Mark's GospelPrevious Content Next
MiraclesThe writers of the New Testament had a pre-scientific understanding of the world in which they lived. In stark contrast to modern Science, the Bible knows nothing of a creation which is bound by a closed system of natural laws of cause and effect. The writer's of the Gospels would have understood the universe in which they lived as God's Creation. Everything that happens within it is the handiwork of God Himself. However, nature is only a backcloth against which the major work of God, His 'Grand Design', takes place. For the men of faith pictured in the Bible, God is not a proposition discoverable by reasoned argument, but a personal reality known in the experience of their daily lives. They were as conscious of living in His presence as they were of living in the natural world.
The writers of the Bible did not believe that God had simply left Creation to run itself as a totally independent scheme of things. They believed that He was in control of events, intervening directly from time to time, saving men in times of crisis and also judging them for their disobedience. These interventions into human affairs were discernible to the eye of faith. Miracles, then, are clearly recognizable to those who have sufficient faith in God.
The writers of the Bible accepted miracles because they believed in a living, personal and all-powerful God who expressed His will in the course of nature and history. Since He was the creator and sustainer of the universe, all things were possible to Him, though He did not exercise His power in an arbitrary or capricious way, like an oriental despot, for He was just and holy.
Much depends on our definition of a miracle as to whether or not we think it is reasonable to believe in miracles today. If we think of a miracle as an event which is contrary to the laws of nature, miracles cannot happen. To the believer, the laws of nature are also the laws of God, and therefore unchangeable. However, if we think of a miracle as an event which appears to be contrary to what we know of the laws of nature then the implication is that we accept that science does not claim to know all the secrets of the universe.
Some critics nowadays would argue that some of the New Testament miracles of healing can be explained by psychologists as psychosomatic illnesses having their root causes in things like worry, anxiety, distress or guilt, rather than physical causes. Such illnesses can be cured by psychiatrists and even by faith healers. As soon as you remove the anxiety the illness is cured. It must be stressed, however, that Jesus was not a faith healer. Nowhere in the Gospels is it suggested that Jesus could not have worked a miracle if the subject of the miracle had no faith in his power to heal.
The most important thing about the miracles is their meaning, and this can only be understood in the context of the whole ministry of Jesus. They are evidence of the fact that the long-awaited Kingdom had come, and point to the fact that Jesus himself is the Messiah, the promised one. They make the same point as the parables and, like them, are not secondary elements of the Gospel story which can be omitted without damage, but are an integral part of the whole. Over thirty per cent of Mark's Gospel is devoted directly or indirectly to the subject of miracle.
Jesus made it clear that his miracles were evidence of the arrival of the Kingdom. 'But if it is through the Spirit of God that I cast devils out, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.' (Mark 12:28). The miracles of Jesus are seen not as acts of a human wonder-worker, but as a revelation of the power and purpose of God. The earliest Christian preachers used the miracle stories to illustrate the Christian belief that the Kingdom of God had arrived. had arrived.