Miracles

Preaching and Worship Resources about Miracles

Miracles are powerful, extraordinary acts of God intended to create, to heal, to save, to attest divine authority, or to anticipate the coming of shalom.

In Scripture

Creation "In the beginning . . . God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1).

God divides the sea "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left" (Ex. 14:21 - 22).

Elijah prays while battling the prophets of Baal "`Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.' Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench" (1 Kings 18:37 - 38).

Virgin birth "Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, `Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit'" (Matt. 1:18 - 20).

Feeding of the five thousand "Taking the five loaves and the two fish, [Jesus] looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men" (Mark 6:41 - 44).

Jesus' resurrection [A young man in a white robe] said to [the two women,] "`Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him'" (Mark 16:6).

Jesus raises a boy from the dead "And [Jesus] said, `Young man, I say to you, rise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, `A great prophet has risen among us!' and `God has looked favorably on his people!'" (Luke 7:14 - 16).

Jesus casts out a demon "Now [Jesus] was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed" (Luke 11:14).

Jesus heals ten lepers "On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, `Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' When he saw them, he said to them, `Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were made clean" (Luke 17:11 - 14).

Jesus turns water into wine "When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, `Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.' Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him" (John 2:9 - 11).

Regeneration of the heart [Peter said to the crowd at Pentecost,] "`Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.' Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, `Brothers, what should we do?'" (Acts 2:36 - 37).

Points to Ponder

Miracles are incredible to many, including to many theologians. They assume that everything that happens must have a natural cause and that a miracle is therefore impossible. But this is a form of materialism, a sworn enemy of Christianity, which is from start to finish a supernatural religion. A non-miraculous Christianity would be clam chowder without the clams.

Nothing prevents God from occasionally acting unusually and unpredictably God's usual patterns of providence — of upholding the world in all its processes — are regular, usual, predictable. Descriptions of how God usually acts, drawn from widespread observation, we call "laws of nature." They make science possible. But nothing prevents God from occasionally acting unusually and unpredictably. When God (or one of God's deputies) so acts for one of the purposes described in the definition of miracles above, you have a miracle. The providence of God is regular, but as miracles show, not uniform.

Purposeful God's miracles do not merely doctor or tinker with nature. They are purposeful. They heal, or exorcise, or feed, or restore to life. They anticipate the great time of shalom described so often in Isaiah: a time of universal wholeness, harmony, and delight in which there shall be no more crying except for cries of joy. Miracles may also attest to God's authority: Jesus heals a paralyzed man in Mark 2, and thereby attests to his own divine authority to forgive sins. Miracles in Scripture are mighty and serious business.

Not every wonder is a miracle Miracles belong to the class of "wonders," i.e., events that typically cause astonishment or numinous fear. They are "other." But not every wonder is a miracle. When the basketball star Michael Jordan was in his prime, he could soar to a dunk from behind the free throw line. People would gasp with wonder. But Jordan's soaring was not a miracle; it lacked the miraculous purposes stated in the definition.

The most common miracle is the regeneration of a selfish human heart. When Peter told fellow Jews that they had the blood of God's Messiah on their hands, they did not try to kill Peter. They were stabbed to the heart with the knowledge of their complicity in Jesus' death. John Newton, who authored the hymn "Amazing Grace," had ambition like a Caesar. He was a hard man, a profane man. He traded British manufactured goods for African slaves, and he packed those slaves like sardines in the hold of his ship. Newton's journal tells us that he treated slaves as his enemies. But one night in a storm at sea, the Holy Spirit began to blow, and it got John Newton's attention. One night the Holy Spirit got into John Newton's heart and did Pentecost there so that Newton began to speak in a new tongue. What came out of his mouth were the words, "Lord, have mercy. . . . Lord, have mercy on us." For those words to come out of this hard man's mouth was a supernatural, God Almighty, Holy Ghost miracle.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.