I departed from the usual plan a little this week because several of the miracles which this lesson covers are included in the sample pages of my book at the publisher’s website, so you can see what I’ve written about Mark 1-5 (covering the synagogue exorcism, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, the healing of the leper, the exorcism in Gentile lands, and the intertwined healing of the bleeding woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter) there without me repeating it here. (Speaking of the bleeding woman, I wrote this article about her story and how Mark uses it to show redemption from the Fall and how women’s bodies serve as proxy for Jesus’ body.)
So I’ll talk more generally about miracles. Read this if you are thinking about whether these things “really happened.”
I think it is also worth noting that the various gospel writers use miracle stories very differently from each other. In Mark, one thing the miracle stories do is show what it is like in God’s kingdom. As Bart Ehrman wrote, “In the kingdom there will be no demons, and so Jesus casts out demons; in the kingdom there will be no disease, and so Jesus heals the sick; in the kingdom there will be no more death, and so Jesus raises the dead. The kingdom of God could already be seen in Jesus’ own ministry and that of his followers.” By contrast, in John, the miracles are signs of Jesus’ identity. John actually uses a different word (which means more properly “sign” rather than “miracle”) for Jesus’ miracles. John sees these signs as a way to build faith (see John 20:30-31; interestingly, Matthew has a very different message about signs–see Matthew 12:39). In Luke, the miracles show Jesus’ concern for people who are on the margins of society. There’s some overlap and some complications to this picture, but the general idea is this: the miracles are not just Things That Happened. They are things that the writers are telling you about to shape their unique pictures of Jesus. In Mark, we get a glimpse of the kingdom. In Luke, we see Jesus’ compassion for the forgotten. In John, we see Jesus’ exalted identity.