Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Something Happened

Jesus criticized those who would not believe unless they have seen signs and wonders. At the beginning of his ministry, the Jesus said he was unable to perform any miracles in Nazareth because the people of the community did not believe; they did not have the requisite faith. After Jesus' transfiguration, the boy possessed by a demon, and who foamed at the mouth, gnashed his teeth, and became rigid, is brought to Jesus. The disciples were unable to heal the boy. Jesus condemns the people as unbelieving, but when the father of the boy questions if Jesus can heal the boy, Jesus says everything is possible for those that believe. When the father says he believes, Jesus healed the boy.

Jesus did perform many miracles healing those who believed in Him. Although the ministry of the word was very important, there is no question that people flocked to see Jesus hoping to see a miracle. But these miracles were not performed for entertainment.

Luke recognized that recounting miracles was not enough. Luke, as well as John, laid great theological significance on bearing witness. According to Trites, “For both writers the significance of witness lies in its ability to induce faith.” Luke emphasized the importance of eyewitness testimony in Lk. 11:48; 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32 and the role of “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” in providing assurances with respect to the things you have been informed. Luke is providing the “truth.”

These miracles were intrinsic to Jesus' claim that he was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. Moses had performed miraculous signs. Consequently, the Messiah would also have been expected to produce some sign of divine agency. Luke records in Acts 2:22 that Jesus was "attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst." This viewpoint concerning the power of God is consistent with Deuteronomy 6:22 wherein it states "the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes." More importantly, in the Greek language, the word used for "miracle" was dy'na·mis—a word basically meaning "power." Luke is the only NT writer to acknowledge that the miracles performed by Jesus were a manifestation of “the mighty power of God.” Paul, likewise acknowledged in Romans, that “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyr'icum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

This type behavior, of the people flocking to see Jesus hoping to see a miracle, may have raised a special concern in the Matthean and Marcan communities, so much so, that their Jesus issued a warning against false prophets who might by signs and wonders lead astray the elect. In Acts of the Apostles, Luke described numerous false prophets such as Simon Magnus, Bar Jesus and the Seven Sons of Sceva. As noted by Josephus, in the Fifties CE up to the end of the Jewish War, there were many false prophets. Generally predictive prophecy fulfilled is noted. In Matthew and Mark the telltale phrase, “Let the reader understand”, is one such example. For instance, in Acts 11:28 we read: "And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius."

Just as Mark rewrote Luke to place in the mouth of the Marcan Jesus an incident occurring in Acts whereby it could be said that Jesus had declared all foods clean, Matthew and Mark added the warning about false prophets based on the several false prophets depicted in Acts. Matthew and Mark added the warning of false prophets by their Jesus because they did not understand that it is only by the power of God that an individual, whether it is Moses, Jesus or Paul, was able to perform signs and wonders.

Frederick Houk Borsch in discussing the wedding parable in Many Things in Parables said: “This apparently motiveless killing is one of the signs that a historical allegorical interest has superseded a concern with realism in the narrative.” In point of fact, Luke is alone in having only the son slain. There is a pattern of slaying of prophets in both the Matthean and Marcan versions of the parable which Luke lacks. Likewise, there are no senseless killings in the Lucan version of the Parable of the Wedding Guests.

In like manner, the multiplication of miracles is a sign that realism in the narrative has been superseded. In Matthew, we read of the healing of large numbers of crippled, blind and mute; the payment of temple tax with a shekel taken from a fish's mouth; and in agreement with Mark, Jesus walking on water, the cursing of a fig tree and the feeding of the 4000.

As Gamaliel wisely noted with respect to the Apostles, but it would also be true of others: “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail.” God's power is evident in the miracles performed by his representatives and is a validation of their role. Consequently, Luke understood there was no need to warn of false prophets.

Copyrighted 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home