The Miracles of Christ

 

H.P. Lidden

 


 

The Proper Evidence of Miracles

But if the miracles of Jesus be admitted in the block, as by a "rational" believer in the resurrection they must be admitted they do point, as I have said, to the Catholic [universal] belief, as distinct from any lower conceptions respecting the Person of Jesus Christ. They differ from the miracles of prophets and apostles in that, instead of being answers to prayer, granted by a Higher Power, they manifestly flow forth from the majestic life resident in the Worker. John accordingly calls them Christ's "works," meaning that they were just such acts as might be expected from Him, being such as He was. For our Lord's miracles are something more than evidences that He was the organ of a Divine revelation. They do not merely secure a deferential attention to His disclosures respecting the nature of God, the duty and destiny of man, His own Person, mission, and work. Certainly they have this properly evidential force; He Himself appealed to them as having it. But it would be difficult altogether to account for their form, or for their varieties, or for the times at which they were wrought, or for the motives which were actually assigned for working them, on the supposition that their value was only evidential. They are like the kind deeds of the wealthy, or the good advice of the wise; they are like that debt of charity which is due from the possessors of great endowments to suffering humanity. Christ as Man owed this tribute of mercy which His Godhead had rendered it possible for Him to pay to those whom (such was His love) He was not ashamed to call His brethren. But besides this, Christ s miracles are physical and symbolic representations of His redemptive action as tile Divine Saviour of mankind. Their form is carefully adapted to express this action. By healing the palsied, the blind, the lame, Christ clothed with a visible form His plenary power to cure spiritual diseases, such as the weakness, the darkness, the deadly torpor of the soul. By casting out devils from the possessed He pointed to His victory over the principalities and powers of evil, whereby man would be freed from their thraldom and restored to moral liberty. By raising Lazarus from the corruption of the grave He proclaimed Himself not merely a Revealer of the resurrection, but the Resurrection and the Life itself.

 

They Manifest Forth His Mediatorial Glory

In our Lord's miracles then we have before us something more than a set of credentials, since they manifest forth His mediatorial glory. They exhibit various aspects of that redemptive power whereby He designed to save lost man from sin and death; and they lead us to study, from many separate points of view, Christ's majestic personality as the source of the various wonders which radiate from it. And assuredly such a study can have but one result for those who honestly believe in the literal reality of the wonders described; it must force upon them a conviction of the Divinity of the Worker.

 

A Miracle at Entry and Exit of Christ

But the miracles which especially point to the Catholic doctrine as their justification, and which are simply incumbrances blocking up the way of a humanitarian theorist, are those of which our Lord's Manhood is itself the subject. According to the Gospel narrative Jesus enters this world by one miracle and He leaves it by another. His human manifestation centers in that miracle of miracles, His resurrection from the grave after death. The resurrection is the central fact up to which all leads, and from which all radiates. Such wonders as Christ's birth of a virgin mother, His resurrection from the tomb, and His ascension into Heaven are not merely the credentials of our redemption they are distinct stages and processes of the redemptive work itself. Taken in their entirety they interpose a measureless interval between the life of Jesus and the lives of the greatest of prophets or of apostles, even of those to whom it was given to still the elements and to raise the dead. To expel these miracles from the life of Jesus is to destroy the identity of the Christ of the Gospels; it is to substitute a new christ for the Christ of Christendom. Who would recognize the true Christ in the natural son of a human father, or in the crucified prophet whose body has rotted in an earthly grave? Yet on the other hand, who will not admit that He who was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin mother, who, after being crucified, dead, and buried, rose again the third day from the dead and then went up into Heaven before the eyes of His apostles, must needs be an altogether superhuman being? The Catholic doctrine then is at home among the facts of the Gospel narrative by the mere fact of its proclaiming a superhuman Christ, while the modern Humanitarian theories are ill at ease among those facts. The four evangelists, amid their distinguishing peculiarities, concur in representing a Christ whose life is encased in a setting of miracles. The Catholic doctrine meets these representations more than half way; they are in sympathy with, if they are not admitted to anticipate, its assertion. The Gospel miracles point at the very least to a Christ who is altogether above the range of human experience, and the creeds recognize and confirm this indication by saying that He is Divine[God]. Thus

 

The Christ of Dogma Is the Christ of History;

He is the Christ of the only extant history which describes the Founder of Christendom at all. A neutral attitude towards the miraculous element in the Gospel history is impossible. The claim to work miracles is not the least prominent element of our Lord's teaching, nor are the miracles which are said to have been wrought by Him a fanciful or ornamental appendage to His action. The miraculous is inextricably interwoven with the whole life of Christ. The ethical beauty, nay, the moral integrity of our Lord's character is dependent, whether we will it or not, upon the reality of His miracles. It may be very desirable to defer as far as possible to the mental prepossessions of our time; but it is not practicable to put asunder two things which God has joined together, namely, the beauty of Christ's character and the bona fide reality of the miracles which He professed to work.

 


The Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. H.P. Liddon. Pickering & Inglis LTD. London, no date (Eight Lectures Preached Before The University Of Oxford In 1866); pages 81-84.