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Scriptures referenced: John 2:1-11; Matthew 14:13-21; Matthew 15:29-38; Matthew 21:18-22; Matthew 14:22-32; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:1-3; Matthew 8:3; Luke 8:40-48; Mark 8:22-26; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 4:23; John 20:31; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-44; John 2:19; Romans 1:4; John 21:25
Many people in the Bible performed miracles, but none quite like Jesus. Who better to christen our journey than Christ Himself?
One after Another ...
Shortly after calling His first disciples, Jesus performed His first miracle-a bit of liquid alchemy that changed ordinary water into some mighty fine wine. This wedding present in Cana of Galilee duly impressed His new disciples, who "put their faith in him."
From that time on, Jesus' miracles multiplied like the few loaves and fishes He used to feed crowds of four and five thousand men-not including women and children (see "There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch" on page 62). For example, Jesus
cursed a barren fig tree, and it immediately withered;
walked on the waters of a stormy sea-and caused Peter to do the same, albeit briefly;
calmed a storm with three words ("Quiet! Be still!"), stunning even the disciples who'd already seen Him do some pretty amazing things;
drove demons out of many people, including His good friend Mary Magdalene, who helped to support Jesus financially;
healed leprosy, paralysis, bleeding, blindness, fever, pain, epilepsy-in Matthew's words, "every disease and sickness among the people."
You Think That's Cool? Get a Load of This ...
Jesus' good friend John said he wrote down the amazing miracles of Jesus' ministry so that you, as his reader, "may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." But just in case all those healings, exorcisms, and examples of control over nature weren't impressive enough for everyone, Jesus could also step up the power a notch-by actually raising people from the dead.
There was the twelve-year-old daughter of a Galilean synagogue ruler named Jairus. Jesus held her by the hand and commanded, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" She did-to the utter amazement of her friends and family, who had gathered for a funeral but left with notes of celebration ringing in their ears. There was the young son of a widow in Nain. He popped out of his coffin at Jesus' command, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" Onlookers were, once again, stunned. There was Jesus' good friend Lazarus, who'd been in a tomb for quite a while before Jesus appeared. "Lord," said Lazarus's sister Martha, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." But why would a little decomposition interfere with Jesus' work? He had put all those molecules together in the first place. "Lazarus, come out!" Jesus shouted-and out of the tomb walked the mummy, "wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." No big deal to Jesus, who said simply, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
What was a big deal was the time Jesus brought Himself back to life-just as He'd predicted. "Destroy this temple," Jesus said of His body to a group of antagonistic Jews, "and I will raise it again in three days."
That's exactly what He did, reviving Himself and zapping miraculously through the solid rock of a sealed tomb (see "Successful Teleportation" on page 102). By that spectacular feat, Jesus "was declared with power to be the son of God."
Not the End of the Story
Though the four Gospels give several dozen examples of Jesus' amazing doings, the apostle John indicated that those accounts may be only the tip of a miracle iceberg. The last verse of John's gospel says, "If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."
Yeah, Jesus was really a miracle man. Or maybe we should say, "Jesus is a miracle man." He's still working wonders today in the lives of all who choose to follow Him.
Miracle Man 2
Scriptures referenced: 2 Kings 2-6; 2 Kings 13:20-21; Luke 4:14-30
If we were awarding Olympic medals to biblical miracle workers, Jesus would clearly take the gold. In sheer numbers of miracles and their impact on people-both then and now-Jesus' amazing feats overshadow those of everyone else in scripture.
But there's a strong candidate for the second-place silver-the Old Testament prophet Elisha.
Variety and Volume
Like the mythical King Midas, whose touch turned everything to gold, Elisha seemed to work a miracle wherever he went. You want examples? How about this list-abridged, mind you:
dividing the Jordan River with Elijah's cloak
healing a poison stream
purifying a tainted gourd stew
multiplying a widow's cooking oil
feeding one hundred hungry men with twenty loaves of bread curing a military commander's leprosy
raising a young man from the dead
With some oddball situations like making an ax-head float and blinding an enemy army thrown in for good measure, Elisha's miracles are like a two-pound bag of M&M's-a lot to chew on, in many different hues. (You can find more details on many of these miracles in "Prophet Breaks the Law-of Physics" on page 128 and "The Free Lunch Preview" on page 67).
Ever Heard of This One?
But there's another Elisha marvel so amazing it might be called a bizarrity. (No, that's not really a word-but maybe if you start using it, we'll get it into the dictionary someday.)
Here's how the Bible records it:
Elisha died and was buried.
Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
Elisha didn't even have to be alive to perform miracles. That's good for at least second place in our little Olympic competition, isn't it?
I'm Still Shaking My Head ...
One striking fact about this miracle is the offhanded way the author of 2 Kings approaches it: The two verses quoted above constitute the entire biblical record of this marvel. And, apart from a brief comment by Jesus as recorded by Luke, these verses represent the final scriptural reference to Elisha.
It almost seems that Elisha's miracles were so common they'd become ho-hum-even a posthumous miracle, to the point of raising a dead man to life, merited only the briefest of mentions in the Bible.
Or perhaps there's a lesson here for us. Though the miracle is important enough to be noted, maybe we're not supposed to put our focus on the event or the prophet behind it. Perhaps our excitement and enthusiasm should be reserved for the God who powers those miracles.
Whatever Happened to ... the Golden Calf?
Scriptures referenced: Exodus 19-32; Exodus 12:35-36
It's not unusual to find ancient Middle Eastern calf statues in museums around the world. But what about the Bible's "golden calf," fashioned as a false god for the people of Israel by Moses' brother Aaron? You'll never see that one-Moses made sure of it.
Dumb and Dumber
The CliffsNotes version of the golden calf goes like this: Three months after they broke out of slavery in Egypt (thanks to a string of ten miraculous plagues that fell on the pharaoh and his people), the Israelites arrived in the Sinai Desert. There, God gave Moses a message to share with the people. They were God's "treasured possession ... a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Thus affirmed, the people replied to Moses, "We will do everything the Lord has said."
As a popular saying from a few years ago went, "Not!" The Israelites would, within six weeks, be reveling in the wild worship of a metal moo-er.
Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments-and a whole bunch of other rules and regulations-from God Himself. As Moses' stay grew longer and longer (ultimately, he'd spend forty days and forty nights on the mountain), the Israelites got itchy.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
Dumb idea. But Aaron's response was even dumber.
Moses' spokesman, who'd personally seen God body-slam the Egyptians in springing the Israelites from bondage, asked the people for their golden earrings -many of which had likely been given to them by Egyptian people during the Exodus itself. Then Aaron formed the accumulated gold into a calf and announced, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
After that, the people began sacrificing burnt offerings to the idol and "sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry."
The Party's Over
God, of course, knew what was happening-and He was none too pleased. The first rule He'd given Moses to forward to the people was this: "You shall have no other gods before me."
The Lord suggested destroying the Israelites and making Moses the forefather of a new nation-but Moses begged God to reconsider. "Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? ... Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'"
God relented, but the Israelites still had to face the wrath of Moses. Marching down Mount Sinai with the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in his arms, his second-in-command, Joshua, at his side, and the sound of the Israelites' merrymaking ringing in his ears, Moses prepared for a confrontation with his older brother.
When he saw the golden idol and the people dancing around it, Moses threw down the stone tablets, which shattered at his feet. (Yes, it was just like Charlton Heston in the movie version.) And Moses grabbed Aaron by the figurative lapels, asking incredulously, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?"
Bye-Bye, Golden Calf
Aaron spluttered some lame-o excuse ("They gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"), but not before Moses took decisive action. His three-step plan ensured that no one would try to worship this particular idol ever again.
First, Moses burned the calf in a fire. Gold melts, so before long the calf was looking rather uncalflike-more just a blob of shiny yellow metal.
Next, Moses ground the gold into powder. If anyone had thoughts of gathering up the gold to re-create the calf idol, this step made such a plan highly unlikely.
"Unlikely" became "impossible" after Moses' final move. He took the powder, scattering it over water-and then made the people of Israel drink it. So that's what happened to the golden calf.
Not Quite the End of the Story
Even though the idol was gone, the idea remained-and, sadly, would pop up again years later when Solomon's kingdom split into northern and southern segments. The northern kingdom of Israel (as opposed to the southern kingdom, which called itself Judah) would launch itself with calf worship and never entirely give it up.
They say you can't keep a good man down. Apparently, that's also true of a bad idea.
Man Marries 700 Women
Scriptures referenced: 1 Kings 11:1-25; 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 1 Kings 3:1-28, 1 Kings 12; Ecclesiastes 1:1-2; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ecclesiastes 12:13
Any husband or wife, speaking honestly, will tell you that marriage isn't easy. It takes hard work to mold two distinct personalities into a unified whole and to deal with all the other challenges a couple faces-including in-laws.
So why on earth would a man want seven hundred wives?
A Good Beginning
You'll find such a man in the pages of the Bible. Not surprisingly, he was a wealthy and powerful king. Quite surprisingly, he was known as the world's wisest person.
If you hadn't already figured it out, the man was Solomon, the third king in Israel's history. He took the throne of his father, David, the "man after [God's] own heart" who led the cantankerous, often idolatrous Israelites to their greatest heights as a nation. As Solomon stepped into this situation, God made him an amazing offer: "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." From this divine smorgasbord, Solomon was smart enough to choose wisdom. "I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties," the novice ruler told God. "So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong." God was pleased with Solomon's request and gave him not only great wisdom, but wealth and honor, too.
Excerpted from Bible Marvels, Oddities, And Shockers by Paul Kent Copyright © 2006 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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