II. THE MIRACLES OF JESUS.
A. Why couldn't Jesus do miracles in His own hometown (Mark 6:4-6)?
1. In (Mark 6:4-6), the Bible says, "Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their lack of faith."
2. At first glance, one might get the impression that Jesus' miraculous power was utterly dependent upon people's faith in order for it to work. However, that is not the meaning of this passage.
3. It is not that Jesus was incapable of performing a miracle in Nazareth. Rather, Jesus "could not" do miracles there in the sense that He "would not" do so in view of the unbelief in that city. Jesus chose not to engage in miraculous acts there except for healing a few sick people because many people had rejected Jesus as the messiah.
4. Do you think that it is possible today that people don't receive God's healing because of unbelief or lack of faith?
B. Why did Jesus say the dead child was not dead but just asleep (Luke 8:51-52; Mark 5:39)?
1. In (Luke 8:51-52), the Bible says, "When He arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. 'Stop wailing,' Jesus said, 'She is not dead but asleep.'"
2. Earlier, Jairus had come to fetch Jesus in hopes of Him healing his daughter, who was on her deathbed. By the time they arrived at Jairus' house, they were informed that indeed the young girl had died. People at the house were wailing and mourning for her. Jesus then said, "Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep" (Luke 8:52).
3. Why did Jesus say this? We know that the girl was physically dead because verse 55 tells us that after Jesus healed her, her "spirit returned." (Death involves the departure of the soul or spirit from the body).
4. Jesus was simply saying that the girl's present condition of death was only temporary. He used the term "sleep" to indicate that her condition was not permanent.
C. Why did Jesus curse the fig tree and miraculously cause it to wither (Matthew 21:19)?
1. In (Matthew 21), we find that Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree by the side of the road. As He came close to it, He saw that it had no figs on it, so He cursed it and it withered (verse 19).
2. It may appear that Jesus was just responding in anger to the tree, cursing it in tantrum-like behavior. But this is not the case.
3. One must keep in mind the broader backdrop of Jesus' teaching methodology, which often involved parables and word pictures. Scholars agree that Jesus in the present case was performing a living parable--an acted-out parable--to teach His disciples an important truth. His cursing of the fig tree was a dramatic "visual aid."
4. What important truth does the parable illustrate? Scholars have different opinions.
a. Some say Jesus was illustrating the principle of faith to the disciples. If the disciples had such faith, they too could do such things as withering fig trees and moving mountains (see Matthew 17:20). They would need such faith in the hard days to come.
b. Other scholars believe that since the fig tree had leaves on it (Matthew 21:19), from a distance it gave the appearance of being fruitful. But upon closer examination it became clear that there was no fruit on it at all. So perhaps Jesus' cursing of the fig tree was an acted-out parable that taught the disciples that God will judge those who give an outer appearance of fruitfulness but in fact are not fruitful at all (like the Pharisees).
c. Still other scholars suggest that the fig tree is representative of faithless Israel. Israel professed to be faithful to God and fruitful as a nation, but in fact it was faithless and fruitless.
d. And still other scholars see significance in the fact that the account of Jesus' cleansing of the temple in Mark's Gospel (Mark 11:15-19) is sandwiched between the two sections of Scripture dealing with the fig tree (verses 12-14 and 20-24). It is suggested that perhaps Jesus was teaching that at a distance the temple and its sacrificial activities looked fine. But on closer inspection it was found to be mere religion without substance, full of hypocrisy, bearing no spiritual fruit, ripe for judgment.
5. Why do you think Jesus cursed the fig tree? I think that it may mean that God judges those who appear fruitful but are not truly fruitful.
D. What did Jesus mean when He said, "Whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39-40)?
1. In this passage, the disciples had encountered an exorcist who did not do things the way they thought he should, so they forbade him to continue. But Jesus rebuked His disciples and said "Do not stop him…no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39-40).
2. Why did Jesus say this? The situation in this verse indicates that though there are many who follow Jesus Christ, not all follow Him in exactly the same way. Although this man did not follow Jesus in the same way the disciples did, he nevertheless did stand against Satan and had obviously crossed the line so that He was on Jesus' side.
3. It is interesting that while Jesus said, "Whoever is not against us is for us" in (Mark 9:39-40), He also said, "He who is not with me is against me" in (Matthew 12:30). In both verses Jesus' point was that it is not possible to remain in the "neutral zone" when it comes to Him. Either you are on the rejection side of the line or else you have crossed the line in allegiance to Jesus. There is no middle ground. The exorcist had crossed the line in allegiance to Jesus.
4. Since this was the case, the disciples were instructed not to hinder him, even though his commitment to Jesus was expressed in a different way than that of the disciples. All of them were working for the kingdom of God, though in different ways.
E. Did Jesus promise that all who believe will be accompanied by miracles like healing people, speaking in tongues, driving out demons, and not being harmed by snakes and deadly poison (Mark 16:17-18)?
1. In (Mark 16:17-18), we read, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
2. Certainly, we find ample evidence for some of these activities in New Testament times. Indeed, in the New Testament we witness the casting out of demons (Acts 8:7; 16:18; 19:15-16), speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4-11; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-25), and even protection from a poisonous snake (Acts 28:3-5).
3. A few observations are in order, however.
a. First, the construction of the verse in the original Greek of (Mark 16:18) utilizes "conditional clauses." The verse carries this idea: "And if they be compelled to pick up snakes with their hands and if they should be compelled to drink deadly poison, it shall by no means harm them." What this means is that if some pagan or non-Christian authority or persecutor forced a Christian to engage in such activities (a real possibility in the early church), God would supernaturally protect them. Understood in context, this verse certainly gives no justification for Christians to voluntarily drink poison or handle snakes in church services. We see no such activity in the early church. Note that Paul's encounter with the snake at Malta was completely unintentional (Acts 28:3-5).
b. Second, it should be noted that Christians today are divided over whether such phenomena as speaking in tongues and the gift of healing occur today. Some people argue that the gift of healing and tongues passed away in the first century after the Bible had been delivered and verified by miraculous phenomena. Some people say that the gift of healing and tongues have not passed away and are still available today.
(1) Whichever side one ends up on, it is very important for both sides to understand that (Mark 16:17-18) is most certainly not teaching that if you do not experience such phenomena, you are not a true Christian. That is an unwarranted conclusion that violates the broader context of Scripture.
(2) Let us consider the issue of tongues as an example. It is clear that even though all the Corinthian believers were "saved" (1 Corinthians 12:13), they had not all spoken in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5). It is the Holy Spirit who decides on what gifts each believer receives (1 Corinthians 12:11), and the Spirit certainly did not give all Christians the gift of tongues in the first century. Thus it should not be considered a definitive sign of whether one is a Christian or not.