Session 7: Numbers, Categories, and Elements of the Miracles of Jesus
In this lesson, we want to group three different concerns that relate to the miracles of Jesus. They are: discerning the number of miracles (how many are there?), the categories of those miracles (which might be a Western construct anyway), and the elements of the miracles (how do they come to us?).
- Play: Session 7 Video
In this lesson we want to group three different concerns that relate to the miracles of Jesus. They are: discerning the numbers of miracles (how many are there?), the categories of those miracles (which might be a Western construct anyway), and the elements of the miracles (how do they come to us?).
The Numbers of Miracles:
Don’t want to make this harder than it is. But it can be a bit tricky. For instance:
- Do you count things like “Jesus walking through their midst” (Lk. 4:30) as one or Jesus riding a donkey in the Triumphal Entry “on which no one had ever sat” (Mk. 11:2)? Maybe not miraculous but…close maybe.
- Do you count generic statements (Matt. 8:16; Lk. 4:40-41)?
- And what “knowing” the human heart (Mk. 2:8)
Similar to parables there seems to be about 40-50 or so. Here is my own breakdown. I might say if you look at Blackburn’s article in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 551, you will see some other numbers. These are the result of my own inductive study:
- Matthew: 31 with 4 unique ones.
- Mark: 22 with 2 unique ones.
- Luke: 33 with 11 unique ones.
- John: 12 with 9 unique ones.
As stated earlier some suggest that Mark’s Gospel is about 31% miracles. I think you can see that miracles occupied a large portion of Jesus’ ministry.
The Categories of Miracles:
Again the very desire to categorize them may be a Western construct. But for pedagogical purposes there may still be cause to think about them this way
Here are some categories:
Power Over Creation (Nature):
- Walking on water.
- Coin in fish’s mouth.
- Catches of fish.
- Feeding multitudes.
- Calming seas.
- Resurrection—though we will want to look at that one on its own since it is so special.
Power Over the Spirit World:
- Exorcisms—most famous would be Mk. 5:1-20 and Mk. 9:14-29.
- Jesus talked to demons, granted their requests, and hushed them.
- They most often spoke of his identity.
- One thing that Jesus’ exorcisms prove is that he believed that the spirit world was real.
Power Over Illness:
- Withered hands.
- Blind eyes.
- Lame feet.
- Deaf ears.
- Dumb tongues.
- Flow of blood.
Power Over Death:
- Widow’s boy at Nain (Lk. 7).
- Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5).
- Lazarus (Jn. 11).
Michael Graves (Sermon as Symphony) has different categories:
- Exorcism Story—conflict is the key.
- Controversy Story—authority is the key.
- Petition Story—encounter is the key.
- Provision Story—hope is the key (Jn. 2 & 6).
- Rescue Story—victory is key (overcoming hostile forces).
- Epiphany Story—entrance of Christ is the key (Transfiguration)
The Elements of the Miracles:
- These are actually rather simple.
- The setting—something brought it about. Perhaps it happened more generically in the ministry of Jesus and the inspired Gospel writer gave it a context.
- The miracle itself—often told in tremendous brevity. That’s why we may never figure out how some of the miracles actually were performed (e.g. feeding of the thousands). Maybe God intended that these be kept in mystery. Do you suppose that we might get more interested in the miracle than the miracle worker?
- Lesson—there is usually at least one—sometimes more. It’s often a lesson in faith. Sometimes this pattern is broken (Mk. 3:1-5).
One caution might be not to let the form override the content—Craddock with Jn. 9.
Next we want to turn to watching for intensifications and distinctives in miracle stories.
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