Interpreting the Miracles of Jesus

Interpreting the Miracles of Jesus

The following is a transcript of the audio.

Pastor John, it seems the miracles of Jesus can be so situational that it can be hard to know what the takeaways are from the stories as we read them in the gospels. How do you process the miracles of Jesus in your personal devotions?

The day before yesterday, I was reading through the Bible with McCheyne’s Bible reading plan, and came across Matthew 16, where Jesus says to the disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” So clearly he is using a metaphor. I say clearly. It wasn’t so clear to the disciples. They start squabbling with each other about how they didn’t bring any bread.

Jesus hears them and he says to them, “Don’t you remember the 5,000 and the 12 loaves left over and the 7,000 and the seven loaves left over? How is it that you don’t understand that I did not speak about bread?” Now, when I read that in my devotions I just wondered: What is Jesus saying? That if they had really understood the miracle where he fed thousands with a little bit of bread they would have perceived the meaning of his metaphor. And my take away is that they totally misunderstood him, missed the metaphorical meaning and went straight to the literal meaning and Jesus says, “That was stupid, because if you had understood my miracles, you wouldn’t have made that mistake,” which implies that there are mistakes we make in the language of Scripture because we don't grasp the power or miraculous working of Jesus. So the principle that I came away with was: Let me know God. Let me know Jesus in all his works. Let me discern what the point of the feeding of the 5,000 was so that when he says something oblique or metaphorical over I won’t make the same mistake that the disciples did. That has held my attention for the last two days; trying to figure out what the hermeneutical implications of missing out on the power of Jesus are. Clearly they didn’t get his miracle and that had a bad interpretational effect on how they understood his other language.

A takeaway is that we should slow down in our reading and when we finish a miracle, we ought to pause and say, “Jesus, show me what this is saying about you.” Fall down, worship him, and let it have its humbling and strengthening effect. I have a Christ who not only feeds 5,000, but gives 12 baskets to the 12 men who were distributing it. That is just huge. In other words, Jesus is saying, “I will take care of all your needs.” I think, frankly, that is the essence of what they missed. The point of the feeding of the 5,000 for the disciples was the 12 baskets full left over. Which means, if you go ahead and give away what you don’t have, you are going to get everything you need. So when we come later and he says, “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees,” their first thought is not: oh, shoot, we don’t eat bread. Their first thought is: what is it about the Pharisees that are going to undermine our faith? Then they will start to see.

So the takeaway is: Slow down and meditate. Nothing that I have said here demands any scholarly training. You don’t need to know Greek. You don't even go to seminary here. You just need to slow down and pray and think and worship over the miracles of Jesus.

Thumb author john piper

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.