Can we take miracle claims seriously? Are miracles possible? Could Jesus have been raised from the dead? Let us have a wee think by asking a few questions:
Is it possible that God exists? If it is possible that God exists, then miracles are a possibility. In fact we we don’t even need to go on to the probability of God’s existence here though much can be said about that. The mere possibility of God is enough to admit the possibility of the miraculous.
Have we been around long enough to rule out the supernatural? If you were to join me for a ride on my motorcycle on highway 401, you might conclude that my motorcycle always travels at 100 km/h, or a wee bit higher, and that the bike never turns. Your experience would not be enough to tell you otherwise. If we have not experienced in miracle in our day, is that sufficient evidence to rule out miracles in Jesus’ day? Even if we add together the collective experience of every scientist working feverishly to amass empirical evidence, that would still not be a broad enough knowledge base to rule out miracles.
Could it be that what we would call a miracle and what we would call normal are both just another day at the office for God? When God creates the universe complete with the “laws of nature” by which it functions and functions well, He is enabling life and fulfilling His purposes. Now when God supersedes natural laws, especially in and through Jesus, again He is enabling life and fulfilling His purposes. Same God, same goal. We see things like gravity as being “natural” and the fact that we do not fly off into space when we jump as being a very unexceptional reality. But why do we think that way? Gravity and a whole host of other laws are life permitting signs and wonders. Sometimes the slogan is brought out that “extraordinary claims,” such as the existence of God “require extraordinary evidence.” Perhaps the ordinary all around us is far more extraordinary that we realize. So while some will want to see God writing his signature in the sky, God has given us the sky, which is, after all, the greater work and sign, for it is life permitting. People erupt in gratitude when they think they have received a miracle. We could really erupt in gratitude at every step, and every breath, which themselves point to the Miracle Worker.
When we consider the nature of the miracles recorded in the Bible, are we moved to have confidence in the miracle reports or moved to dismiss them as fabrications? The miracles in the Bible are not a case of “here is a god doing all kinds of impossible things,” but instead have a very down-to-earth and purposeful feel about them. They serve a purpose, such as forming and forging a nation for God’s salvation purposes through the exodus, or providing legitimacy and audience for prophets like Elijah and Elisha, or focusing attention where attention really belongs, on Jesus. And the miracles of Jesus are never just amazing feats for the sake of being amazing, they are signs of God’s impending Kingdom, with healing, feeding, and saving. Also, there are really not as many miracles in the Bible as a lot of people think, they really are concentrated around the ministry of Jesus just as the Bible itself finds its focus in Jesus.
For a moment, let us turn our attention to the resurrection of Jesus, for the resurrection of Jesus is the most important miracle of Christianity. If a miracle is defined as a unique superseding of natural law, is the resurrection of Jesus really a miracle? If we all experience something, we would not tend to call such an experience a miracle, but a normal part of the way things are. The interesting thing about the resurrection of Jesus is that resurrection is something all people look forward to. Some will be raised to eternal life with God, others will be raised to eternal separation from God, but all will be raised. On that day, the most empirically informed among us will be saying something like “we have some new data, we must find a new model for the ways things are.” With the resurrection of Jesus, the new data for the ways things are is already in our hands, in fact it is marked on His.