Jesus came announcing the kingdom of God. Matthew 5:17 frames the outset of Jesus’ teaching ministry with these words: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” And a few verses later, Matthew tells us that Jesus went through all Galilee “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”
Those things describe the basic pattern we see throughout Jesus’ ministry. He teaches and preaches, and he heals and does miracles. The idea of teaching and preaching is nothing new to us. Even those who aren’t religious have some idea of what it means to preach and certainly everyone has some understanding of teaching. But miracles seem so far away from our modern lives. And many Christians simply don’t know what to make of miracles when they come across these passages in Scripture.
Today we see sick people healed in hospitals–but through medicine, not miracles. We witness the accomplishment of amazing things, but usually such things are the obvious result of logic, hard work, and careful planning. Occasionally we will be mystified by some event that seems to defy our imaginations or understanding, but even in these cases we expect a rational explanation to follow.
So why did Jesus do miracles?
Reversing the Curse
The Bible tells us that sin entering the picture was no small deviation: sin literally broke the world (Gen. 3:16-19). Before sin, God’s good creation was perfect. And for a short time people enjoyed a perfect existence–the presence of God and the absence of sin. It was incredible, but it didn’t last. Not long after God established this perfect life for his creatures in the Garden did temptation give rise to sin. And in that moment, when Adam and Eve succumbed to the Serpent’s seduction, paradise was lost and the world was cursed.
When we think about all of the things that are wrong with this world, all of the brokenness and sadness and pain, we are thinking about the effects of the curse. And these effects are far-reaching. In fact, we see them all around us. Sin didn’t just sever our relationship with God; it literally devastated God’s good creation. This is why the Apostle Paul says that creation itself is groaning, desperate to be liberated from the curse of sin (Rom. 8:21). Death and disease, disaster and famine, all of these things stem from the curse.
Life in the Kingdom
In announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom, Jesus was also declaring the end of the curse. Kingdom life is not fallen; it is not broken or marred by sin. So Jesus arrives on the scene announcing his kingdom and does miracles to show us what kingdom life is like: no more sickness, pain, or death. So Jesus heals those struck with leprosy and gives sight to the blind and makes the lame walk and the deaf hear and even brings men back from the dead to show that the curse of sin has no power to stand against his kingdom reign.
This is part of the answer to the question. Jesus did miracles to show us what kingdom life is like and what it will look like to live in a world without sin. The “gospel of the kingdom” is a promise of a world that will no longer bear any of the marks of the curse. And that is exactly what Jesus came to do. He came teaching and preaching and doing miracles so that sinners would turn to him and believe that he was the one sent from God. He is the deliverer and redeemer and Messiah. He is the one who will turn back the curse. He is the one who will restore what was broken and lost at the fall.
So That We Might Believe
Jesus began his ministry in a tumultuous period in history. At the time of his birth the people of Israel were under the rule of the Roman Empire. Israelites in the first century knew that the Torah promised a Messiah who would restore the throne of David. And around the time that Jesus was born, many were expectantly awaiting that deliverer to save Israel from the reign of foreign powers and return the kingdom to its former glory. But when Jesus came preaching and teaching, many dismissed him as simply another imposter.
A second reason Jesus did miracles? So we might believe. Jesus tells us this in John 10, when he is in the midst of another confrontation with the religious powers that be in Israel. The Jewish leaders are upset because of the things that Jesus did and taught. In response to their obstinance, Jesus tells them to look at the miracles. He tells them that the amazing works that he does are meant to bear witness about who he is (10:25). And a few verses later he adds, “even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10:38).
In the present, Jesus’ miracles served to authenticate his message. He was the Messiah sent from the Father to proclaim the coming of his kingdom and accomplish the work of redemption for his people. But as we look at the miracles he did, we see that they also point us forward–into that time in the future when his kingdom will be fully and finally established and all of the effects of the curse will be wiped away forever.