Teaching through miracles [3] - Categories of Miracles

The Gospels record about 36 miracles performed by Jesus, as well as numerous other references to Him healing the sick, casting out demons, and performing “signs and wonders”. The list below groups the recorded miracles together into their main categories of miracles.






Healing Miracles

Man in Synagogue



Peter’s Mother-in-law




Man with leprosy




Roman Centurion’s Servant



Gadarene Demoniac(s)




Paralysed man




Exorcism of Mary Magdalene


Haemorrhaging Woman




Two Blind Men


Mute & Possessed Man


Man with shrivelled hand




Blind, Mute & Possessed Man



Canaanite Womans Daughter



Deaf Mute


Blind Man at Bethsaida


Demon-possessed boy




Crippled Woman


Man With Dropsy


Ten Men With Leprosy


Two Blind Men




High Priest’s Servant


Official’s Son at Capernaum


Sick man at Pool of Bethesda


Healing of Blind Man


Raising the dead

Widow’s son at Nain


Jairus’s daughter









Nature miracles

Calming the storm




Walking on water




Fig tree withered




Coin in fish’s mouth


First catch of fish


Second catch of fish


Abundance miracles

Water into wine


Feeding five thousand





Feeding four thousand



This article looks at some of the important things Jesus taught through His miracles.

1)        The role of Faith

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke are called “synoptic” because they are similar) sometimes emphasise that faith is necessary before someone can receive a miracle. For example, the following three verses in Matthew reveal that someone was healed because of their faith.

  • It will be done just as you believed it would. (Matthew 8:13)
  • According to your faith will it be done to you. (Matthew 9:29)
  • Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. (Matthew 15:28)

Mark records similar words:

  • ‘When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, " Son, your sins are forgiven." ’ (Mark 2:5). Notice that in this miracle it was not the faith of the person being healed, but the faith of his friends which Jesus found irresistible.
  • “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:5-6). This incident demonstrates that Jesus could not do miracles where there was no faith.
  • Mark also records occasions where barriers had to be overcome through a determined struggle in order for someone to experience a miracle.

-            “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on”. (Mark 2:4)

-            The woman with a haemorrhage – see my explanation of this in the previous article in this series (no. 6).

-            In the story of the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman national or racial prejudice was a barrier and the woman had to be very persuasive in convincing Jesus to heal her daughter[1]. Matthew includes Jesus response: " Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Matthew 15:28). So what Mark sees as a struggle to overcome a barrier Matthew sees as great faith.

-            On one occasion Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal a demon-possessed boy, but his father persisted and despite his own doubts, or lack of faith, he asked Jesus for help in overcoming the barrier of insufficient faith. Jesus said  " Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, " I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:22-24).

-            Mark also records how the crowds tried to silence a blind man who persisted in asking Jesus for a miracle. However, despite the opposition he was healed and Jesus said “your faith has healed you” (Mark 10:47-52).

  • In each of these incidents faith is related to overcoming barriers such as physical limitations, prejudice, social taboos, doubts and opposition from others.

John, on the other hand, tends to emphasise that miracles often produced faith rather than being the result of it. There is no contradiction here. John also knows about the importance of faith for miracles to happen (e.g. John 4:50; 11:40), but he tells us that his whole point in describing Jesus’ miracles is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31. The words “believe” and “have faith” are the same in Greek). In many of the signs recorded in John Jesus takes the initiative, rather than someone coming to him in faith. In fact, when He healed a man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9) John makes the point that the man who was healed “had no idea” who healed him (v. 13). So, miracles might be the result of faith or they are performed by the Lord in order to produce faith.

2)        Jesus acted out of compassion for people.  On a few occasions we read words like these:  ·              When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)·              When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)·              Jesus had compassion on them. (Matthew 20:34)·              Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand … (Mark 1:41)·              “I have compassion for these people”. (Mark 8:2)  However, it is clear that Jesus’ motivation was not compassion alone and there is evidence in the Bible that He did not heal everyone with whom he came in contact. For example, we read that He once visited the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed” (John 5:3). However, we only read of one man being healed here. Later, in Acts 3:1-10, we read of how Peter and John healed a crippled man at the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem. This man had been crippled from birth and was taken to the Temple every day. Jesus must have passed every time He went into the Temple, yet He never healed him!

Jesus didn’t heal everyone.

  3)        Lessons from “abundance” miracles.  The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels and it is followed in John’s Gospel by a sermon about the “bread of life”. Before the feeding of the 4,000, which was similar, Jesus said " I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." (Matthew 15:32).   It seems from these accounts that the primary reason for these miracles was compassion, although the fact that a sermon follows immediately after it shows that Jesus took the opportunity to use the occasion to teach something from it (although teaching may not have been the primary objective).  In addition to the teaching about the bread of life which follows this incident, there are several other lessons which we can discover from the incident itself. 

1.          First we read that the disciples were aware of a problem and came to Jesus with a suggestion:

    • … it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. " This is a remote place," they said, " and it's already very late.  Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

2.          Jesus responds that the disciples themselves should do something to solve the problem:

  • But he answered, " You give them something to eat."

3.          The disciples are amazed by this suggestion, and tell Jesus that they do not have the resources to solve the problem.

  • 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?"
  4.          Jesus tells them that they should first see what they have before deciding they can do nothing:  ·              " How many loaves do you have?" he asked. " Go and see."   5.              A little, if it is put in the hands of Jesus, can achieve a lot. 
  • 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

  We learn from this incident that there are two attitudes to problems:                 

I.          The disciples said “Send them away”. One response to a problem is to try to shift it somewhere else.           

II.          Jesus said " You give them something to eat” – in other words, “You do something!” Jesus approach to the problem was to take responsibility and see what can be done.  We also learn that there are two attitudes to resources:                              I.          The disciples said “we don’t have enough”. A common approach to problems is to say “we don’t have the resources to fix this” and we use this as an excuse to do nothing.                       

II.          Jesus said “Go and see”. In other words, rather than say “we don’t have enough” we should first see what we do have, and then do something with it.Most importantly, we learn from this incident that in the hands of Jesus even our very limited resources can achieve amazing things. 

The miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana can be puzzling. It appears to be an unnecessary miracle, and the person who was helped the most was the host of the wedding who seems to have been “rescued” by Jesus out of a situation caused by bad planning. It also appears to be “indulgent” insofar as Jesus wasn’t feeding hungry people but providing something to drink for people who had already been feasting for some time. It is even stranger that this was Jesus’ first miracle. Why did He reveal His miraculous powers in such a way?There are several possibilities, including:  a.          Jesus announced His ministry with a miracle which declared that His message was about abundance and God’s overflowing generosity to mankind.b.          The water in this miracle came from storage vessels “the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing” (John 2:6), and Jesus is hereby declaring that His ministry will get rid of the lifeless rituals and man-made rules which held the people in spiritual bondage and will replace it with something joyous.c.          Jesus ministry is not only about meeting human needs but is about celebration and exuberance and includes elements which are totally unexpected. Our God is a God of surprises! 

The next article will look at what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God through His miracles, and this will lead into looking at Jesus’ other teachings about the Kingdom.

[1] The woman in this story was a Gentile living outside the Land and was obviously very aware of the Jewish prejudice against non-Jews. In arguing with her about whether He should do a miracle I am convinced that Jesus Himself did not have this racial prejudice but, knowing her faith, He was simply reflecting the usual Jewish attitude in order to get a faith response from her.

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