(Continued from Part 1)
From the earliest stages of the Old Testament, instructions were given for people by God concerning miracles and their proper functions. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God’s people received a succinct, yet irrefutably clear, annunciation of the function of miracles. There are two primary functions of the signs and wonders.
First, the signs and wonders acknowledge the presence of God. Yet, the mere presence of the signs and wonders is not enough to affirm the presence of God at work. It is possible that signs and wonders might be performed by false prophets (as was the case with Pharaoh’s magicians in Egypt). Thus, a second function of the miracles was to affirm all that God taught and commanded. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 orders Israel to test the prophet to see whether his signs and wonders are followed by leading the people astray from the one, true God. If so, then the false prophet is to be executed for misleading the people by deceitfully performing signs and wonders only to lead God’s people to worship false gods.
Ironically, this Deuteronomy 13 passage is that which was used by the Pharisees against Jesus. Their legalistic
interpretations of the Old Testament were too restrictive to realize that Christ was leading to the Father (John 14:6) and not away from him. To the Pharisees, Jesus was performing signs and wonders, but he was also leading folks away from God. Again, no one doubted whether Jesus was performing miracles. No one doubted whether his miracles were supernatural either, but there was doubt among the unbelieving—and especially among the religious leaders—as to whether his miracles came from God.
This matter of Jesus’s signs and wonders brought the inevitable clash between Jesus and his accusers to its ultimate head. The Pharisees, in accordance with Deuteronomy 13, demanded that Jesus perform a sign in order to test him (Luke 11:16).
Ostensibly, they were testing him in accord with the faithful practices outlined in Deuteronomy 13. Yet, instead of affirming God’s presence from the works of Jesus, these leaders instead insisted that his signs and wonders were empowered by the devil (Luke 11:14ff). Against their accusations, Jesus confirmed that his miracles represented nothing less than the dawning of the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20).
Undaunted, the Pharisees and others persisted in their unbelief—even ascribing Jesus’s miracles to Satan. In this context, the unpardonable sin arises. It is a severe rebellion which will not answer the cry of the miracles of God. How much more severe a crime is it to ascribe those miraculous outbursts of God’s good works to the evil one himself! From the perspective of Jesus, the miracles speak loudly and clearly to the presence of God at work in the midst of his creation.
Lewis is correct, then, that the miracles write out quite legibly a testimony from God that He is at work in the midst of humankind. Lewis had his skeptics to deal with, just as Jesus had his. Some, like the Pharisees, would deny the source of the miracles. Others—like the followers of the Scottish philosopher David Hume—would deny the very presence of miracles. Still others—like King Herod—sought to see the miracles just for the sheer entertainment value, as though Jesus were nothing more than a spiritual magician (Mark 8:15). For all these who fail to acknowledge the presence of the living God, the miracles stand as a testimony of their unbelief (see John 9:41).