

There are four interesting facts about the miracle of the coin.

  1. Peter was one of the most outspoken disciples that would be more than willing to examine the miracles of Jesus. Yet, Jesus performed this miracle on Peter rather than any other disciple. They were not an audience, but rather students trying to learn. If any magic was involved, why would Jesus pull a trick on Peter and not one of the more quiet or complacent disciples? Instead he purposely pointed it towards Peter to teach him a lesson, he didn’t really want to learn.
  1. The coin produced in such a powerful and odd place, was not for their own gain or pleasure. The first fishes mouth was a message of Peter’s business resource being taxed. The Jewish Temple Guards supported the “House of Merchandise” which the Jewish Priesthood turned into a “Den of Thieves” and would be supported by this money. So both Jesus & Peter paid taxes to a system of government that would hurt them!
  1. Jesus powerfully helped God’s faithful “children” suffer loss in the hope of not offending civil or religious powers. He cares about the taxes & custom we must pay, and if we will live faithful lives of integrity, he will help us in our “unfair” expenses. However, take note: the coin was the exact value needed to pay the tribute due for both Peter and Jesus, not more and not less, but just enough.
  1. Since Jesus did not pay tax from his group’s moneybag which Judas carried, are we to assume that he didn’t really pay tax at all? Perhaps some of the Pharisees heard about His attitude about temple tax, and it prompted a second incident (Matthew 22:15-21) regarding Jesus and taxes? In this case the question is about paying taxes to the foriegn, oppressive, ungodly Roman government. It is clear that he did and teaches us to do the same. See 1st Peter 2:13-17.

The real generosity of Jesus in paying the Temple tax is emphasised, so that Peter and the other disciples fully understand this; That in their faith of Jesus being the Son of God, His Father’s house was not something that he would be obligated to help pay for, but, regardless of any possible misunderstanding, he would be gracious and offer this money for payment of the Temple tax. Can we be equally generous in paying our taxes? Does this make us feel awkward at the end of the year, when gift-giving season approaches for tax deductible opportunities?

Vision for the Blind

There are many kinds of powerful healings which Jesus performed out of compassion, and a few of them were mentioned by him as proof that he is the Messiah, Luke 7:22. There are at least three events recorded of Jesus making people see clearly when they had no sight! John 9:1-7, Luke 18:35-43 & Mark 8:22-26. Making the blind see is an obvious way of telling the world that Christ is both the Light of the World, as well as the great Physician he claims to be, Mark 2:17. The Christ is a title which means “The Anointed”, in the context of giving vision to the blind, it is ointment with healing and enlightening properties, from God! For those of us living with the Spirit of Christ, this means that the eyes of our heart are enlightened. Ephesians 1:17-18. Why would Paul pray for the church in Ephesus to have the eyes of their heart enlightened, if the church as a whole, already had the presence of Christ’s Spirit? Because faith is our victory, personal faith, not someone else’s faith in the church, but yours!

For the man born blind in John 9, Jesus used his saliva & dirt, but for the beggar in Luke 18, Jesus simply pronounced his sight into reality. The personal nature of the miracle on the man born blind, could be because Christ knew he would be tested by critics and would be unknown by the blind man healed on the Sabbath. The mud & saliva would give the man a way to verify that it was Jesus when his testimony was pressed by the critics. Another example of the personal nature in the miraculous ability to restore vision, is in Mark 8:22-26. When Jesus actually asks the blind person, “how are you seeing?” It is certain that restoring vision to the blind was not an easy task and indeed there were different degrees of blindness which Jesus was healing. Even after using saliva, he had to place his hand on his eyes a second time, to ensure the blind man could see perfectly! There is only one other recorded instance of Jesus using saliva in miraculous healing, Mark 7:31-37, where he healed a deaf & mute person. The word of Christ was enough to work huge miracles, but faith is essential. God’s word is powerful, See Psalm 119:81-91, 2nd Corinthians 6:6-7 & Romans 1:16.

For the beggar by the road to Jericho, we read that Jesus pronounced “his faith” as giving him restored vision, Lk. 18:42. This was evident in his shouting to get the attention of Jesus, as “Son of David”. What is the significance of this title? Angels regarded this title with universal power, Luke 1:32. In the Revelation 5:5, the Elders refer to Jesus as the “root of David” and Jesus refers to himself as the descendant of David, Rev. 22:16. During the 1st century, Jewish culture regarded the Messiah to come and rule over the world. He would be the “son of David”, this thought is rooted in prophecy from Jeremiah 33:17 & Zechariah 13:1. Even the wise ‘magi’ kings of the East had heard of this prophecy and offered gifts to the Christ child under his star. David is the only King mentioned in Hebrews 11, listing many heroes of the faith. Therefore it is a sound point to make, then and now, that there is real eternal authority in this title, which is the power that worked on the blind man’s eyes. His Spirit has power to enlighten the eyes of your heart. Do you believe this? Could this be the reason, we should pray about reading God’s word, to make sure it is not just an academic experience, but a spiritual experience giving us insight into what The Spirit is trying to teach us?

Defying Gravity, Mt. 14:23-33, Mk. 6:47-52, Jn. 6:16-21

Jesus came walking towards His disciples on the sea. When His disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying “Its a ghost.” But Jesus spoke to them “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” Peter answered Him “Lord if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told Him “come”, and Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and beginning to sink he cried out to Jesus to save him. Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying “Truly You are the Son of God.” 

What do you think would have happened, when Peter saw the waves and felt the water push him, if he would have not feared & doubted, and just remained standing still? The lake of Galilee is at least 140ft deep, and they were 3 or 4 miles off shore! Where the eyes of his heart were focused, was more important than where his feet were or what they were doing, Ephesians 1:17-18.

 The point of this miracle is to teach us how hard it is to walk spiritually with God, when storms hit us. The New Testament is used by God to teach us to keep walking and when the storms of life get fierce, we must STAND, Ephesians 6:10-18. But for most of our life as a Christian, we are to walk in newness of life, Romans 6:4. Walk by the rule that only a new creation counts for anything, Galatians 6:15-16. Walk in the good works God prepared for you, Ephesians 2:10. Walk in His love & light, Ephesians 5:2-8. Walk in wisdom, Colossians 4:5. Walk with him as a divine guest in the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-25. This is the second type of miracle, which Jesus uses to emphasize the necessity of “walking”. Firstly, he used the healing of the lame & paralyzed to restore strength for walking. Now he uses Peter’s faith to walk in impossible circumstances. There seems to be no doubt in anyone’s mind, that Peter was an experienced fisherman and of course a decent swimmer. But when it came to walking on water, he was totally clueless. So he put his faith in the powerful voice of Christ that said “COME”, (Mat. 14:29 & Job 37:5) stepped out of the boat & WALKED!  Sadly, within moments Peter put his eyes on the stormy waves and started sinking. Such is our common experience in getting distracted with problems in the world, throwing us off focus and away from the powerful word of God which is alive and used by God’s Spirit in the Bible. We must learn, believe and remember that storms in life are temporary, and God’s word is permanent! Walk with a determined faith in the Father’s love. He will catch us when we fall, IF we will pray in faith!

The testimony of everyone in the boat proclaiming Jesus to be the “Son of God” is Jesus proving to everyone in the boat, that he was in control of their whole world. John’s gospel doesn’t mention Peter’s steps on water and then sinking, John simply states that the disciples knew Jesus moved the boat instantly to the shore from 3 or 4 miles out. The Lake of Galilee is 13 miles long, and 8 miles wide, so to get to the shore “immediately” is impossible without some external force like Jesus commanding it to move. All of them were experienced fisherman, so they know how boats, water and the wind can and can not assist travel. John himself, in writing this, was an experienced fisherman, being the son of Zebedee, so he knew very well how far and how quick the boat traveled. The disciples were mainly interested in helping Jesus get into the boat, but they learnt Jesus was more interested in getting them to the shore! That is what Jesus wants for you and I. Getting us home is his goal. We can’t do God’s work in and all by our self, we need his assistance to stand, to walk and to end up on the shore, with Him! It was not only Peter, that Jesus helped defy gravity, but the entire boat. As Christians, we must stay in the boat, just like Noah & Paul instructs us. See the story in Acts 27:19-31.

Thousands of All Kinds of People Being Fed

God used Moses to feed thousands of people in the wilderness, through many years. Exodus 16 & Numbers 11. There was always more than enough manna and quail. God in Jesus comforts us in the reality that the “bread of life” we have in Jesus will always give us sustenance and more, for the power we need to live and do what is right. Read John 6:31-58. Why? Because he was moved with compassion when he saw weary crowds of people. We should learn that Jesus fed many different kinds of people, on two different occasions. Teaching the world that he is truly our souls provider and without him we would starve to death spiritually.

The first event of 5000 men, recorded in Mt. 14 & Mk.6 was predominantly a Jewish crowd, because both accounts feeding 5000 use the word “kophinos” for baskets, Mt. 14:20 & Mk. 6:43.

The second event of 4000 men, recorded in Mt. 15 & Mk. 8 is predominantly a Gentile crowd, because both accounts feeding 4000 use the word “spuris” for baskets, Mt. 15:37 & Mk. 8:8. Which may explain why the disciples don’t seem to expect Jesus to feed them, even after they saw him feed the Jewish crowd beforehand. Notice in the first event the disciples come to Jesus asking about food for the crowd, but in the second event, it is the other way around. Jesus asks the disciples about feeding the crowd. 

Notice, regardless of what kind of people are in the crowds, in each case, Jesus performs the miracle, but the disciples are commanded to distribute the miracle. Setting people in segregated groups of 50 – 100. Is there a lesson for the church to learn from this in the distribution of God’s word? His word is certainly produced miraculously and abundantly, but how do we distribute it? 

Paul taught in 2nd Corinthians 9:8-12, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that in everything, always having all self-sufficiency, you may abound to every good work; As it is written, “He scattered; he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for eating, may He supply and multiply your seed, and increase the fruits of your righteousness, you being enriched in everything to all generosity, which works out thanksgiving to God through us. For the ministry of this service not only supplies the things lacking of the saints, but also multiplying through many thanksgivings to God”. Herein may be the whole point of preserving these miracles in the Bible, that is: God’s generosity towards us through His word, is what promotes praise & thanksgiving so that others in the world will get fed. The immediate reaction of the crowd in John 6:14-15, is to assume Jesus is the “prophet” which Moses said would come into the world. As soon as Jesus knew their conclusion, he withdrew because he knew they expected him to make an army in the world and defeat the idolatry of the Roman Empire, as Elijah defeated the idolatrous Baal worshipers in ancient times. Since Jesus had this kind of power, he could easily feed an army which could defeat any nation. What kind of army is Jesus feeding today?

Reversing Paralysis, John 5:1-17

There was a large crowd around the house Jesus was staying in Capernaum. With no room left in or outside the house, four men dug through the roof and lowered a paralyzed man on a mat, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how strongly they believed that He would help, Jesus said to the sick man “Son your sins are forgiven!” Some of the Jewish leaders thought this was blasphemy, for only God can forgive sins. Jesus let them know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, and said to the paralytic “I say to you stand up, take your mat and go home”. The man stood up took the mat and went out before all of them, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this”. Everyone could see the faith of the men who carried the sick man, but it was only Jesus that could see the sick man’s faith, John 2:25, so it was a perfect opportunity to teach.

The idea of relating the power of his healing with the power to forgive sins, was a deliberate attempt of Jesus to get the Pharisee’s attention onto their sinful behavior towards the law. They were using the law to justify themselves as being righteous in keeping the law. The analogy is obvious; when we try to use rules to make us right in God’s sight, we immediately enslave ourselves to law itself, because none of us can keep it perfectly, it always condemns/captivates us, like paralysis! Only God can make us righteous and free. In John 5:1-15, Jesus healed a totally disabled sick man in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, who was very likely paralyzed, to make the same point. If keeping the Sabbath made us acceptable, and breaking the Sabbath made us a reject. Then the only way Jesus could help them understand how powerful God was in accepting people, was to use the Sabbath himself by healing a paralyzed person, they all thought was a reject! Don’t misunderstand God, the law of Moses was holy, but it wasn’t made nor used in order to make people righteous. The law existed and worked to teach people what holiness was, and give Jews an acceptable way to worship God. It didn’t make THEM acceptable, it made their sacrifices and work acceptable. A real teaching tool, Galatians 3:22-25.

When the paralyzed man in Jerusalem beside the Bethesda pool, was healed by Jesus, he didn’t know who Jesus was, Jon. 5:13. It was not his faith that attracted Jesus, it was the fact that he only had a bed, and it was the Sabbath. Jesus knew he needed the man’s consent to be healed, because he would use him as ammunition against his critics. This was love, he was not out to humiliate him and get him kicked out of the synagogue or Temple, but to put him on a journey with that bed which would lead him into the Kingdom of Christ. When we walk with Christ, we should make sure we walk with a reminder of what he has cleansed us from, never forget what you were saved from, and never lose focus on what your saved for. Walk in newness of life, Romans 6:4. Walk by the rule that only a new creation counts for anything, Galatians 6:15-16. Walk in the good works God prepared for you, Ephesians 2:10. Walk in His love & light, Ephesians 5:2-8. Walk in wisdom, Colossians 4:5. DO NOT walk as enemies of the cross, Philippians 3:18, but walk with him as your best friend in the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-25.

The very fact that we can walk in Christ, is a miracle, considering the fact that spiritually we couldn’t walk at all. Sin paralyzes our ability to do what is right and even think right, it is a miracle he forgives us and enables us to walk again. Thank God for his indescribable gift, 2nd Corinthians 9:15. When we were baptized we became babes in Christ, needing to grow & learn how to walk, 1st Peter 2:2, 1st Corinthians 3:1.

God’s Cleansing Power

After preaching, Jesus came down the hillside followed by a large crowd. A leper approached Him, knelt before Him worshiping, and pleaded, “if You want to, You can cleanse me”. Jesus touched the man, and said to him “I am willing, be clean”. And instantly the leper was healed.
The law of Moses gave detailed instructions about the cleansing of lepers and even their residence, see Leviticus 13 – 14. The Levitical Priesthood had the duty to carry out these rules whenever a leper approached them. The legal specifics were long & drawn out with time consuming details. In the gospels, the lepers come to Jesus, who is not a priest, but was the obvious source of power when the Priests failed in their duty. Jesus was actually overriding the authority of the law, when he touched a leper, instead of breaking the law, he was over-riding it because of his instantaneous success. He wasn’t acting like a priest, but he was speeding up the process beyond anyone’s expectations. Why did he do this so powerfully? Because he was “moved with compassion”, Mk.1:41. His divine compassion would not allow him to become unclean by touching the leper, instead, the leper instantly became wholly clean!
There is no natural remedy, or self-cure, nor topical ointments that could touch the depths of this bacterial infection. This lack of a cure, however, did not mean that people were not cleansed of the disease. God healed Naaman by having him wash seven times in the Jordan (Lk. 4:27 & 2nd Kings 5) What is impossible with men, is possible with God. Leprosy was an inward disease, Even though you saw leprosy on the outside of the body, the real cause of the disease was lying beneath the surface. The sores and other problems were symptoms of the disease, but the cause ran deeper still. Sin is precisely the same. Sin proceeds from a sinful heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:19. Just like the leper would have the disease long before it even began to show, sin does its work in us well before others may ever see it. It often starts with secret sins, when we are ignorant of sin’s consequences. Then it begins to show itself in public sin, then when we defend and justify our sin, it starts to fester and putrefy, it all starts from within. James 1:14-15
The fact that Jesus touched the leper (Mt. 8:3) is astounding because if anyone else had come in contact with a leper, they would have become unclean. Jesus, however, touches the leper, and the opposite happens; the leper becomes clean. We are sinners deserving judgment, and God being a just God must punish sin. It is by His loving will that His merits are applied to us. We should ‘fear’, because He does not reach out with His healing hand and touch just anyone; We should ‘hope’, because He very frequently touches the most miserable. He bore the wrathful justice that sin deserved when the Father sent his Son to the cross. For those who have faith in Jesus, their sins can be forgiven because their just punishment was placed upon Christ. God will judge every sin, and His wrath will either be poured out on the sinner or upon Christ in their place. This substitution is why God can be both just and the justifier of sinners. How do we receive this cleansing? Are there works of righteousness we must fulfill to merit this forgiveness? The answer is no. But back in Lev. 13 we see a picture of how Jewish Priests could declare cleansing. Now, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. This is the point of Jesus sending the leper straight to the Priesthood, proving to the Nation, that their God-given authority was coming to an end, Luke 5:12-15.

The Goal of God’s Power, Luke 5:3-10

One day, the crowds at the sermon of Jesus were so large, he had to get into Peter’s boat and teach off the shore of Lake Galilee. When Jesus finished speaking He told Simon to go out in the deeper water and let down his nets. Simon replied “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if You say so, we will try again”. And this time the nets were so full, they began to tear. A shout for help brought in another boat and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. It was during this miracle Jesus told his closest disciples, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishing for people’s souls. See Jude v23. Never forget that in their day, the fishermen were only as good as their nets, if it tore, getting help was urgent & mandatory. Fellowship in fishing for the souls of men is a necessity. No Christian does this by yourself, even an apostle needed an apostleship. They had miraculous power and eye-witness testimony, but working as a team is still mandatory. 

Even when Jesus blessed Peter’s fishing business with miraculous gain, it was not for a larger profit. It’s goal was to give Peter who was still holding on to a physical goal, into a new spiritual goal. Proving that Jesus does give courage to Christians who are exhausted and/or anxious. See Romans 5:3-6, remembering that Jesus tells each of us to carry our cross, Luke 9:23, but even he needed help. Luke 23:26 & John 19:16-17. Read Galatians 6:9. 

If we are shown just a single person is interested in God’s message in Jesus, we should try to fish for them. Prayerful patience turns physical followers into spiritual students and none of us knows how many fish that will lead to. See Colossians 4:2-4. In another analogy Paul used, we are like brilliant glints of light in the darkness & no one knows how far we shine. Philippians 2:15, Revelation 21:11 & Ephesians 5:8-11.

Spiritual courage is not like physical courage. One takes faith in Christ who is bigger than you, the other takes faith in yourself as bigger than other people. We should value spiritual courage as better than physical courage, Matthew 13:47 & Acts 2:4 & 18:9 & 27:24, Ephesians 6:10, 1st Peter 4:11 & 2nd Corinthians 8:23.
Jesus repeated this miracle, after his resurrection, as his third sighting with the bewildered apostles, John 21:4-11. Do we know why? Because even eye-witnesses of his power need to be taught & reminded of our source.