Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jesus and Miracles 1

Returning to writing on Jesus.  I'm thinking this might be chapter 3.
Herod Antipas, son of the notorious Herod the Great, threw John the Baptist into prison, no doubt recognizing the political danger his movement represented. From the location John baptized to the very notion of what a messiah is, John's preaching shouted revolution. It said, God is about to conquer the land and place his king in control. Repent of your sins and wash yourselves, because judgment is coming on those who are not ready for a restored and purified kingdom.

If we forget Luke 1 for a minute, we would read Luke 7 and Matthew 11 easily enough. John the Baptist is in prison and hears about what Jesus is doing. He sends some of his followers to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the coming messiah or if they should continue to look for someone else. The complication comes if John already knows Jesus, either because he is his relative or because of the Spirit at Jesus' baptism. [1]

What is more important is Jesus' response to John's followers. What are the signs that Jesus is the messiah, the coming king?  He is healing the blind and the lame. Lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised, and he is preaching good news to the poor (Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22).

Miracles were clearly a key element of Jesus' brief ministry in Galilee. This memory is so strong in all the traces Jesus has left on history that even historians who don't believe in miracles generally accept that Jesus at least seemed to perform them--a lot of them. Mark 1:32-34 summarizes Jesus' activities like this: "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was."

Jesus apparently did most of his miracles in the far north, north of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew 11 tells us that "Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.'"(Matt. 11:20-21). These are very interesting comments, since none of the gospels really tell us about any of these miracles. It's also interesting that miracles don't necessarily convince others, even though you would think they would.


Most of Jesus' miracles had to do with people...

[1] Thus the speculation of some that John was helping his own followers discover who Jesus was and of others that Jesus wasn't doing the things John expected the messiah to do.

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