continued from yesterday
... Most of Jesus' miracles had to do with people. In itself, this is a key insight. Sure, he walked on water (Mark 6:47-50; Matt. 14:25-33; John 6:16-21). He calmed storms (Mark 4:35-40; Matt. 8:23-27; Luke 8:22-25). He multiplied bread and fish (Mark 6:30-44; Matt. 14:13-21; John 6:1-13). Such events tell us that Jesus had power over what we think of as "nature."
And perhaps it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that the distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" is a fairly recent one. It has only been since the rise of science in the 1600's that Western culture came to draw a sharp distinction between events that follow the "laws of nature" and events we might call miracles or the supernatural. Even just 500 years ago, Martin Luther--the one who started Protestantism--still thought of storms as God expressing his anger rather than the result of high and low pressure systems meeting, the exchange of electricity from one polarity to another, and so forth.
We have come to define a miracle as a divine intervention into the natural sequence of events that would have happened in the normal flow of causes and effects following the rules of science. In Jesus' day, they thought spiritual forces were constantly causing things. They did not think in terms of nature following rules like a machine. When the sailors on Jonah's boat encountered the storm, they figured someone on board had ticked off his god.
Today we would give thanks to God not only for the inexplicable but for what seems explicable as well. Sometimes doctors do surgery and it works. Sometimes we take medicine and it works. Sometimes we undergo chemotherapy, and it works. In such situations, is usually impossible for us to know where the hands of science and any direct intervention of God begin and end, but we are thankful nonetheless. God created the science.
Some Christians have a sense that God directs the minutest details of how such things turn out. I personally think that we must keep God distinct in our minds from his creation. Otherwise, we will have to explain how a God who says he is love causes so many bad things to happen. It is much easier to think that God allows many bad things to happen but that he has given his creation rules and largely allowed it to continue on its own path of cause and effect. God sees, God knows, God allows. Sometimes God intervenes. But he is not directly responsible for all the pain, evil, and suffering that happen in the world.
So our sense that Jesus could do things that do not follow the laws of nature is a fairly modern way of looking at them. For them, he was able to do the kinds of wonders that God, angels, demons, and Satan did. Jesus' enemies claimed that he took some of his powers from Satan (e.g., Mark 3:22). Others clearly thought he received his powers from God (e.g., John 3:2).
There were others both in the Jewish and Roman world who were thought to perform miracles...