The Bible is full of miracles. Moses, Elijah, and of course Jesus, all performed a variety of signs and wonders that defy explanation. We celebrate these events, and we share the stories with our children.
But we don’t really expect to see these miracles today. So we wonder, can God make miracles happen? And if so, why doesn’t He do so more often?
God can make miracles happen as He chooses. When God performs a miracle, it is always done for His glory and His purposes, and not for ours.
What are Miracles?
A miracle is an event that happens in contradiction to natural laws and processes. Since the Enlightenment, western society has increasingly assumed that miracles do not happen. Our default mindset is to explain miracles as natural events that employ a yet-undiscovered natural process.
This thinking has even made its way into the modern church, resulting in congregants that not only dismiss modern reports of miracles but even rationalize the miracles of the Bible such as the ten plagues of Egypt or Jesus walking on water.
If you are a Christian and you are skeptical of miracles, even Biblical ones, consider that you already believe the two most profound and astounding and profound miracles in history:
- God created everything from nothing.
- Jesus rose from the dead.
Without these two miracles, our faith has no foundation. They are the truths on which all others stand.
They are also the two miracles that make the rest easy to believe. Since God created everything, including the laws of physics, it is within His capacity to manipulate those same laws. And since Jesus returned from the dead, multiplying fishes and loaves must be an even easier task for him.
So why do we have such trouble with miracles today?
Miracles and Belief
We are fond of our senses. We are comfortable with what we can verify through sight, sound, and touch.
Living in the modern age only compounds the problem.
Stage magicians and movie effects are adept at deceiving our senses, while ‘deep-fake’ videos cast a shadow of doubt on what was once considered extremely reliable visual evidence.
But skepticism is not a recent development. Jesus encountered skeptics in his day, too:
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.Mark 6:1-6
Nazareth was a tiny town with a population about the same size as the typical suburban high school. If you’re walking the halls of the same school every day for years, just about every face and name will become recognizable to you.
That was the situation for Jesus. Everyone in Nazareth knew him as their neighbor, the ordinary builder. So when chatter about Jesus performing miracles began to circulate, the people were quick to dismiss these claims because they contradicted everything they had seen and known about Jesus.
Because of their unbelief, Jesus chose to withhold all but a few miracles.
But skepticism isn’t the only reason people dismiss miracles.
Miracles and the Human Heart
“He [the rich man] answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”Luke 16:27-31
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus proclaims that the brothers of the rich man would not believe a miracle because they have already rejected the law. Their rejection, however, was not a matter of insufficient proof, but of the state of their hearts.
Sin and selfishness were the drivers behind the brothers’ actions. A miracle would not change their hearts when the law had already failed to do so.
Do Miracles Still Happen?
Despite the fact that miracles are not the pathway to belief that we often assume they would be, they still have a place in God’s plan.
Jesus promised his disciples, and us, that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these,” (John 14:12). But this promise is not without a purpose. In the very next verse, Jesus adds, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” (v 13).
In describing Spiritual gifts, Paul echoes Jesus when he says, “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good,” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The Spiritual gifts that each of us receives may include healing (v 9) or miraculous powers (v 10), as the Spirit determines.
Miracles are for God’s Glory
God doesn’t give people miraculous powers so they can draw attention to themselves. He uses them for His purposes and His glory. In the book of Acts, we witness a number of miracles taking place as the disciples went into new places that were eager to hear good news.
When Peter healed the lame beggar at the temple gate, the beggar responded by going with them “into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8)
Later, when Paul was in prison and an earthquake loosened the chains and the doors, the jailer feared that the prisoners had escaped. But every one of them stayed, because their desire to know God was greater than their desire to flee. And because of this, even the jailer and his household heard the gospel and believed (Acts 16:25-34).
When you hear stories of miracles today, they may not be as easy to dismiss as you thought yesterday. God can make miracles happen, even today. Where God has a willing audience and a kingdom purpose, He still reveals His glory through miracles, great and small.