Miracles of Jesus: Meaning, Where and Why

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Raising Lazarus by Caravaggio
The Gospels describe many miracles performed by Jesus. These miracles included the healing of a paralyzed man, the stilling of the storm and the resurrection. Christ walked on water, healed lepers, gave sight to the blind, fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes. Perhaps the most famous and miraculous miracle was the raising of the widow's son from the dead. Bystanders, according to the Gospels, held their nose as Jesus performed this feat.

The majority of 35 or so miracles described in The Gospels were healings of the lame, the deaf and the blind and exorcism of those possessed by demons. Luke 4:40 reads: “At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying hands on each he cured them." In Mark 5:1 1-16, Jesus cast demons out of man into a herd of pigs, which were driven into a lake. Jesus's reputation as a healer caused people from far and wide to seek him out. Even when he was in the desert praying people found him there.

The miraculous curing of a blindman — reportedly at Siloam Pool in Jerusalem — is a good example of a miracle linked with a Jewish ritual. The man was undergoing ritual immersion before entering the Temple compound and Jesus used the opportunity to cure him of his blindness by putting clay in the man's eyes and then asking him to wash it off in the pool. Jews, who traditionally, made three pilgrimages a year to Jerusalem, ritually washed themselves here before walking down a road to enter the Temple. The pool was also a source of drinking water.

There were a number of people in the ancient world who are said to have performed miracles and magic. Candida Moss and Joel Baden wrote in Daily Beast: Jesus's miracles (if you believe he performed any) weren’t that unusual. Emperors could do those too, and there were plenty of travelling doctors, minor deities, and semi-official magicians touting miracle cures. A number of Roman historians tell us that the Emperor Vespasian could cure blindness, restore a “withered hand,” and even assisted in a case involving a damaged leg (all things Jesus is supposed to have done). Both the mathematician Pythagoras and the Emperor Augustus were said to have healed “pestilences.” And a competitor of the Apostle Peter, a man known as Simon Magus, could apparently fly.” There were also stories of people who could raise the dead. “It’s something of which the philosopher Empedocles was apparently capable and a wandering healer called Apollonius of Tyana could also bring the deceased back to life. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, November 1, 2020; Candida Moss, Joel Baden, Daily Beast, October 5, 2014]

There have also been numerous miracles associated with Jesus after his death. In 2004, a woman reported seeing Jesus in a piece of toast.

Websites and Resources: Jesus and the Historical Jesus Britannica on Jesus britannica.com Jesus-Christ ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ pbs.org ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ bible.org ; Jesus Central jesuscentral.com ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ newadvent.org ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Christianity BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Candida Moss at the Daily Beast Daily Beast Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Bible: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks Biblical History: Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org

Purpose and Meaning of the Miracles

For a time the miracles performed by Jesus were dismissed by liberal religious scholars as unnecessary, sensational embellishments but now they are regarded as integral parts of the Jesus story and a sign that the age of salvation was upon them.

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loaves and fishes
The purpose of Jesus's miracles, some believe, was to show the power of God. Others say they were symbolic not real. Healing the blind, for example, meant helping people see the light. Raising the dead was a sign of his own coming resurrection. Casting out demons may have been a way to symbolize breaking away from tyrannical Roman rule.

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: The miracles “revealed that Jesus was seen by his contemporaries as a long-awaited saviour. But the precise identity of this saviour has been less clear. Some miracles showed him to be a great prophet like Elijah, heralding a new age of peace and prosperity. Others showed him as a type of political leader like Moses, or a longed-for warrior like Joshua. Perhaps Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah who would set the Jews free from Roman occupation. However, another famous miracle” — the stillong of the storm — “gives us a glimpse of a third possibility - that Jesus saw himself as more than a prophet, leader or warrior. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus” |::|]

“Jesus and the disciples were on one of their many trips on the Sea of Galilee, when the Gospels say they were hit by an unexpected and violent storm. The disciples were struggling for their lives. But by comparison Jesus' reaction is bewildering. He's said to have been asleep. And when awoken, his response couldn't have been less reassuring. "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" |::|

“But what the disciples didn't know was that they were about to receive help in a way they could never have imagined. Jesus stood up and rebuked the wind and sea. The disciples must have wondered who on earth Jesus was: this man who appeared able to control the elements. But just as with other miracles, what amazed them wasn't what Jesus did, it was what it revealed about his identity. They would have known the ancient Jewish prophecies which said very clearly, there was only one person who had the power to control the stormy seas - God. |::|

“One passage from the Book of the Psalms recalls an occasion where God had shown his power to save his people from distress in exactly the same way as Jesus had on the Sea of Galilee - by stilling a storm. The similarities wouldn't have been lost on the disciples. Jesus' actions seemed to suggest that he had the power of God himself. |::|

“Later in the century this miracle took on a new meaning - a meaning that would resonate down the centuries. The Gospel writers saw that the miracles could speak directly to the Christians suffering persecution in Rome. Like that boat in peril, the Christians in Rome might well have feared that their Church was in danger of sinking. And like Jesus asleep on the boat, they might have worried that Jesus had forgotten them. But the message of the evangelists was this: if they had faith in Jesus, he would not abandon them; he could calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee or in Rome.” |::|

Healings and Exorcisms by Jesus

Jesus heals an epileptic boy

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “ The Gospels contain records of over 35 miracles and of these the majority were healings of the lame, the deaf and the blind, exorcism of those possessed by demons. The meaning of the healings and exorcisms is best understood against the background of Jewish purity laws which stipulated that those deemed impure could not enter the sacred precinct of the Temple in Jerusalem to make their sacrifice to God. The Jewish scriptures tell us that the impure included the lame, the sick, the blind and those possessed by demons. By implication, such people could not under Jewish law enter the Kingdom of God. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus”. |::|]

“In healing the sick and casting out demons Jesus was sending a powerful signal - that they were now able to fulfill their obligations as Jews, and by implication that they were now entitled to enter the Kingdom of God. The fact that the cures are done by Jesus himself carried a further layer of meaning - that Jesus had the authority to decide who could enter the Kingdom of God. This becomes explicit in the healing of the paralysed man in Capernaum. Jesus heals the man by forgiving his sin - an act that would have been considered a blasphemy by Jews: only God had the authority to forgive sins. By forgiving sins Jesus was acting with an authority that the Jews believed only God possessed. In the healing of the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter Jesus goes a step further and effectively signals that Gentiles too are eligible to enter the Kingdom of God. Authors have applied this first-century meaning of the miracle to modern life.” |::|

Healing stories were common in the time of Jesus in part because many people got sick and suffered from a variety of maladies that were difficult for the medicine of that era to cure. Kristin Romey wrote in National Geographic: “Accounts of large crowds coming to Jesus for healing are consistent with what archaeology reveals about first-century Palestine, where diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis were rife. According to a study of burials in Roman Palestine by archaeologist Byron McCane, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the surveyed graves held the remains of children and adolescents. Survive the perilous years of childhood, and your chances of living to old age greatly increased, McCane says. “During Jesus’ time, getting past 15 was apparently the trick.” [Source: Kristin Romey, National Geographic, November 28, 2017 ^|^]

Feeding of the 5,000

When Jesus arrived in a deserted and remote area on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee to preach to a crowd of 5000, he is told that the people are hungry. They discuss whether to go back to the villages to get food, but it's getting late, so instead Jesus asks the disciples to order the crowd to sit in groups of fifties and hundreds, and to gather what food is available. All they manage to collect is five loaves and two fishes. Jesus then works a miracle and produces enough food to feed the multitude, so much so there are twelve basketfuls of leftovers. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: The miracle, which is mentioned in all four of the canonical Gospels, is regarded by some historians as one of the more ancient traditions associated with Jesus.. Once the group came ashore they were swamped by a crowd of people who had followed them there. The ever-practical disciples advised Jesus to send the crowd away...The miracle that follows is by biblical standards a rather low-key affair. Jesus had the disciples gather up the nutritional resources of the group. Then, Jesus looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the bread, and had the loaves and fishes evenly distributed among the people. “And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.” (Mark 6:42-44). The story is repeated in Matthew, Mark, and John. There’s even a similar incident in Mark and Matthew known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand and even more food is left over. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, September 22, 2019]

Jesus feeding the multitudes

Mark 6:30-44 reads: “The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time, it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it is already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five - and two fish."

“Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of men who had eaten was five thousand.” “

Meaning of the Feeding of the 5,000

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “The feeding of the five thousand has always been one of the most memorable biblical miracles. Although perhaps not as world-changing as the raising of the dead, this apparently practical response to the physical needs of a crowd and the description of how it was done make it a wonderful story. Jesus does not stand over the meagre loaves and fishes, then magically transform them into a banquet for thousands. Instead, he starts to break the bread and divide the fish and hand them to the crowd. But as he prays, the bread keeps breaking and the fish keeps dividing until everyone is fed. It sounds like a kind of miraculous sleight of hand. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

another view of feeding the multitude

“It was late, and the people were hungry. Men, women and children all clamouring for a meal from five loaves and two fish. There have been many theories over the years that attempt to explain away this miracle. Some have claimed that the crowds were whipped into a frenzy of religious fervour on hearing Jesus speak, and that fervour suppressed their appetites. |::|

“Others have speculated that the mood of harmony and selflessness spread by Jesus' teaching might have inspired the crowd to offer up their own private supplies of food and share them with each other. But as with Jesus' healing of the widow's son at Nain, the key element here is the belief of the crowd that a miracle had taken place. They were convinced that from such meager rations Jesus had fed everyone, and left them all satisfied. As with the miracle at Nain, what the crowd witnessed would have made a huge impact on them, but that impact would come as much from the explosive message - the symbolism contained within the miracle - as from the supernatural feat with the bread and fish. |::|

“The feeding of the multitude would put first-century Jews in mind of a towering figure in Jewish history, someone even greater than the prophet Elijah. When those eyewitnesses saw Jesus handing out food, they could not help but think of the father of the Jewish faith himself - Moses. Everything about the miracle, from the setting right down to the smallest details, would suggest a powerful identification of Jesus with Moses. But why? |::|

Is Jesus Acting Like Moses in the Feeding of the 5,000

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “The ancient meaning of this miracle would have been clear to the disciples and the crowd. Jesus had acted like Moses, the father of the Jewish faith. In every respect, the miracle echoed Moses and his miracle in the Sinai wilderness when he fed the multitude of Hebrews. Moses had left Ramesses on the fertile lands of the Nile Delta, crossed a sea - the Red Sea - and headed east towards a deserted area - the Sinai wilderness. Jesus had left Bethesda on the fertile lands of the Jordan Delta, crossed a sea - the Sea of Galilee - and headed east towards a deserted and remote area - the Golan Heights on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus orders the crowd to sit in fifties and hundreds he is echoing Moses the general who often ordered the Hebrews to sit in squares of fifty and one hundred. In the Sinai, Moses fed a multitude with quails and manna, the bread of heaven; in the Golan Heights Jesus fed a multitude with fish and bread. In both miracles there were basketfuls of leftovers. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus”. |::|]

“To first-century Jews the miracle of the loaves and fishes signalled that Jesus was like Moses. The reason is that in Jewish minds, Moses was a role model for the Messiah. The Jews were praying for a saviour to come and free them from foreign oppression. They believed he would be someone like Moses who had freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Maybe Jesus was the leader they were waiting for? The crowd certainly thought so - after the miracle, the crowd try to crown Jesus king of the Jews there and then. |::|

“To unravel this symmetry, we need to go back to the Dead Sea Scrolls and delve deeper into the hopes, fears and expectations of first-century Jews. We have already seen - through discoveries such as the War Scroll - that Jews at the time of Jesus were anticipating the arrival of a great prophet. But the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that this was only one of several visions of the Messiah. |::|

“As scholars unravelled the meaning of the scrolls, it became clear that first-century Jews were looking out for a great military saviour too. This man of war would come to liberate the Jews from Roman oppression. If the great prophet was one crucial agent of their deliverance, come to reignite the passion and conviction of the Jewish people, then the great warrior was another. |::|

“It seems that the Jews had a pretty fleshed-out idea of the kind of saviour they were expecting. It would have to be a man with the military and leadership qualities of their greatest military hero. Moses had freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and had led them on the treacherous journey to freedom, through the Sinai wilderness to the edge of the promised land on the River Jordan. It was a spectacular achievement, a cornerstone of Jewish history which is still remembered every year in the Passover festival.

Parallels Between Moses and Jesus Feeding of the 5,000

Moses Strikes the Rock at Horeb

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “Jews at the time of Jesus were praying for a military saviour who could do to their Roman oppressors what Moses had done to the Egyptians. But this was a tall order for anyone, never mind a miracle worker from the rural northern outpost of Galilee. How on earth could the crowds imagine that Jesus might be the new Moses? Well, there are vital clues in the detail of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, clues that betray striking symbolic parallels between Jesus and Moses. Those parallels begin where the story begins, when Jesus and his disciples get on a boat, cross the waters of the Sea of Galilee and reach a place the gospels describe as lonely. In fact, they reach a place on the north-east shore of the lake that is so lonely it is known as 'the desert'. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“How had Moses' journey to the promised land begun? Well, first he had crossed the waters of the Red Sea, and then he had stopped in the Sinai desert. An interesting parallel perhaps, but not enough to astonish the onlookers. However, once they reach the desert, Jesus' disciples ask him how two loaves and five fishes are going to feed such a substantial crowd. As soon as Moses reached the Sinai wilderness his Hebrew people asked him what on earth they were going to eat, to sustain them in that barren landscape. |::|

“Just before the miracle, Jesus orders the people to sit together in squares of hundreds and fifties. Moses ordered his Hebrew people to sit down in companies one hundred, or fifty, strong. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, Moses is advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to 'select capable men from all the people who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens'. |::|

“It's an impressive symmetry, but it doesn't end there. At the climax of the story - the miracle itself - Jesus hands out the loaves and fishes, and somehow manages to multiply them so the food goes to everyone who needs it. Back in the Sinai desert, Moses presided over an equally miraculous multiplication of food. In the mornings the ground was covered with manna - the bread of heaven - like a fall of snow. In the evenings, the skies above the camp were alive with quail. Loaves and fishes, manna and quail: the menu may be different, but the significance would not be lost on a first century crowd.|::|

“According to the Gospel of John, the people tried to mob Jesus after they had witnessed the miracle. That response is hardly surprising, as the possibility had dawned on them that this man could be the great military saviour they were waiting for, the leader who would overcome the Romans and liberate the long-suffering Jewish people. |::|

Did Archaeologists Find Where Jesus Fed the 5,000?

In 2019, researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel announced that they had unearthed mosaic, which they claimed indicated that the site near the Sea of Galilee where it was found was where Jesus performed Feeding of the 5000 miracle. Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast:.During excavations at the Byzantine era “Burnt Church” in the Hippos National Park (the church is named because it was one of seven churches destroyed as part of the Sasanian conquest in 614 CE). Archaeologists uncovered a 1,400 year old mosaic on the floor of the church that depicts the feeding miracle. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, September 22, 2019

Healing the Paralyzed Man

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus and his disciples withdrew to a “deserted place” in the Galilee region after the death of John the Baptist in order to rest (Mark 6:31). The location must have been relatively close to the shore of the Sea of Galilee because they used a boat to get there. Traditionally, people have believed that the feeding of the five thousand miracle took place in Tabgha, Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. There’s even a church there, called the Church of the Multiplication, that celebrates the event. The earliest evidence of Christian worship in Tabgha dates to the mid-fourth century but the mosaics that refer to the feeding of the five thousand come from around 480 A.D.

Hippos, the site of the newest discovery, is on the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The history of the city there dates back to the turn of the era and there’s some evidence of occupation there as early as the third century B.C. There are several mosaics from the Burnt Church that appear to refer to the miracle story. The first depicts Jesus performing the miracle; the second shows twelve baskets filled with bread and fruit. Dr. Michael Eisenberg, who oversaw the excavation on behalf of the University of Haifa, noted that these may be a reference to the baskets of bread that were left over after the multitude had eaten.

Eisenberg cautiously hypothesized that perhaps Hippos was the place that the miracle supposedly took place. He told The Jerusalem Post:“Nowadays, we tend to regard the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha on the northwest of the Sea of Galilee as the location of the miracle, but with careful reading of the New Testament, it is evident that it might have taken place north of Hippos within the city’s region.” If Eisenberg’s theory is correct this would mean that Christians had been, to borrow a phrase from Indiana Jones, celebrating the miracle ‘in the wrong place.’

Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: As the news of Jesus' remarkable healings spread, more and more people came to hear him and brought their sick and dying loved ones to him. Although Jesus regularly withdrew to be alone and pray, he spent much of the time besieged by desperate people, hanging on his every word. According to the gospels, it was on such a day that one of his most moving healing miracles took place. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009. Roberts is author the book“The Miracles of Jesus”. |::|]

“Jesus was in the small town of Capernaum, where he and the disciples had made their home. He was teaching inside a house, and the house was packed with people. Mark's Gospel suggests that this was Peter's house. Some of the crowd were locals, but Luke says there were also Pharisees and teachers of the Law there. These officials had travelled from every village in Galilee, and from Judea and Jerusalem, to hear him. They sat and listened, but they had an agenda. This preacher was a maverick, a threat to their authority. There were plenty of rumours about him, but now they had come to see for themselves. |::|

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healing lepers
“As Luke sets the scene, he adds that 'the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick'. Perhaps that power was palpable to some of the onlookers. According to Luke: “Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. — Luke 5:18-19

“Jesus with a paralysed man who has been lowered from the ceiling Jesus tips the man off his stretcher, ordering him to walk It is a memorable image - the packed, hushed room disturbed as plaster and dust fall from the ceiling and a paralyzed man is lowered down on a stretcher in front of Jesus. It sounds like an extraordinary feat, to climb onto the roof of a house with a sick man and lower him down. But it is not as hard as it seems. |::|

“Many Middle Eastern houses today are built in very much the same way as in Jesus' time. In a town like Capernaum, the houses would be clustered together in an intricate network of courtyards, stairs and rooms interconnected on all levels. Those desperate friends of the paralyzed man could have reached the roof through a neighbouring house. Once there, all they had to do was make a hole. The roof - like many still today - would be made of sticks, straw and mud. |::|

“You might think Jesus would be furious, or shocked, when his teaching was interrupted so dramatically. But according to the gospels, his reaction was far from angry, as shown here in Luke's account: ‘When Jesus saw their faith, he said "Friend, your sins are forgiven." The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."’ — Luke 5:20-26

Meaning of Jesus Healing the Paralyzed Man

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “Of course, some have argued that the paralysed man may have suffered from a psychosomatic illness, that his paralysis did not have a physical cause and was therefore more susceptible to suggestion. Many, however, accept that a remarkable healing took place that day in the house at Capernaum. Who does Jesus think he is? A disciple looks questioningly at him Who did Jesus think he was? [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“Either way, it was another astonishing spectacle from Jesus. It is not hard to imagine the reaction of the onlookers. In Luke's words 'everyone was amazed'. But the reason for their amazement was not the healing itself. To a first-century Jewish audience, the jaw-dropping moment came just before Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk home. |::|

“'Friend, your sins are forgiven.' In the Jewish faith, only one person has the authority to forgive sins, and that is God himself. Of course, people offended by others can choose to forgive them for that offence, but no one can forgive all a man's sins except God. For the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, it confirmed what they suspected about Jesus - that he was a blasphemer. No mere man could forgive another man's sins. Jesus had crossed a significant and dangerous line in the eyes of the authorities, and he had done it in a crowded public place. |::|

“What must his disciples have thought, as they went back to their fishing boats after the people had gone home? First, the message of Jesus' miracles showed him to be a prophet like Elijah, then a great military leader like Moses or Joshua. By forgiving the sins of a paralyzed man was he now acting as if he were God himself? It's a question that must have altered the way the disciples saw another of Jesus' great signs, walking on the water. When they saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee - and thereby crossing the River Jordan - it may have struck them that he was acting out the role of Joshua, who crossed the Jordan to conquer the Canaanites and claim the promised land. If they had understood that by forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man Jesus was claiming to be God, perhaps they would now see another powerfully symbolic strand in Jesus' walking on the water.” |::|

Jesus Stills the Storm

Roberts wrote for the BBC: ““As Jesus and the disciples set out on one of their many trips across the Sea of Galilee, they were hit by an unexpected and violent crisis, as recounted here in the Gospel of Mark. ‘That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.’ — Mark 4:35-37[Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“Certainly this part of the story appears to be accurate. Sudden violent storms from the east in the early evenings of winter are well known in the area. The fisherman here call them Sharkia, Arabic for shark. The disciples are fighting for their lives. So does Jesus join the battle to save the boat? Not according to the Bible account: ‘Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"’ — Mark 4:38-41 |::|

“It's the act of someone with incredible power, and it makes the disciples question who on earth Jesus was. Not surprisingly, the Bible says they are awestruck. Jesus - it appears - can control the very elements..."Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?" Now, of course, from a modern western scientific perspective, the fascinating question is 'what really happened?' Perhaps the storm was about to subside anyway, and the 'miracle' may have been little more than good timing.” |::|

Meaning and Background Behind Jesus Stilling the Storm

Roberts wrote for the BBC: “In order to understand the miracle as a sign, we need to focus on the meaning of the event rather than the event itself. That meaning was what left the disciples awestruck. It was more than shocking, it was scandalous. Once again, the key to unlocking the significance of Jesus' actions lies in the ancient prophecies of the Jews, prophecies that the disciples would have heard in childhood, and were later made to learn by heart. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“According to these ancient texts there was only one person who had the power to control the stormy seas - God himself. One passage from the book of Psalms recalls occasions in the history of the Jewish nation when God had used his power to rescue his people, and the way he used that power is strikingly reminiscent of the way Jesus used his power that day on the Sea of Galilee. The Psalm describes how God's people were in boats in a storm and cried to God for help, and how in response he is said to have stilled the storm and calmed the waves. |::|

Chirst in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Jan Brueghel

Others went out into the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunken men;
they were at their wits' end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders. — “Psalm 107:23-32

“The disciples would have made the connection with the Psalms immediately as they watched Jesus command the storm. By rebuking the wind and the sea, Jesus was showing that he had authority over the elements. As only God could claim such authority, Jesus was acting as if he were God. But for the disciples, that revelation was not to be greeted with unalloyed joy. It was much too complicated for that. They were all too aware that for a Jewish man to act as if he were God could mean two things. Either he really was God in human form, or this was nothing short of blasphemy, and blasphemers were mad or demonic. Either way, they were usually dead before long. |::|

“As it has passed down the centuries, the miracle of the stilling of the storm has lost its edge. It has arrived in the twenty-first-century as a story to comfort the anxious and afflicted, a familiar metaphor for Christian therapy or meditation groups. But it didn't leave the disciples calm and liberated from their troubles. Far from it.” |::|



After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

And in John’s vision in Revelation: And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

Mount Tabor is believed by most scholars to be the site of Christ's transfiguration---where Christ's disciples saw him talking with Moses and Elijah, and his face "did shine as the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light." The top of 1,929-foot mountain. Mount Herman has also been suggested as a site of the Transfiguration. “Raiment” means clothes.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org , Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, 1994); Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Live Science, Encyclopedia.com, Archaeology magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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