A Fresh Look at Miracles

Jesus made people with deformities whole -- Part 1

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Faith

You get pretty used to the idea that Jesus worked miracles, don’t you? I do.

For me, a fresh look was prompted when I noticed a detail from Matthew’s Gospel (15:29-31):

Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to Him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at His feet, and He cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.

Matthew states that “the deformed [were] made whole.” What kinds of deformities might the people have had who were “made whole”? Some may have had parts of their bodies straightened, like the woman in Luke 13:10-17 who was bent over double. But for others, Jesus fashioned eyes, ears, tongues, arms, legs, toes, fingers, teeth, and noses! It’s one thing to cure blindness — which frankly I’m used to hearing or reading about — and quite another to make an eye for someone who never had one from birth or who had lost his or her eye. It’s one thing to cure deafness — again, which frankly I’m used to — but quite another to fashion an ear for someone who had never had one from birth or who had lost it.

In this regard, take a look at Jesus’ cure in the Garden of Gethsemane. All four Gospels state that the ear of a servant of the high priest was cut off (Matt. 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 8:10-11, 18:26). Luke is the only author who specifies the name of the perpetrator (Simon Peter), the name of the victim (Malchus), and adds that Jesus healed the ear. The ear had been cut off, not just injured.

You’ll also recall that He restored a man’s “withered hand”:

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored (Matt. 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-10).

Consider, too, that it’s one thing to cure an individual who is lame or paralyzed. It seems to me to be a second miracle to cure that individual so thoroughly that he is told to “Get up and walk!” and does so immediately. He is not only cured of the medical cause of paralysis but also has full and immediate strength in his atrophied muscles (see Matt. 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26).

A similar miracle was worked in the Name of Jesus by Peter. Peter took a man crippled from birth (Acts 3:2) more than 40 years earlier (Acts 3:22) “by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with [Peter and John], walking and jumping and praising God” (Acts 3:7-8).

Leprosy results in shortened fingers and toes and misshapen ears and noses. (You can find images on the Web.) On one occasion, Jesus cured one man of leprosy (Matt. 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15) and on another occasion cured ten men with leprosy simultaneously (Luke 17:11-19). In curing leprosy, Jesus cured not one limb, or one organ, not one part of a body, but an entire body.

In the portion of Matthew’s Gospel I quoted above (15:29-31), Matthew says the crowd brought to Jesus people with “many other” conditions and diseases that manifested themselves in various ways to the sufferers and their friends and relations. These would have included such conditions as mental illness, respiratory ailments, burned faces and hands and legs, spina bifida, dysentery, clubfeet, lisp, stutter, rashes and blisters, and malaria. And there’d be the “childhood” diseases of whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. (Meditating on these childhood diseases can give another level of meaning to Jesus’ words, “Let the children come to Me” and “He laid His hands on them” (see Matt. 19:14-15; Mark 10:14-16).

Not all of the “many other” conditions and diseases to which Matthew refers would be visible to the naked eye of strangers. One such condition would be infertility. Infertility wouldn’t be visible to the naked eyes of strangers, but friends and family who knew childless couples would know. Jesus Himself was familiar with the condition since His mother’s cousin, Elizabeth, had suffered from it. I wonder how many people were cured by Jesus of this.

Another example of a condition not visible to the naked eye is illustrated by the woman who suffered from bleeding: “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse (Mark 5:25-26; see also Matt. 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48).

People in the crowd at the time did not notice her cure. She, on the other hand, knew immediately that she had been cured the moment she touched Jesus’ cloak: “The source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint” (Mark 5:29).

In my next post, I will discuss two more ways of looking at Jesus’ miracles: Jesus curing from a distance, and that friends and relatives brought people to Him to be cured.

 

James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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