Many people ask about the meanings of the miracles described in the Testaments. To fully comprehend their meanings and implications, an in-depth study of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is essential.
"Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)
This quotation proves beyond any iota of doubt that the signs and miracles bear incontrovertible evidence to the proclamations Jesus made during the initial stages of the early Christianity. There are vivid descriptions of many miracles in the Bible, especially in the Testaments and the Acts of the Apostles.
The Testaments record miracles in four categories - driving away of demons, healing, nature miracles, and resurrection of the dead. I addition to these, there are summary statements regarding miracles in these Holy Writs. The salvific message of Jesus and his disciples has been encapsuled as "the proclamation of the kingdom of God through healing (Lk. 6:17-19)
Miracles in the Old Testament
It would be quite relevant here to grasp the views on miracles as contained in the Old Testament. For a thing to be considered as a miracle, it does not have to be beyond the laws of nature or beyond the purview of scientific explanations.
The writers of the Holy Writs do not take pains to distinguish between purely natural and supernatural phenomena. Anything in everyday life that emphatically proclaims the presence of God is a miracle. Many things that we may not consider as miracles are described as miracles in the Old Testament.
For example, the giving of seasonal rains (Jer 5:24), giving the sun for lighting the day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night (Jer 31 :35), the regulating of days and nights and the giving of rules to the sky and earth - all these are done by the wonderful commands of the Lord and the psalmist has excellently described them (Ps 19: 1-4; 139: 17-18).
This universe itself is a great book where we see the face of God. The Israelites perceive the touch of the hand of God even in the ordinary happenings of their everyday lives, in their little successes and failures and in their past histories. This is especially evident if one looks into the Old Testament Books like Exodus, Proverbs and Job.
There is no need for a thing to be a miracle to have something supernatural or startling in it. Anything that makes people sit up and contemplate about the love of God and his divine presence is considered as a miracle in the Old Testament.
Miracles in the the New Testament
The question raised by the miracles in the Bible is not whether they are historically based or not, but what does God want us to understand from these miracles.
What is the message He wants to convey to us through these miracles ?
What does He require from us?
These are the important questions that deserve our attention. It is because of this that Jesus has warned us not to believe those false prophets and false messiahs, at the end of the age, who will produce great signs and omens to lead people astray (Mt 24:24). Even those who cast out demons in the Lord's name and who wrought many miracles will be rejected by the Lord, if they did injustice (Mt7:22-23).
Therefore, miracles by themselves may prove futile. Jesus has never performed miracles to satisfy the curiosity of people (Luke 23 :8-9). He has never performed any miracle for self advertisement or self-aggrandisement; no miracle had the motive of self-seeking. (Mt 27:42).
With the advent of Jesus, a new era and a new humankind also have arrived and this knowledge is essential for the correct understanding of the meaning of the miracles he performed. These miracles are an essential part and powerful symbols of this new era. Therefore the miracles of Jesus touch upon the various aspects of life.
He continued on his onward march, healing the sick of various sorts, feeding the hungry, and giving sight to the blind - the blindness here includes both physical and spiritual blindness. He heralds the dawn of the new era by being victorious over nature, death, sin and demons. In the Bible we witness a Jesus who alleviates the pain and misery of the people, a Jesus who gives strength to the feeble-minded.
We should see the power and might of the Lord above the creations. Whatever God the Father can do, the living Christ also could do. He has complete control over life in its various stages, states, and circumstances. In all those spheres, Jesus is our shelter, on whom we can unburden ourselves.
The miracles proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God, and the era of Christ (Lk 11 : 20; Mt 11: 4-5). That is why St. Augustine boldly said "Facta Verbi Verba Sunt", meaning the acts of the Word are the Word itself. The miracles also stand as symbols of the personality and teachings of Christ. Their main purpose is to show the triumph over sin and Satan. In this sense, the miracles also can be seen as a show of strength (Dunamis) (e.g. Lk 6: 19, 8:46). However in the Gospel of John, the miracles are picturised as signs and symbols (Semeion) and also the work of the Father (ergon). John stressed the spiritual aspect of the miracles (Jn 9:35-41).
In short, the aim of the miracles of Jesus is to give us a fore-taste of Paradise. They stand as the fore-runners of the peace, order and universal brotherhood, devoid of bitterness and bickering, that would be made available to the human kind Their aim is spiritual transformation.
If people refuse to realise this aim, they will become the symbols of Judgement and God's wrath (Lk 10:13-14; Mt 11:20-22, Jn 15:24). Those who stubbornly refuse to change, even the resurrection of the dead won't be convincing enough (Lk 16:31). We also see that the people who refused to grasp the deeper meanings of the miracles even left Jesus (Jn 6:66). Like the Word of God, miracles can also become a two-edged sword (Heb 4: 12).
In the 2nd Century A.D. some unauthentic writings came out. The descriptions of miracles as containing in these spurious accounts and the miracles Jesus performed as contain in the New Testament vastly differ from each other. The miracles as contained in unauthenticated versions are full of exaggerations and they don't convey the real message of the miracles.
These versions even record miracles performed just for fun. Therefore the Church does not regard them as miracles. During the time of Jesus, even magicians used to exhibit magical shows.
But the miracles of Jesus are entirely different from the shows performed by these magicians. Jesus performs miracles with his own power and authority without fanfare. Just a word from him is enough to cast away demons, to calm the turbulent sea and to resurrect the dead. A miracle that does not reveal itself symbol is no miracle at all.
Since the miracles reveal the mystery of Christ, the incidents narrated in the Revelations are called Revelation Stories by the modern scholars. That the miracles don't have an apologetic purpose has been an acknowledge fact. But in the past people looked at miracles with this perspesctive in mind.
Faith and Miracles
Miracles are also challenges to faith. Miracles become miracles only when these divine signs and symbols are seen through the eyes of faith. Since the people of Nazerath did not possess this special quality, Jesus would not perform miracles there (Mk 6:5-6). Although the pharisees witnessed the miracles and other divine symbols, they did not believe in Jesus (Jn. 12:37). "All things can be done for the one who believers" (Mk 9:23).
Those look at the miracles without faith are like those watching a film without sound.
Only those who emit the rays of faith can grasp and understand and be at the same wave length historian, scientist, Bible Scholar, or Hierarchs of the church to explain one hundred per cent the mystery of the miracles.
Miracles are the Divine Revelations that are seen by the eyes of faith. Miracles themselves become the avenues of training in belief (Mt 8:23-27). "I believe; help my unbelief ! " (Mk 9:24). We should make this prayer our own. With those who believe there will always be signs and miracles (Mk 16:17-18).
Only those who have the spiritual insight can view those. It is an unassailable fact that even today, in various places, in various individuals, miracles do happen as they used to happen at the time of Jesus and his apostles, leading the people to the salvific experience.
There would hardly be anybody who has not experienced some form of miracle in their lives at some time.
Even today people are in despair; many are wallowing in the mires of sins and diseases.
Even those who regulate their lives through their horoscopes and 'star predictions' wandering hither and their for peace, want miracles to happen. Those who offer these people release, comfort, healing, sight, etc. are also miracle workers.
Jesus is the life and resurrection of the believers.
He is the one who cures their spiritual cataracts, leprosy, hepatitis, hunger, paralysis - maladies of all sorts.
He is the shelter and heaven for those who are tossed by the roaring winds and the raging seas.
He is the one who gives them triumph over vices and sins.
He is the new wine of the New Testament; he is the never-drying fountain - this is the knowledge and experience that the miracles offer to the faithful.
The ultimate aim of the miracles of Jesus is to give us the wonderful experience of Heavenly Bliss in God's Kingdom.