Any serious study of the Gospels must take into account the element of the miraculous. Simply to deny categorically its possibility is to leave unanswered one of the historical problems involved, to say nothing of the spiritual element. Within itself this is an unscientific procedure. For the Gospels are trustworthy historical documents which lend themselves to established historical criteria and analysis. That the miraculous poses a problem for the scientific mind is evident. But it is not a problem peculiar to a scientific age. Augustine is but one of the ancients who wrestled with it.De Civitate Dei XXI, 8; Contra Faustum XXVI, 3.
This particular study of the miraculous is confined to the Gospel of Matthew. However, it is necessary that the problem first shall be viewed as a whole.
In this scientific age for some the word “miracle” suggests magic or that which is unnatural. However, this thought is not present in the Greek words which in the New Testament refer to the miraculous. Of interest for this study is the fact that the English word “miracle” does not appear in Matthew (KJV). It occurs only twice in the other Synoptic Gospels. In Mark 9:39 it translates the word for “power.” Luke 2 3:8 uses it to render the word for “sign.” Thirteen times in John “miracle” translates this same word. The Revised Standard Version omits the word “miracle,” preferring to give a more exact rendering of the Greek words.
This does not mean that the miraculous element is absent or removed from the Gospels. It is but a matter of terminology. And a correct understanding of terminology is essential to a true comprehension of any subject.
Four Greek words are employed in the Gospels to express the idea of the miraculous: dunamis, “mighty works;” ergon, “work;” semeion, “sign;” and teras, “wonder.” In Matthew dunamis appears in this sense seven times (7:22; 11:20, 21, 23; 13:54, 58; 14:2); ergon one time (11:2, possible reference to miracles); semeion twelve times (12:38-39; 16:1-4; 24: 24, 30; 26:48); and teras one time (24:24). One common element is present in each of these words. They speak of events outside of the ordinary experience of man, mighty works or wonders designed to reveal the presence of God in the act.
However, the miraculous element is not limited to specific references in which these words appear. In Matthew there are general references to the miraculous of which specific accounts are given with regard to particular events. The use of these words (except teras, 24:24, Jesus’ reference to false messiahs, although the word is used elsewhere in a different sense, cf. Acts 2:19, 22) points to an abundance of such deeds which are not recorded in the Gospel itself (cf. John 21:25).
Against the background of this general survey two words serve as foci for the remainder of this study: definition and demonstration.
Is it possible to frame a definition of “miracle” in keeping with reverent scientific knowledge without denuding it of the miraculous element? It is, provided that physical science and philosophy recognize their limitations, and attribute to religion an autonomy within its own realm. A miracle, then, is an act of God in keeping with his holy will and purpose in which he, through laws of his own creation and knowledge, modifies the normal functions of nature as known to man to accomplish his spiritual ends.
This definition is not out of harmony with that of Webster’s Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. “Miracle [is] an abnormal event or occurrence which cannot be explained by any known natural law of cause and effect, and is therefore assigned to supernatural agency; something transcending known laws of nature.” But the definition posed above does go beyond Webster in stating the origin and purpose of such an event. Furthermore, it suggests that the miraculous is not necessarily “abnormal.” In its truest sense it may be a restoration of that which is normal.
The problem of the miraculous centers in one’s concept of nature. To the pure materialist miracles are regarded as impossible. But the trend in modern science is toward a recognition of a spiritual power or Personality behind the natural order. Religion gives to this Personality a name, God. What, then, is the relation ship of God to his universe? Is he entirely immanent, a prisoner within the natural order, and subject to the known laws of his own creation? Or is he completely transcendent, above his creation, and unconcerned about it? Neither of these extremes satisfies reason or spiritual experience. Both lead to the conclusion that God is both immanent and transcendent with relation to the universe. In this sense the words “abnormal” and “supernatural” lose much of their meaning with regard to the miraculous.
A thorough study of life at any one of its levels reveals laws which govern events in both nature and man. The question arises as to how extensive and intensive is man’s knowledge of natural law. In recent years discoveries in areas ranging all the way from electronics to psychology demonstrate the finite nature of man’s knowledge. Indeed, scientific research in any field of knowledge is based upon the conviction and faith that there are yet laws of God (nature) that have not been discovered by man. Even at the natural level alone science would be unscientific to suppose that it is cognizant of all God’s laws. The miraculous, therefore, may be explained as the working of laws which are perfectly natural to God but unnatural within the knowledge of man.
But even this does not tell all of the story. Material science makes much of the continuity within nature as seen in the law of cause and effect. However, illustrations abound in which this continuity is broken by injecting into the process the personal will of pi.an. By his personal will man makes water to run uphill, heavier than air objects to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and chemical reactions to be altered by the use of other ingredients in order to achieve a desired result. Admitted, that even these processes adhere to fixed laws of nature. But they are the imposition through human intelligence and will of other factors upon a given set of laws, that they may be guided to an effect desired by the person involved. Personality is a spiritual reality. And as inadequate as the above illustrations may be, they serve to point out that even at the natural and human level the law of spirit is superior to the laws of matter.
It is illogical for finite man to deny to the infinite God that which he claims for himself. In this sense, therefore, that which is supernatural to man is natural with God. It is the infinite spiritual Personality imposing his intelligence and will, through laws of his own choosing, to break into the basic continuity of nature in order to achieve his higher spiritual ends. Such a concept elevates the miraculous above the level of magic to the plane of the mighty working of God in natural and human events for his holy purpose.
This is not a new concept of the miraculous. Augustine long ago said:
How is that contrary to nature which happens by the Will of God, since the Will of so mighty a Creator is certainly the nature of each created thing? A portent therefore happens not contrary to Nature, but contrary to what we know of Nature.
God the Author and Creator of all Natures, does nothing contrary to Nature . . . . There is, however, no impropriety in saying that God does a thing contrary to Nature when it is contrary to what we know in Nature. . . but against the supreme law of Nature. . . God never acts, any more than He acts against Himself.Ibid., as quoted from Hillyer H. Straton, Preaching the Miracles of Jesus (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), p. 15.
The Gospel of Matthew contains an ample demonstration of the above-mentioned definition as seen in its account of the life of Jesus Christ. For convenience this demonstration may be divided into, first, his Person, and second, his work. Or to put it another way, it is a demonstration of the miraculous as done to Jesus and as done by him.
The Person of Jesus
By any standard of judgment Jesus himself is a miracle. Matthew presents Jesus as sinless (27:4). And that within itself is a miracle in the moral realm. He portrays Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy concerning the Jewish Messiah.G. Campbell Morgan see this not as a light from without, but Jesus’ “Inherent glory flashing forth” from within. pp. 227-28. This also enters into the realm of the miraculous.
But this element is best seen in the person of Jesus with reference to “the crises of the Christ.”Cf. G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell, Co., 1935). These crises are his birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, death, and resurrection. At these crisis points in the life of Jesus God injects into the normal operation of the law powers unknown to man to act in ways conducive to the achievement of his redemptive purpose.
Examples may be cited such as the identification of the Messiah to John the Baptist at Jesus’ baptism (3:16-17); the temptation of Jesus by the DevilSome see this as a psychological experience. The author holds to a bodily appearance of Satan in keeping with the bodily manifestation of Christ. in the wilderness and the subsequent ministry of angels (4:1-11); and the transfiguration of Jesus (17:2). In each of these events there is a union of the sensate and the spiritual.
But the miraculous element is delineated most clearly at the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly existence. It is as though in tones that cannot be ignored or denied God is saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (cf. 3:17; 17:5).
The first of these, of course, is the birth of Jesus. The account given in Matthew is obviously that of a virgin birth (1:18-25). It is simply told without ostentation, which within itself, from the standpoint of literary criticism, argues for its authenticity.
Since this study is confined to Matthew the more detailed account of the virgin birth in Luke does not come into consideration. But one cannot ignore the fact that the latter came from the pen of a physician, a scientist who knew how, and had the opportunity to ferret out facts and evaluate evidence. Luke plainly states that he wrote his Gospel after “having traced the course of all things accurately from the first” (1:3, ASV). He has been proved to be a reliable historian, a fact which adds weight to the parallel accounts found in the other Gospels.
Matthew says simply that the virgin Mary “was found of child of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]” (1:18). Obviously this poses a problem for biology. And various attempts have been made to solve it. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries, ignorant of the facts, regarded Jesus as the “carpenter’s son” (13:55). Some adverse critics have sought to explain the virgin birth as being inspired by heathen myths or Jewish legends. On the other side, an argument favoring its possibility has been based on evidence of parthenogenesis in lower forms of life. Neither of these approaches finds acceptance by modern scholarship. Matthew Arnold in his preface to Literature and Dogma declared that “. . . our popular religion at present conceives the birth, . . . as altogether steeped in prodigy, brimful of miracle; –and miracles do not happen.”(London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1884), p. xii. More sophisticated modern explanations see it as a theological “myth” read back into the record by the early Church, or else endeavor to existentialize it as “faith.”
But the record is clear insofar as Matthew is concerned. This document is historically trustworthy, and lends itself to critical analysis. Had the author been writing with historical bias, he most certainly would have omitted any reference to Jesus’ parentage which argued otherwise (cf. 13:55). Instead he is careful in tracing Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, for legal reasons, to point out that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus (1:16). Even the Sinaitic Syriac version of 1:16, which says that Joseph begat Jesu, contradicts itself by reporting in 1:18-20 that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph refused to accept Mary in marriage until he received a message from the angel of the Lord. Some Cerinthian Gnostic apparently altered the text in 1:16 in an effort to remove the element of the virgin birth, but overlooked 1:18-20.
In the face of the evidence how else would one explain the incarnation of the Son of God? Had Jesus been born of a natural father, he would have been only the son of a man and woman. He would not have been unique in history. The entire record of his life stands or falls on this account. It is beside the point to assume that the virgin birth is unnecessary for God’s redemptive revelation. Only thus could the divine and the human have been combined in one sinless nature. And apart from this mysterious union either he is separate from God or else removed from man. To claim either is to deny his redemptive work.
Biology cannot even probe the mystery of the generation of physical life. Until it does, it can hardly claim to speak with authority with regard to the divine. The virgin birth is a miracle. It is the work of God for spiritual ends within the realm of laws known only to him. B. A. Copass was right when he said that man must be content to let God know some things that he does not know.Due to lack of space this study omits any consideration of “dreams” (1:20; 2:12-13, 19) and the “star” (2:2). Suffice it to say that Matthew says that it was “his star.” Efforts to explain it by known astronomical phenomena fail. (See Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1950, p. 263). Robertson calls it a miracle. To create “his star” required less power from God than did his redemptive work.
The Evangelists’ concept of the importance of the last week in Jesus’ life is seen in the comparative space given to it in accounts covering a ministry of three and one half years. At the end of this week stood the cross.
The crucifixion was no surprise to Jesus. From the beginning of his public ministry he alluded to it by veiled reference (cf. John 2:18f.) as a “sign” to the Jewish rulers. Six months before the event he began plainly to teach the twelve concerning it (Matt. 16:2lf.). Two days before the crucifixion he named the day on which it occurred (Matt. 26:2). The crucifixion itself was a miracle of divine grace. It was the death of the God-man as the grace of God dealt with the sin of man in the miracle of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19).
Matthew records the crucifixion as a fulfilment of prophecy (27:35). A study of the trial of Jesus reveals that he died not as a criminal but as the Messiah, the Son of God (26:63-66), and as the King (27:11, 37).
But the fact that this was no ordinary death is most clearly seen in the miraculous events attendant upon the crucifixion itself (27:45f.). The realms of nature, religion, and death are all involved.
John A. BroadusCommentary on Matthew (“An American Commentary on the New Testament” Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1886), pp. 573f. points out that the “darkness” (v. 45) was not an eclipse, since it was a time of the full moon. “The supernatural darkness. . . may be regarded as a sort of symbol of the Saviour’s mental suffering, which at last found expression in his loud cry.”Ibid., p. 574. It may also be added that it was nature’s suffering along with that of nature’s God. With respect to the “earthquake” Broadus comments, “Earthquakes are common in Palestine, and this earthquake need not be thought supernatural.”Ibid., p. 576. Even so, the miracle involves the time at which it happened, not the natural phenomenon itself.
Matthew is careful to point out that the rending of the “veil” was “from the top to the bottom” (27:51). Thus the hand of God opened .the way into the Holy of Holies, symbolically in the· temple, as he did actually on the cross.
The opening of the tombs may be attributed to the earthquake. But its miraculous purpose is evidenced by the coming forth of the saints to appear to many. The “saints” may have been followers of Jesus who died prior to his death. The “many” probably were Christian friends.
The phenomenon poses a theological problem. Did these saints rise before Jesus’ resurrection? If so, can Jesus rightly be called the “first fruits” (1 Cor. 15:20)? The words “after his resurrection” (Matt. 27:53) are ambiguous in the Greek text. Broadus suggests that they belong with the latter part of the verse. If so, says he, “they rose at the time of Christ’s death . . . but appeared only after he appeared . . . only to believers, who knew that Jesus had risen.”Ibid. This would hardly seem to satisfy 1Corinthians 15:20. The difficulty is removed if these words are left as they appear in the Authorized Version. Some suggest that Jesus released these saints when he entered Hades. Any word beyond the bare record may be speculation. If one accepts the fact of the miracles connected with Jesus’ birth, there need be no insurmountable difficulty here.
Whatever may be the explanation of the strange events connected with Jesus’ death, Matthew records that they were portents of significance both to “the centurion and they that were with him” (27:54) . The fact that in the Greek text the centurion’s words have no definite article with “Son,” does not change the meaning. It may be rendered “God’s Son” or literally, “Truly God’s Son was this.” What had been tauntingly thrown into the face of Jesus by the chief priests (27:43) became a conviction in a pagan heart. Thus, God worked through laws of his own knowledge to accomplish his spiritual ends, not only for the moment but forevermore.
Had Matthew ended his Gospel with 27:66 it would have ended in a note of eternal tragedy. His account of the resurrection and subsequent commission crowns the story (Matt. 28). The Christian gospel never ends with the cross, but declares the resurrection and a living Lord (cf. Acts 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:14-20).
As one reads the Gospel of Matthew from the virgin birth through the resurrection there is a natural sequence, emphasized at the various crisis points with the element of the miraculous. Indeed the first great miracle, the virgin birth, foreshadows the last, the resurrection. And the last authenticates the first. Indeed the resurrection was the “sign” given by Jesus to the Pharisees as proof of his deity (Matt. 12:38-41). Matthew alone records the first denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus (28:11f.). Truly the men of Nineveh shall “condemn” those who deny this greatest of all historical truths!
It is hardly necessary to review the various attempts to dis prove the bodily resurrection of Jesus.Cf. H. H. Hobbs, Who Is This? (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1952), pp. 120f. The most recent one is the “myth” theory of Rudolph Bultmann. Perhaps the position most widely held by modern liberal scholars is that of the survival of Jesus’ spirit after death. But this runs counter to the meaning of the Greek word for “resurrection” itself. It connotes something that was dead and is made alive again. No one contends that Jesus’ spirit died, only his body. Such a position is based more on Plato’s philosophy than on New Testament interpretation.
Three things stand out most prominently with reference to the reality of the resurrection: Jesus’ repeated predictions of the event (Matt. 12:40; 16:20; 27:63); the empty tomb; and the Christian church. Matthew takes account of all three.
Whatever position one may take with regard to Jesus’ resurrection one fact is quite evident. All four Evangelists record that the body of Jesus was placed in a tomb. All four record that three days later the tomb was empty.The importance of Luke’s account is noted here as in the case of the virgin birth. Matthew is unique in pointing out the placing of a guard before the tomb, prompted by the very predictions of Jesus (27:62-66). He further enhances his account as the only writer who relates the event of the rolling away of the stone, and its effect on the Roman guards (28:2-4). He hammers home the importance of the empty tomb as alone he records the reaction of the chief priests to the report of the guards (28:11-15). And he closes his Gospel as he relates the fact of the resurrection and the commission to the Christian church (28:16-20).
Admittedly the events embodied in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus do not submit to a natural explanation. But they do submit to the concept of the miraculous as hitherto defined. They are acts of God in keeping with his holy will and purpose in which he, through laws of his own creation and knowledge, modifies the normal functions of nature as known to man to accomplish his spiritual ends. Almost two thousand years of Christian history prove it to be so.
The Work of Jesus
Against the background of the miracle which is Jesus Christ, his “mighty works” find a natural setting. If one denies who he was, an acceptance of what he did poses insurmountable problems. But once he is accepted as presented in the Gospels, the record of his “mighty works” is to be expected. Matthew, along with the other Evangelists, regarded Jesus’ “mighty works” as “signs” of his deity (12:38-39; 16:1-4). Jesus never performed a miracle on demand, nor for his own benefit (cf. Matt. 17:24-27).This miracle had a dual purpose, to relieve the embarrassment of Peter, but more especially to show that Jesus did not claim exemption from the laws of his people.
The Gospels record thirty-five specific miracles performed by Jesus, but many others are implied by general reference. And of these thirty-five miracles, twenty are recorded by Matthew.For a ready reference see Robertson, p. 294. Of these only three are peculiar to Matthew (9:27-34; 17:24-27). Ten are found also in Mark and Luke (Matt. 8:2-4, 14-34; 9:1-8, 18-.26; 12:9-14; 17:14-20; 20:29-34). Four are common with Mark alone (Matt. 12:22-37; 15:2l, 28; 21: 18-21). One is common with Luke (Matt. 8:5-13). One is recorded with Mark and John (Matt. 14:24-33). Only one miracle is common to all four Gospels, the feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13-21).
The miracles recorded by Matthew naturally fall into four categories. Six may be classified as nature miracles (8:23, 27; 14: 13-33; 15:32-38; 17:24-27; 21:18-21). Eight are healing miracles (8:2-4, 5-17; 9:1-8, 20-22, 27-34; 12:9-14; 20:29-34). Five relate to demon possession (8:28-34; 12:22-37; 15:21-28; 17:14-20). One records the raising of the dead (9:18, 23-26).
The nature miracles directly involve the so-called fixed laws of nature apart from psychological or metaphysical factors. But they also must take into account nature’s God. And if these two factors be considered as valid, the nature miracles become not only possible but probable.
It has been objected that the cursing of the fig tree is the only record of a destructive miracle performed by Jesus (21:18-19). But it accomplished a spiritual end (21:20-22). The important thing to note is that Matthew says that the fig tree withered “immediately” or “on the spot” (Thayer).Mark’s reference to the next morning need not conflict. Mark 11:20 may well fit into Matt. 21:20. These are natural laws governing the withering of a tree. The miracle lies in the time element. In natural and chemical elements man can speed up or retard natural laws. Shall he deny the same power to God? The miracle is not that a tree withered, but that it did so immediately at the word of Jesus.
The same principle may apply in Jesus’ stilling of the tempest (8:23-27). [It is a natural phenomenon that storms arise and cease suddenly on the sea of Galilee. The Gospel accounts attest to the former in this case through purely natural causes. This does not in any sense lessen the miraculous element in the stilling of the tempest by Jesus.] The point is not that the storm ceased, but that it did so at the word of Jesus. He “rebuked the winds and the sea.” He spoke to them as though they could understand and respond. Matthew uses · the same word here as he did when Peter “rebuked” Jesus (16:22). Nature obeyed nature’s God. “. . . and there was a great calm” (8:26). That this was no coincidence is seen in the words “great calm.” Had it been a natural stilling of the sea, neither the wind nor the sea would have become calm suddenly. Matthew used the aorist tense (egeneto) to express the suddenness of the event.
The miracle of Jesus’ walking on the water (14:25f.) is highly suggestive. To say that it was an illusion does not satisfy the evidence. The account of Peter also walking on the water rules out this possibility. To swim in the water is an impossibility to one who has no faith to try. Man uses the principle of buoyancy for ships in water and planes in air. Underlying each is the superiority of one law over another. But none of these really apply here. One cannot refrain from comparing Jesus’ ascension with his walking on the water. Granted that the former involved his resurrect10n body, while the latter concerns his natural body. But who is to grant to God power in the one and deny it in the other? Each involves laws of God unknown to man. And this constitutes the miraculous.
The two feedings of the multitudes (14:13-21; 15:29-38) may be said to involve dead matter. But dead to whom? Physics would deny such a claim even at the natural level. To explain these events as experiences of sharing, after the example set by Jesus, or as food stored in a nearby cave, requires more faith than to believe the Gospel accounts. The facts are that the Lord of nature multiplied a few barley cakes and dried fish into food for multitudes. Could not the same God who takes a handful of grain and produces a harvest discernible to man by accepted laws of nature, by laws of his own knowledge but unknown to man do likewise with loaves and fishes ? The difference is in the time element.
The healing miracles recorded in Matthew follow a varying pattern. At times Jesus healed by the touch of his hand (8:3, 15; 9:29; 20:34). At others it was at his spoken word (9:6; 12:13). On one occasion he healed from a distance (8:13). In some in stances the faith of the patient is involved (9:21, 28; 20:31). In others it is the faith of others (8:13; 9:2). In one such miracle no specific mention is made about faith, though the atmosphere suggests it (8:14-15). In each case the element of immediacy is seen, indicating that they were miraculous healings. With the exception of the healing of two blind men (9:27-31) each healing miracle in Matthew is also recorded by Luke, the physician.
Is any particular purpose seen in the healing miracles? For the most part no.ne is evident. In two instances Jesus cautioned the healed to keep silent about it (8:4; 9:30). In only one of the healing miracles recorded in Matthew does Jesus mention the forgiveness of sins (9:2). The healing followed as proof that Jesus had power to forgive sin (9:4f). But in each case the silent witness is to the fact that one who could heal sick bodies could heal sick souls.
What may be said of the healing miracles in general? There is no evidence that they involved the psychosomatic. Were they contrary to natural law? E. Y. Mullins says,
The miracles of Jesus were often restorations rather than violations of natural processes. Sin brought the violations through man’s abuse of his freedom. God’s grace in the gospel is a restoration on a scale of great magnitude and glorious effectiveness. . . . They were restorations, not violations; disease, sin, blindness, demoniac possession, hunger, were evils he came to remedy.The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (Nashville: Baptist Sunday School Board, 1917), pp. 270-71.
Thus, Jesus used natural forces in higher ways and for higher ends. Most physicians recognize that they do· not heal. They merely cooperate with the laws of physical nature. They employ time and means in accord with fixed law. Who can deny to Jesus laws unknown to man and unrestricted by time?
The demon miracles in a sense may be called healing miracles. But they deserve to be treated separately. The question of demons is a debated one. Many moderns pass them off as the relics of a superstitious age, preferring to regard demon possession as physical or mental disorders. That these elements are present in demoniacs is evident. But Broadusp. 189. raises the question as to whether or not the demons produced such, or did disease make the victims susceptible to the indwelling of demons. When all of the evidence is considered, the latter seems to be the case.
The New Testament presents the demons as real. Jesus so regarded them. He spoke to them and they replied. On occasion they showed supernatural knowledge as seen in their testimony to the deity of Jesus (Matt. 8:29). To contend that Jesus’ reference to demons was merely an accommodation to the superstition of the age does an injustice to Jesus and to the biblical record. Jesus’ attitude with reference to demons may be seen in his harsh condemnation of those who contended that he cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons (Matt. 12:22f.).
What is the explanation of this phenomenon? Again Broadus is helpful. He regards the bodily presence of demons as the counterpart of the Incarnation. ”The Eternal Word was then manifesting himself in the flesh; and thus the great struggle which is always going on was brought out into visible appearance, so as to exhibit in a visible and striking way the absolute powerlessness of the evil spirits to contend against God.”p. 190.
It is well to leave the matter here. Suffice it to say that Matthew presents Jesus as exercising absolute power over them. His power to conquer them in the flesh is an earnest of his power to overcome the principalities and powers in the spirit.
The raising of Jarius’ daughter from the dead is Matthew’s only record of such a miracle. But Luke, along with Mark, relates the same miracle. On the basis of Jesus’ words “. . . the maid is not dead, but sleepeth” (9:24), some discount the fact that the girl was dead. But the reaction of the people serves to negate such an idea. Jesus used the word “sleep” elsewhere where death is quite evident (cf. John 11:11f.).
In some mysterious way Jesus restored life to the dead. In so doing he showed that he is the Lord of life and the conqueror of death. It was but a foretaste of his greater victory yet to be won. That which was then abnormal is that which one day will become normal, when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).
Thus Matthew records the “mighty works” of God’s mightiest work, as in keeping with his holy will and purpose, and through laws of his own creation and knowledge, he modified the normal functions of nature as known to man to accomplish his spiritual ends.
Is it possible to believe the miraculous element in Matthew? Given a faith in God as the supreme personal Being who is both immanent and transcendent with respect to his universe, there is no valid reason why one should not believe in the miraculous. “It is easy to believe the New Testament miracles if the same power is known as a personal and vital experience.”Mullins, p. 8.
|↑1||De Civitate Dei XXI, 8; Contra Faustum XXVI, 3.|
|↑2||Ibid., as quoted from Hillyer H. Straton, Preaching the Miracles of Jesus (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), p. 15.|
|↑3||G. Campbell Morgan see this not as a light from without, but Jesus’ “Inherent glory flashing forth” from within. pp. 227-28.|
|↑4||Cf. G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell, Co., 1935).|
|↑5||Some see this as a psychological experience. The author holds to a bodily appearance of Satan in keeping with the bodily manifestation of Christ.|
|↑6||(London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1884), p. xii.|
|↑7||Due to lack of space this study omits any consideration of “dreams” (1:20; 2:12-13, 19) and the “star” (2:2). Suffice it to say that Matthew says that it was “his star.” Efforts to explain it by known astronomical phenomena fail. (See Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1950, p. 263). Robertson calls it a miracle. To create “his star” required less power from God than did his redemptive work.|
|↑8||Commentary on Matthew (“An American Commentary on the New Testament” Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1886), pp. 573f.|
|↑9||Ibid., p. 574.|
|↑10||Ibid., p. 576.|
|↑12||Cf. H. H. Hobbs, Who Is This? (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1952), pp. 120f.|
|↑13||The importance of Luke’s account is noted here as in the case of the virgin birth.|
|↑14||This miracle had a dual purpose, to relieve the embarrassment of Peter, but more especially to show that Jesus did not claim exemption from the laws of his people.|
|↑15||For a ready reference see Robertson, p. 294.|
|↑16||Mark’s reference to the next morning need not conflict. Mark 11:20 may well fit into Matt. 21:20.|
|↑17||The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (Nashville: Baptist Sunday School Board, 1917), pp. 270-71.|
|↑20||Mullins, p. 8.|