Summary: The reason for Jesus’ miracles, is to validate his office, his mission, and his message. Today, miraculous healings are not badges of prophetic office, but are, instead, answers to prayer by those who have access to God through His Son Jesus Chr
One theme that immediately jumps out at us today from the lessons – particularly the Old Testament Lesson from 2 Kings and the Gospel lesson from Mark – is the theme of healing. The Old Testament lesson, of course, might be called the ultimate miracle of healing, when Elisha raises the Shunnemite woman’s son from the dead. Jesus performed several resurrections as well, but the gospel lesson doesn’t concern a resurrection. Rather it mentions the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever, and after that, his healing of a great number of people who seem to have overwhelmed the place in Capernaum where Jesus and his disciples were staying.
We will come across several of these miracles of healing in the ministry of Jesus in the coming weeks. Next week’s Gospel lesson concerns Jesus’ cleansing of a leper. The week after that the gospel lesson is the healing of a paralitic. In view of this, today I want to clear up some common misconceptions about miracles generally and miracles of healing in particular. Miracles of healing occur many times in Jesus’ ministry, and also in the ministry of Jesus’ Apostles as they begin their work after the Ascension. If we are to avoid the errors of faith and practice which have vexed and perplexed Christians for centuries, when they think about miracles of healing, we need to rightly understand these miracles, particularly their purpose and significance.
The first thing we must keep clearly in mind is that the healings in today’s lessons, and all those like them, are signs. They attract attention, and they are SUPPOSED to attract attention. They attract attention because they are unusual, or unexpected. People are supposed to NOTICE the miracle, including miracles of healing, and to MARVEL at them. This is why they are called wonders – they make onlookers gaze in wonder and astonishment.
But, the point of a miracle is not merely to entertain by astonishing us. The miracle worker does NOT offer the miracle to generate a chorus of GEE WHIZ! from those who are standing by. Miracles have meaning, including miracles of healing. People are supposed to see the sign and to understand something they did not understand before. That is why they are NOT ONLY called wonders, but also signs.
As we will see when Jesus performs many of his miracles of healing, THAT THING he wishes to signify by the miracle may vary from healing to healing. But all miracles of healing, including the ones in today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons, have a common purpose as signs. And that purpose is this: they validate, or confirm the office or mission of the one who performs the miracle.
We can see this clearly in the second Book of Kings, in which we find the record of the resurrection of the Sunnemite woman’s son. This miracle is one of 16 miracles credited to the prophet Elisha in this section of 2 Kings. Scripture records that the prophet Elijah performed eight miracles. His disciple and successor Elisha prayed he would receive a double portion of his master’s spirit when he assumed his mantle as a prophet in Israel. His request was granted, and one evidence of this is that Scripture records not eight, but sixteen miracles.
Among the miracles recorded for the prophet Elisha is the resurrection of the Shunnamite woman’s son. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that from 2 Kings chapter 2 through the next eleven chapters, we find sixteen miracles recorded, most of them one after the other. First we learn of how Elisha miraculously parted the Jordan in order to cross it. Next he miraculously cleanses polluted water. The next miracle is a miracle of judgment, when he calls out two she-bears who killed 42 teenaged thugs who had come of the city to harrass Elisha. Next came miracles that helped Israel defeat the Moabites in battle. Then a miracle that resuced a poor widow who was bankrupt.
That is the point where we find next the miracle of resurrecting the Shunnemite woman’s son. And in the text of 2 Kings, we next find a miracle of cleansing poisoned food for his own disciples, and next a miracle of feeding a hundred men on 20 loaves of bread, and then another miracle of healing, when Naaman the Syrian is cleansed of his leprosy. And so forth and so on, until the last miracle is the resurrection of a man whose dead body touched the bones of Elisha after he had been dead long enough for his body to be reduced to bones.
Now what is the point of all this? It is the same point as we see in the first Prophet of Israel. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, Moses said “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” Well, God provided a solution to that by conferring on Moses the ability to perform various signs and wonders. And, so it was when Moses taught the people about prophets who would come after him. Their credentials included the ability to work signs and wonders.