(The Earth’s Most Serious Wounds)
Peace be to you.
Three Motives of Credibility
It will be recalled that we said there were three motives of credibility, that is to say, three reasons why one might believe in anyone, in particular in the person of Christ. We named three conditions, first, that he be preannounced, that we have already discussed. The second motive of credibility was that if He came from God that there should be certain signs or wonders or miracles to attest his truthfulness.
Now a word about miracles. Let us recall the fact that miracles are not a violation of of the laws of nature. God and the universe are not on opposite sides. Let us take this example. Nearly all the great railroad stations where there are junctions of tracks and lines running side by side, meeting and intersecting, have always in their midst what is known as a control tower. In that little building, all lines are directed and signals sent in various ways. Pull of a great lever and a mighty train passes on its appointed way. The working of another lever sends a freight train into a siding until the express train has passed. All railway traffic would be disorganized if the important work were not carried on in that control tower. In fact, there would be disorder and collisions. Now this is a feeble illustration of the laws of nature, for the whole universe works upon fixed lines. We cannot see God’s signals, nor understand how He conveys His power to the forces of nature. We do not see Him work His levers. We only know that His laws obey Him with an exactness and a promptness unknown in any railway system of the world.
When there is a miracle that seems to be at variance with the universal law of gravitation, there is merely a higher power introduced. The law of gravitation can actually be overcome by the arm of a little child. The ball, according to the natural laws, ought to fall to the ground. When it’s bounced, it bounds up to the ceiling. Now the hand of a little child can stop the operation of the law of gravitation by catching the ball. When God, therefore, puts forth the strength of His arm, He can suspend the action of some of the laws He has made in order to manifest His goodness and His justice and the fact that He is Lord of creation; but in this case, to witness the truth of the messenger and the message.
Characteristics of Miracles Worked by Our Lord:
Our Lord worked many miracles. Here are some of the characteristics about them. We have already hinted at this idea. First, He worked them as signs to convince men of the fact that He who came to work these miracles was the One that was promised:
- He never worked a miracle to amaze a multitude.
- He never worked a miracle to satisfy His hunger or His thirst.
- He never worked a miracle to obtain a living.
- He never received money for the things which He accomplished.
- He refused to convert the stones in the wilderness to bread to satisfy His own hunger, or to cause water to gush out of a rock to slake His thirst. Instead, He asked a woman to let down her bucket to give Him a drink.
Our Lord’s Explanation of why He Worked Miracles:
Our Lord explained why He worked miracles. He said, “If I act like the Son of my Father, then let my actions convince you where I cannot, so you will recognize and learn to believe that the Father is in Me and I in Him.” (1) And on another occasion He said, “The actions which my Father has enabled me to achieve, those very actions which I perform, bear Me witness that it is the Father who has sent Me.” (2) If it was God’s will to give a revelation, miracles were very well fitted to certify and guarantee that message is true. If the miracle occurs in conection with the act or word of a person who professes to deliver a revelation from God, the coincidence proclaims the divine approval of both the teacher and the message. The miracles, therefore, were seals which God set upon His revelation of Christ, as Christ is divine Himself. And if Jesus Himself shows that it is by His own power that He works a miracle, He proves Himself to be the very Lord of the universe and to be God.
Other Characteristics of Miracles Worked by Our Lord:
Another characteristic of the miracles of our Blessed Lord is that there is nothing silly or unreasonable in any of them that were recorded. They were subject to the tests of everyone. The vast majority of the miracles were never miracles that took place in the inner secret places of peoples’ lives when what might be called the physical world where they could be verified scientifically.
Our Lord never performed a miracle unless there were witnesses present. When He healed the leper, there was a great multitude following Him. (3) In the healing of the centurion’s servant, He did not even go where the servant was dying.(4) When He raised Peter’s mother in law from her sickbed, the apostles and others were present. (5) Our Lord never went up into a mountain to perform some miracle alone with no person being present and then come out and say that He had done it. His works were accomplished before the eyes of multitudes of people, and that is why none of the miracles of our Blessed Lord were actually denied, not even His resurrection. The apostles were forbidden to teach it and preach it, but the miracle itself was never denied.
3rd Characteristics of Miracles Worked by Our Lord:
Christ’s miracles are inseparable from His person.
A third characteristic of His miracles is that they are inseparable from His person. His miracles differed from prophets and others inasmuch as theirs was the answer to a prayer granted by a higher power. But His flowed from the majestic life that was resident in Him. That is why St. John calls them in his gospels signs or works, meaning that they were the sort of thing that might be expected from Him, being what He was. They were evidences of His divine revelation, but they were even more, for they testified to His redemptive action as the Savior of the world. By healing the palsied, the lame and the blind, Christ clothed with visible form His power to cure spiritual diseases. These physical diseases were to Him symbols of that which was spiritual. He often passed from the physical fact of a miracle to its symbolic and spiritual meaning. For example, blindness, was a symbol of the blindness to the light of faith, and by casting out devils from those who were possessed, He pointed out His victory over the powers of evil whereby men would be freed from slavery to evil and restored to moral liberty. If you expel the miracles from the life of Christ, you destroy the identity of Christ and the gospels. Even a neutral attitude toward the miraculous element in the gospels is impossible. The claim to work miracles is not the least important element of our Lord’s teaching. Nor are the miracles which were wrought by Him merely an ornament to His life. The miraculous is interwoven with His entire life. The moral integrity of our Lord’s character is dependent upon the reality of His miracles, for if He was a deceiver, He was not what He claimed to be.
Therefore, we cannot put asunder two things which God has joined together, namely, the beauty of Christ’s character and the reality of the Miracles which he worked.
How Many Miracles did Our Lord Work?
How many miracles did He work? Well, the specific number of miracles that are mentioned in the gospels are 35:
- Three of these miracles tell of raising the dead, one a child, one a young man, one an adult.
- Nine relate to nature
- and 23 relate to healing.
- In addition to these, there are miracles related to the life of Christ Himself, like the virgin birth, resurrection, ascension, and so forth.
- But though there are only 35 specific miracles that are mentioned, it must not be thought that these are the only miracles that our Blessed Lord ever worked. Listen to the way St. John concludes his gospel. “There is much else besides that Jesus did. If all of it were put in writing, I do not think the world itself could contain the books which would have to be written.” (6)
In other words, there must have been miracles beyond counting, and that is why, when the multitude had witnessed one miracle, they said, “Can the Christ be expected to do more miracles at His coming than this man has done?” (7) In other words, it was preannounced that when the Christ, the Messias came, He would work miracles, but this one has worked miracles in abundance. Therefore, He must be the Christ.
The Study of the Most Important Miracle: – The Resurrection
Now we are going to take one miracle in particular and study it, and that is the most important one of all, namely, the Resurrection. There are five distinct accounts of the resurrection in the New Testament , four are of the gospels, one of St. Paul. It is to be remembered that St. Paul had conversed with Peter and James about three years after his conversion and therefore was in personal relationship with the apostles. These five distinct records give 11 ,at least 11 accounts of the resurrection of our blessed Lord and of His various appearances; in one instance, an appearance to 500 people.
The fact is that our Blessed Lord died on the cross, was buried in 100 pounds of spices as was the custom, and a watch or a guard was set. In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it and a soldier set to guard it to prevent a dead man from rising, and that was the tomb of Christ on the evening of the Friday called “good”. What spectacle could be more ridiculous than armed soldiers keeping their eyes on a corpse? But sentinels were set, lest the dead walk, the silent speak, and the pierced heart quicken to the throb of life. They said He was dead; they knew He was dead; they said He would never rise again. Yet, they watched. They remembered that He called His body “The Temple” and that in three days after they had destroyed it, He would rebuild it.(8) They recalled, too, that He had compared Himself to Jonas, and said that as Jonas was in the belly of the whale for three days, (9) so would He be in the belly of the earth for three days and then would rise again. (10) After three days Abraham received back his son Isaac, who was offered in sacrifice. They were familiar with that idea. For three days Egypt was in darkness; it was not of nature.(11) On the third day God came down on Mt. Sinai.(12) Now, once again, there was worry about the third day.
The Jews third day concern:
Early Saturday morning, therefore, the chief priests and the Pharisees broke the Sabbath and presented themselves to Pilate saying,
“Sir, we have recalled into memory that this deceiver, while He yet lived, said, ‘I am to rise again after three days.’ Give orders, then, that His tomb shall be securely guarded until the third day, or perhaps His disciples will come and steal Him away. If they should then say to the people that He is risen from the dead, this last deceit would be more dangerous than the old.”(13)
A request for a guard till the third day had more reference to Christ’s words about His resurrection than it did to the fear of the apostles stealing a corpse and propping it up like a living thing in simulation of a resurrection. But Pilate was in no mood to see this group, for they were the reason why he had condemned innocent blood. He had made his own official investigation. Christ was dead. He would not submit to the absurdity of using Caesar’s armies to guard a dead Jew, and Pilate therefore said to them, “You have guards. Away with you! Make it secure as best you know how.” (14)
The watch was to prevent violence, the seal was to prevent fraud. There must be a seal, and the enemies would seal it. There must be a watch, and the enemies must keep it. The certificates of the death and resurrection must be signed by the enemies themselves. The gentiles were satisfied through nature that Christ was dead, and the Jews were satisfied through the law that He was dead. And then, as the gospel of Matthew puts it, “They went and made the tomb secure, putting a seal on the stone and setting a guard over it.” (15) The King lay in state with His guard about Him. The most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance over the dead was that the enemies of Christ expected His resurrection but His friends did not. It was the believers who were the skeptics. It was the unbelievers who were credulous. His followers needed and demanded proof before they would be convinced.
Now suppose we do not accept the witness of the resurrection and other proofs of miracles attesting the trustworthiness of Christ. How explain, then, the empty tomb? How account for the fact that the apostles went about preaching the resurrection and no one denied it? Well, the two popular explanations that are given by those who deny the resurrection are the following:
First, the lie theory. This theory says that the apostles lied about the resurrection as well as every other witness who claimed he had seen the risen Christ. Now this theory is manifestly very false, for what chance was there of persuading the world that He had risen from the dead if He had not done so? It was nothing less than the conviction of the Lord’s resurrection could have induced men to venture their lives on it and, furthermore, their conduct proved that they believed in it overwhelmingly. They preached the crucifixion in the very place where He was crucified and in the very place where they had to suffer for preaching it. Persons do not suffer for what they believe to be false. The resurrection was not a lie.
There is another theory to explain away the resurrection and it can be put in popular psychological language of the day as follows. This theory holds that the apostles were very anxious to see Him as the risen Savior. They had heard Him say that He would rise from the dead, and all of these words about the resurrection had seeped down into their subconsciousness. The ideas rested there as a kind of desire, then Good Friday there came a terrible defeat and crucifixion. They knew their cause was lost, and it was that their very desire to see the resurrection that became the father to the thought that there was a resurrection. Having been defeated in their Messianic hopes by seeing their Savior killed and crucified, they now began, according to this theory, to imagine His resurrection. They believed that they had seen Him, so thoroughly were they convinced that He said He would rise.
Now this theory is false for many reasons. First, it does not correspond at all with the facts. The apostles knew the difference between a trance and reality; in fact, there are many passages in scripture concerning this difference. Then, too, the appearances did not take place when the disciples were at prayer or at worship, or subject or when they might have been subject to religious fancies. The appearances of the risen Christ took place in the ordinary everyday occupations, when they were going for a walk, or seated at supper, or out fishing. They took place in the most trivial of circumstances quite different from that which enthusiasts would have imagined or where visions were likely to occur, namely, in sleep. Then, too, the most astounding thing about the resurrection is that no one expected it. The Lord indeed said that He would rise from the dead. None of His followers believed it. That is why the women brought spices on Easter Sunday morn. And they brought spices, why? To anoint and embalm a dead body, not to greet a risen one. And furthermore, the appearances of Christ were not while people were looking for it. No one was anticipating Him, even hoping for a resurrection.
When Mary Magdalene, for example, found the tomb empty, it never occurred to her that He had come to life. She said that someone had moved Him from one burial place to another. And furthermore, when the news of the empty tomb was brought to Peter and John before they had seen the risen Lord, their explanation was, “Oh, it’s a woman’s story. You know how women are, always imagining things.” There was one apostle who remained doubtful for a whole week, and that was Thomas. And another argument against this vision or subjective or psychological theory is that visions do not occur to different persons simultaneously. Man’s private illusions, like his dreams, are his own. Men do not dream at once and all at the same time exactly the same dream. Nor is there any evidence that when Christ appeared to the 500 that any one of them doubted the reality of it. Then, too, as regards this subjective theory, a vision, for example, could never roll away the stone from the door of the tomb, and there was a Jewish guard, there were soldiers there. Furthermore, persons could not honestly have visited the tomb and found it empty if the body were there all the time. They would never have had that kind of vision.
If the resurrection were merely an illusion, the touching of the body of Christ, the putting of the finger into the hand and the hand into the side as Thomas did would certainly have cured any such illusion. Furthermore, when our Lord appeared, He ate food. They saw the food vanish. He took bread. They saw the bread break. On another occasion, He gave them bread and fish and they were satisfied of their hunger and this certainly does not happen when there is only a dream or an illusion. And so, the fact is that none of the apostles expected a resurrection. They had to be convinced. They had to be convinced the hard way, as Thomas had to be convinced.
Believe me, the skeptics of today cannot compare with the skeptics of those days, namely, the apostles. They were the doubters, and when they were convinced, they proved that they believed in it by having their throats cut for that cause.
THE KING LAY IN STATE WITH HIS GUARD ABOUT HIM
So our Blessed Lord went before the world with another argument of His divinity, namely, miracles were a sign of His divinity. Now that He had risen from the dead, He asked men to be prepared to die to what was low in them in order that they might rise again.
God love you.
1 Jn 10:38
2 Jn 5:36
3 Mt 8:1-4
4 MT 8:8
5 MT 8:14
6 Jn 21:25
7 JN 7:31
8 JN 2:19
9 Jon 2:1
10 Mt 12:40
11 Ex 10:22
12 Ex 19:11
13 Mt 27:62-64
14 MT 27:65
15 MT 27:66
1. What in today’s lesson stood out most to you?
2. Knowing now what you learned in today’s lesson – how might this change your thoughts about Christianity?
3. Seeing the importance of understanding the miracles performed by Christ as a way of authentication that in fact He was the Son of God, how has this aided you in your Faith journey?
156. “What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe ‘because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived’.[Dei Filius: 3 DS 3008.] So ‘that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.'[Dei Filius: 3 DS 3009.] Thus the MIRACLES of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability ‘are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all’; they are ‘motives of credibility’ (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind impulse of the mind’.[Dei Filius: 3: DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20 ; Heb 2:4 .]”
“The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.[cf. Jn 5:36 ; Jn 10:25, 38 .] To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.[Cf. Mk 5:25-34 ; Mk 10:52 ; etc.] So MIRACLES strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.[Cf. Jn 10:31-38 .] But his MIRACLES can also be occasions for ‘offence’;[Mt 11:6 .] they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident MIRACLES some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.[Cf. Jn 11:47-48 ; Mk 3:22 .]”
549. “By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,[Cf. Jn 6:5-15 ; Lk 19:8 ; Mt 11:5 .] Jesus performed messianic SIGNS. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,[Cf. Lk 12 13-14 ; Jn 18:36 .] but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.[Cf. Jn 8:34-36 .] “
1151. “SIGNS taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the SIGNS of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.[Cf. Lk 8:10 .] He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical SIGNS or symbolic gestures.[Cf. Jn 9:6 ; Mk 7:33ff .; Mk 8:22ff .] He gives new meaning to the deeds and SIGNS of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,[Cf. Lk 9:31 ; Lk 22:7-20 .] for he himself is the meaning of all these SIGNS. “
272. “Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and RESURRECTION of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.'[1 Cor 1:24-25 .] It is in Christ’s RESURRECTION and exaltation that the Father has shown forth ‘the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe’.[Eph 1:19-22 .]”
“After his RESURRECTION, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity. He was ‘designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his RESURRECTION from the dead’.[Rom 1:3 ; cf. Acts 13:33 .] The apostles can confess: ‘We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.'[Jn 1:14 .]”
643. “Given all these testimonies, Christ’s RESURRECTION cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.[Cf. Lk 22:31-32 .] The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the RESURRECTION. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (‘looking sad'[1 Lk 24:17 ; cf. Jn 20:19 .]) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an ‘idle tale’.[Lk 24:11 ; cf. Mk 16:11, 13 .] When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, ‘he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.'[Mk 16:14 .]”
“Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. ‘In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.'[Lk 24:38-41 .] Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee ‘some doubted.'[Cf Jn 20:24-27 ; Mt 28:17 .] Therefore the hypothesis that the RESURRECTION was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the RESURRECTION was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.”
652. “Christ’s RESURRECTION is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life.[Cf. Mt 28:6 ; Mk 16:7 ; Lk 24:6-7, 26-27, 44-48 .] The phrase ‘in accordance with the Scriptures'[Cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4 ; cf. the Nicene Creed.] indicates that Christ’s RESURRECTION fulfilled these predictions.”
1274. “The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (‘Dominicus character’) ‘for the day of redemption.'[St. Augustine, Ep. 98, 5: PL 33, 362; Eph 4:30 ; cf. Eph 1:13-14 ; 2 Cor 1:21-22 .] ‘Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.'[St. Irenaeus, Dem ap. 3: SCh 62, 32.] The faithful Christian who has ‘kept the seal’ until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life ‘marked with the sign of faith,'[Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 97.] with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of RESURRECTION.”