Even from before his birth, and until the time of his Ascension into heaven, Jesus performed miracles to show mankind his divinity. Miraculous healings, exorcisms and even raising the dead revealed the saving love of God and offered a glimpse of the kingdom to come.
“The whole purpose of miracles in the New Testament is to show Jesus’ authority,” said Father Joseph de Orbegozo, rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock and an instructor at the Diocese of Little Rock’s House of Formation. “His miracles do this by creating parallels from the lives of the prophets as well as parallels from God's power to Jesus.”
“When you see that, the connection immediately forms,” he said. “Jesus has the power of the highest prophets.”
He additionally pointed to the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in front of the Pharisees (Luke 5:17-26).
“When Jesus cured the man, he said, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ They asked, ‘Who has the right to do that but God?’ What was more shocking for them is the fact that Jesus forgave his sins. That is the greater miracle. It points out rather clearly that Jesus is no ordinary human being. Only God can heal in that way.”
Even preceding his birth, miracles were associated with Jesus. Mary was immaculately conceived without original sin so that she could be the perfect vessel to bring Christ into the world. When he was born, angels visited the shepherds and the three kings followed a star to Bethlehem to pay him homage.
Father Jerome Kodell, OSB, former abbot of Subiaco Abbey, said the three gifts have biblical symbolism and could be considered a minor miracle because they foreshadowed who the child is.
“The gold signifies Jesus’ kingship; frankincense, which was burned as an offering to God, stands for his divinity; and myrrh, an anointing oil and herb used in embalming, foreshadows his redeeming death,” Father Kodell said.
When Jesus opened his ministry by being baptized, a miracle occurred. According to Matthew 3:16-17, “the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
Jesus’ first recorded miracle in the Gospels was turning water into wine. Over the next three years of his ministry, he healed the infirm, drove out evil spirits, raised the dead, fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fishes and walked on water, just to name a few of the miracles he performed.
Jesus again revealed his divinty during the Transfiguration. When he took Peter, James and John to a mountaintop to pray, “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light (Matthew 17:2).” Moses and Elijah, representing the Old Testament law and the prophets, respectively, then appeared on either side of Jesus and a voice from above said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
“What is so incredible about the Transfiguration is the many different ways in which Jesus is showing himself as Lord,” Father de Orbegozo said. “He is showing himself as the one who not only supersedes everything that has come before but is at the center of everything going forward. You get to see this really beautiful showing of who Jesus is and who Jesus will be to the world.”
In addition to revealing his divine nature through miracles, Jesus also performed them to convey a new covenant of God’s love, said Jeff Hines, director of the Diocese of Little Rock’s Faith Formation Office.
“Jesus did miracles when he walked the earth to show his love and to teach us about God,” Hines said. “He fed the 5,000 because they were hungry but also to show them that he is the true bread of life.
“He also did miracles to bring about a response of faith and in response to faith that is already there. The woman who touched his garment and was healed already had faith. Jesus said, ‘Your faith has saved you,’ yet he called attention to her in order to increase the faith of those who saw and heard and of us who read the Gospel story today.”
While some have tried over the millennia to dismiss or downplay the importance of Jesus’ miracles, Father Andrew Hart, JCL, adjutant judicial vicar for the Diocese of Little Rock Tribunal and theological consultant to Arkansas Catholic, said they are part of the “deposit of faith” or the Catholic body of revealed truth in the Scriptures and sacred tradition.
“We have to believe in those,” he said. "Jesus himself told us, in John's Gospel, that we must believe in him, and that if we have trouble believing, we can look to the works that he did, the miracles, as a proof that he is who he says he is — 'Emmanuel,' God with us."
Read more about miracles in this accompanying article, Miracles are signs of God’s presence, wisdom and love, Apparitions: Visions of spirits bring private revelations and Three saints who have received the holy gift of the stigmata; these articles on Eucharistic miracles, Learning about Eucharistic miracles can enrich faith life and Lord’s presence: Like feeling the warmth of the sun and this 2019 article, Is it a miracle? Diocese gathers facts in alleged healing, about Christine McGee, a then 19-year-old college student from Little Rock, who was allegedly healed through the intercession of Venerable Henriette Delille.
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