In week five we moved into the ministry of Jesus, both his miracles and his teaching, and then discussed the meaning of his death.
The miracles are divided into two basic kinds: those that involve healing (whether of the body, the mind, or the spirit) and those that involve nature (feeding the five thousand, calming the storm, etc.).
The miracles are often seen as proof of Jesus’ divinity. We explored a slightly different possibility. We can take the two kinds of miracles each in turn.
The healing miracles serve to show the connection between the world’s disarray and human sin. Sin, though often seen as a “spiritual” matter, was the cause of all that is wrong in the world, even such “physical” things as sickness and death. In a story like the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, we get to see how closely these two realities are tied together.
There, a paralyzed man comes to receive healing, but Jesus forgives his sin. After that, Jesus offers the man’s healing as the evidence that he has authority to forgive sin.
Jesus came to bring the kingdom and forgiveness, and healed people as an indicator of the great project of healing that this kingdom and forgiveness will bring. Sickness and pain will be no more. Death will be overcome. Matter and spirit are inextricably bound to one another.
The nature miracles, rather than showing us a “superman” who overrules the earth, actually serve to remind us what humans were made to be.
In the beginning God made people as the crown of his creation, the ones who were given “dominion” over the creation. We are used to people being the abusers of God’s world, but in the beginning our dominion over the created order was meant to be a gracious rule. Because we abandoned our true place (lower than God but above the rest of creation—wanting instead to be our own god), things are out of balance.
When Jesus came, he came to restore order in God’s creation, and in a way was the truly human one who cared for the creation: calming the storm (Mark 4), multiplying food to feed the people (Mark 6), and so on.
Jesus’ teaching is also a major part of his ministry. All of the Gospel writers show us Jesus the Teacher. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus routinely speaks in short sayings and parables, though even here there are longer blocks of teaching (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain in Matthew and Luke, the “end times” discourse in all three).
But Jesus’ teaching should not be separated from his work of bringing God’s kingdom, a work attested to by the healings and nature miracles. The parables, for example, tell about the coming of that kingdom, even if it may not be obvious. And even in the Sermon on the Mount, a passage like the Beatitudes (“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” etc.) are clearest when we understand them to be about the kind of life that Jesus lived. That life was always headed toward the cross, with a willingness to suffer and even die for greater realities (God’s coming kingdom).