Over the years, I have occasionally been asked about the miracles of Jesus, how they occurred and whether or not the idea of miracles gives me any problem. My response is usually that this question is essentially the wrong starting place for any inquiry into the events of the gospels. What I have always felt is that if the son of God actually walked this Earth, then it would not be improbable that any of the miracles recorded in the Bible could have actually happened as described. But as a friend of mine once commented, ‘that’s a pretty big if’.
Recently, I have come to start thinking about the miracle stories and why they give people problems and I have come to realise that most rational people, who are also non-believers, will either simply dismiss them as impossible events or they will attempt to rationalise them in some way; for example, by suggesting that the story of Jesus walking on the water might be explained by the possibility of the formation of ice on the Sea of Galilee; or the idea that people simply got out their lunches during the feeding of the five thousand; or that people had not actually died in the raising of the dead stories.
In addition, I have been thinking about what hard evidence actually exists for the existence of God and again, I have come to recognise that the best evidence is the evidence of one particular miracle – the resurrection. The more we look into the matter of the resurrection of Jesus, the more we come to realise that it presents probably the best objective evidence we have for the existence of God.
Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. A large stone weighing several tons was rolled across the entrance and the tomb was sealed by the Romans. Finally, the Romans placed a guard at the tomb. It is claimed in the New Testament that, days later, the stone had been moved and the tomb was found to be empty.
The empty tomb claim was made, not only by the gospel writers, but perhaps more significantly, by St Paul who started writing his letters, most scholars believe, around 33 AD; within the lifetime of the eye-witnesses including those who were direct opponents of the Christian message. In addition, Jesus is said to have appeared to a large crowd of around 500 people. Again, when Paul made this claim, the event was also within the recent memory of the eye-witnesses. If these events were not well accepted as facts at the time, it would have been very easy for opponents to have successfully refuted them.
It seems the body of Jesus somehow just disappeared. Nobody was ever able to locate it even though it should have been a simple matter for opponents of Paul’s message to have done and it would have certainly stopped Christianity in its tracks because the resurrection doctrine is the centre of the Christian faith. As St Paul himself said, “If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.”[1 Cor 15:14]
The forgoing does not, of course, represent any kind of proof, but evidence for the resurrection is there and it is indeed compelling. The resurrection, I believe, is the place to start your investigation into the subject of the miracles of Jesus because it is not only the most significant, it is also the best attested. And if you should come to accept the resurrection as a historical event, then I can see no reason why any of the other miracles should present any subsequent difficulty.