Why Did Jesus Perform Miracles?

Open Your Bible

Matthew 11:2-5, Isaiah 61:1-3, John 2:11, Matthew 12:28-42

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:2-5, Isaiah 61:1-3, John 2:11, Matthew 12:28-42

Most of us have been there. It’s not just painful, but confusingly painful.

Didn’t God hear?
Doesn’t He love me?
Did I not have enough faith?
Why wasn’t it a yes?

These are the questions we ask when the miracle doesn’t come.

Perhaps it was the cancer that wasn’t cured, the chronic illness that never healed, the marriage that couldn’t be saved, or the money that didn’t come through. In the absence of a miracle, these stories about Jesus can be tough to swallow. They can even feel cruel. Why are they here, if not to tease us?

God knows we feel this tension, which is perhaps why He included Matthew 11:2-5 in His perfect Word. Here, John the Baptist asks Jesus if He is, in fact, the “one who is to come”—the Messiah. Jesus answers with a clear allusion to Isaiah 61: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up” (Matthew 11:4-5). He’s essentially saying, “Yes. All the things that were foretold, I am fulfilling them.”

Jesus’ answer to John tells us a lot about the purpose of His miracles: They are a sign of the prophecies fulfilled, a sign that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. They are a sign of His authority, His power, and His glory. And they are a sign of God’s love for us, a sign that we can trust Him.

But here’s what we shouldn’t miss about Jesus’ answer, because John certainly wouldn’t have. Isaiah 61 also says this of the coming Messiah: He will “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (v.1). It’s a message of hope for prisoners, which is exactly what John was; John received Jesus’ message while sitting in a prison cell. And yet, John the Baptist was never set free. Three chapters later, he’s beheaded. Scripture tells us that when Jesus got word of John the Baptist’s death, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13).

Our God is not indifferent to our pain.

Matthew 11:2-5 contains all the power and the glory and the complexity and confusion of Jesus’ miracles. It attests to Jesus’ divine identity, but it also attests to the reality that miracles don’t always come. In this tension, we learn more about what Jesus’ miracles mean.

Jesus’ miracles weren’t only about Him, but about the Kingdom to come. Tucked into every miracle we can almost hear God whisper, “This is what the Kingdom is like. It’s complete healing, total wholeness, freedom, awe, and joy.” Miracles provide a foretaste of this in-breaking Kingdom, but they were never meant to replace it.

We’ll never have the perfect peace and restoration we desire this side of eternity, but miracles point to the place where we will.

Whenever we read stories of miracles, and grapple with their surpassing mystery, we can do so knowing our God is not casual or removed from our pain. Jesus’ very presence on earth reminds us that He entered into it, experiencing the pain along with us. Jesus joined us in waiting for the Kingdom, longing for the day when the need for miracles will be no more.


Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.

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134 thoughts on "Why Did Jesus Perform Miracles?"

  1. Lisa Leese says:

    Im reading this and am all of a sudden slightly confused about the timeline of the interaction of Jesus with John the Baptist. Is John asking this “are you the one we’ve been expecting?” before having ever met Jesus? When did the meeting between the two occur when john sees Jesus and says “behold the lamb of God….” in relation to this imprisonment and this question. thanks all!

    1. Laura says:

      Lisa, John was a cousin to Jesus and Mary was close to his mother. They would have known each other. Much like we see our own relatives often in one way, I believe John’s question is more of a “Really, my cousin is the Mesiah?” type of reaction.

    2. Amy says:

      Lisa, Pastor Robert Morris, with Gateway Church, recently taught a message including this passage. Here’s a link to the message: http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/relat10nship-finding-relationship-through-god’s-top-10/session/2017/05/06/the. If you click on “Message Only”, he starts talking about John the Baptist around 12:30.

  2. Kenna says:

    My niece’s friend passed away today at 28 leaving a 10 month old. My mother asked me “why would God do this” I just sent this to her…

  3. Nancy M. says:

    Notice that in Jesus’ response to John’s question, quoting Isaiah, He left out the phrase about the release of prisoners. So, He was subtly answering John’s question quite specifically – ‘Yes, I am He, but you will remain in prison & will not be spared.’ This is one of the most difficult struggles we face, when faith has been exercised – asking, seeking, & knocking have taken place; we can see how God would be glorified, yet the answer is ‘No, not this time.’ It can shake our very faith to the core. Yet those who who cling to the person of Jesus & not to the work of His hands, have hope that God will do more with an answer of ‘No’ for the sake of eternity than could have been accomplished with a temporal ‘Yes.’ It comes down to do we only want His provision, blessing, healing? Or, do we truly trust our God & His divine purposes, the often unseen will of God? Not easy for even the most mature believers…

    1. Tracey says:

      Love what you said here! Trusting God means being willing to accept the “no’s” we receive in answer to our prayers as in His Will for our lives. Knowing that all is done for our good and His glory is a comforting truth to cling to, yet as you said, so often difficult to accept in the moment.

  4. Olivia Grace says:

    Matthew 12:36-37 is something that is hard for me to swallow. Anyone have any thoughts on those two verses?

    1. Ashley Schultz says:

      Yes, I was just talking to my fiance about this last night. I have so much worry and fear regarding standing in front of God. Will I have done enough? I’m diving into the bible to give myself some comfort. Choosing to believe in a grace giving God.

      1. Brooke says:

        Our God isn’t legalistic! Do we live our lives as best we can reflecting who He is, absolutely! Does he expect us to be perfect, I don’t think so. That’s why he sent His son! To be our propitiation! It was finished on the cross. He loves you no matter what. The main thing is that we are loving people as he did, spreading His joy and telling others about him!

  5. Jeralyn Egger says:

    “Our God is not indifferent to our pain.” This sentence grabbed my heart this morning. When I’m feeling small and invisible this truth will be an anchor.

    1. Meghan Bynum says:

      Me too!

  6. Laura G says:

    Just what I needed to hear yesterday- and today I reread it! Thank you! Jesus’ miracles point us to Heaven where we will experience the ultimate healing, wholeness and peace. This is what I keep reminding myself of because it’s so easy for me to forget. My human mind lives here on Earth and can’t totally embrace the life beyond. But no matter what happens here on Earth, Jesus wants me to keep my eyes and heart on Him, because He knows how easily I forget and despair.

  7. Eunice says:

    Hey everyone! I’ve got a question…

    31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

    What does the verse above mean??

    1. katielinnae says:

      Hi Eunice! I found a commentary (Blue Letter Bible app) by David Guzik that helped me to understand this part. John 15:26 tells us that a ministry of the Holy Spirit is to testify to Jesus as Christ. By rejecting Jesus, people blaspheme against the Holy Spirit by calling Him a liar.
      To me it seems to be one and the same to deny Jesus Himself or deny the testimony by the Spirit.
      Hope that helps!

      1. Tammy says:

        I interpret this to mean if there are is a sin we won’t let go of and we resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit then we are committing blasphemy. Our heart hardens because we are unwilling to release the sin to God. All sins are forgiveable, but it’s when we refuse to ask forgiveness and change that blasphemy occurs.

  8. Lindsey says:

    If John the Baptist had of been carnally minded instead of Kingdom minded, his life would have fallen short of the call God had upon him. It is not always easy to shift perspective from the ‘here and now’ to a kingdom mindset. I know I am so prone to selfish mentalities. I try to see God’s ways through my very limited perspective. God, help me to be kingdom minded, so I can live for you more fully.

    1. Naomi says:

      I second that Lindsey…amen!

    2. Kendra says:

      Here here!