The Miracles: Exploring the Mystery of Jesus’s Divine Works
Jesus was renown throughout Israel not just for His teachings but for His power. He was the rabbi who opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, and made the crippled walk again.
In The Miracles: Exploring the Mystery of Jesus’s Divine Works, Simon J. Kistemaker takes an in-depth look at each of Jesus’s powerful works, reflecting on both the historical and cultural background as well as their impact on our faith. Kistemaker divides Jesus’s miracles into categories, including the “nature miracles,” “sick made well,” “ears to hear,” “demons expelled” and “raised from the dead.” As a result, readers get a solid look at the style and continuity of Jesus’s interactions with others.
One of the most fascinating sections of the book is the examination of the nature miracles. Moments such as Jesus turning the water into wine, stilling the storm, feeding the thousands and cursing the fig tree are looked at from a fresh, Biblical perspective.
When reflecting on the miracle of paying the temple tax with a coin pulled from a fish’s mouth, he writes:
“Of all the four Gospel writers only Matthew, the former tax collector, tells the story of Jesus paying the temple tax --- a tax that had to be paid annually for the upkeep of the religious services at the Jerusalem temple. It amounted to a half shekel, which was the equivalent of a worker’s earnings for two days, and every Jewish male above the age of twenty had to pay this amount.”
Throughout the book, Kistemaker offers rich insights and observations on the Bible text. For example, he notes that when Jesus instructed Peter to go to the Lake of Galilee and the disciple returns with the coin to pay the tax, this is the only miracle where Jesus was a partial beneficiary. All of the other miracles Jesus performed were for the benefit of others.
On another occasion, he points out that the miracle of the withering fig tree is the only miracle that Jesus performed that had no immediate beneficial effect on the disciples. Such insights make this an enjoyable read.
Each short chapter ends with “Points to Ponder,” where the author provides several insights on the text and what they mean to the modern faith journey. As a result, the book can be read as a devotional.
The irony of this book on miracles is that Kistemaker doesn’t seem convinced that Jesus heals people in the same miraculous ways today. He writes, “Although Jesus does not renovate human bodies today as he did in the first century, his presence is as real today as it was in the earlier days when he walked along the Lake of Galilee or the city streets of Jerusalem.” While such observations challenge readers to embrace a personal relationship with Jesus, they undermine the wonder and power of Jesus that is naturally highlighted whenever His miracles are examined and reflected upon.
Overall, The Miracles is a solid book and an excellent academic resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Jesus’s work.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on August 1, 2006