One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was the extensive number of supernatural works He carried out. However, the Bible only recounts a few of these: “there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 NKJV). The Gospel Accounts contain approximately 33 specific instances in which Jesus performed feats or produced effects that transcended the known laws of nature. When we compare the miracles of Jesus – from the first one where He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) to His final one, the restoring of Malchus’ severed ear (Luke 22:50-51) – we can detect at least five striking characteristics:
◆ COMPLEXITY: All kinds of subjects were addressed in Jesus’ works, including miraculous healing (Matt. 8:3, 13, 15), casting out demons (Matt. 8:16, 32) and supernatural control of forces of nature (Matt. 8:26). He raised the dead (Matt. 9:18-25). Sometimes these are summarized in sweeping statements, for example: “He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1:34).
◆ COMPLETENESS: No one – not even Jesus’ critics – had any doubts the He performed miracles. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:47-48; cf. Matt. 12:24-30). The miracles of Jesus were observable, verifiable, flawless and immediate. They were not through sleight of hand or some type of trickery, but were actual, historical supernatural events.
◆ CONSERVATIVE: Jesus was never wasteful with His ability or blessings. Consistent with the principle of parsimony (detesting unnecessary use of money), Jesus first used whatever resources were available, natural and human before using any divine power: available water was turned into wine (John 2:6-8); food on hand was used to feed a huge crowd (John 6:4-11); baskets of leftovers were gathered (John 6:12-14); and bystanders rolled away Lazarus’ burial stone (John 11:39).
◆ COMPASSIONATE: Jesus performed miracles with a desire to show real love to those who were in distress (Matt. 9:35-36; 14:14; Mark 5:19). It wasn’t to make Himself wealthy, because He taught His followers: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Keep in mind, though, that He did not heal every illness of every sick person on earth. Neither did the apostles (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 2:25-30; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20).
◆ COMPELLING: His followers were convinced of His deity: “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Nevertheless, many resisted: “although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him” (John 12:37; cf. Luke 16:27-31).