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  • Writer's pictureAdam Smith

The Meaning of Miracles

Christ Works In All Things

This is the fourth devotional in our summer series on "The Miraculous Acts of God."

“And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.”— Acts 9:34

“But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.”—Acts 9:40-41

Acts 9:32-43 records two miraculous encounters that Saint Peter had as he traveled throughout Israel. First, he met a paralytic man in Lydda named Aeneas. Then, word was sent to him by Christians in Joppa to come to see Tabitha, a faithful and charitable woman who had recently died. In both encounters, Peter prayed and both of them were healed: Aeneas could walk and Tabitha rose from the dead.

There has certainly been much debate throughout history over the nature of miracles presented in the Bible. Did they actually happen? Do they continue now or have they ceased? Should we pray for/look for miracles today? 

I want to suggest that such conversations can often distract us from considering the primary meaning of miracles in the Bible. In the Bible, miracles signify that God is active in the world. In the New Testament, miracles are signposts that Jesus is making things whole again; they are foretastes of the coming kingdom, an attestation that Jesus is turning things around.

The miracles mentioned after Christ’s ascension, like the ones here in Acts, teach us that the redeeming work of Christ has continued to be applied, even though he is not physically here on earth. If we follow the narrative of Scripture, then we have every reason to believe that Jesus is actively working in the world today in order to bring about goodness and healing, peace and joy, mercy and justice. That’s the meaning of miracles.

The meaning of miracles is perhaps especially relevant for us today. Many people today are resigned to a kind of fatalism: we simply don’t believe that things can change. Increasingly, Americans have a sense of hopelessness when they examine our social or political climate. Relationally, people often get “stuck” because they believe that neither they nor their partner can ever change. What usually follows such mindsets is despair, despondency, or rage. 

If we are to overcome such fatalism in our lives, then we must lay hold of the hope we have in our miracle-working savior. Indeed, the antidote to the hopelessness that we often face today is to remind ourselves of the truth of Jesus’ active work in the world. To be a Christian is to believe that there is no situation that Jesus cannot miraculously bring healing to. As Pastor John Piper once said, “Believing in the living, free, sovereign, loving Lord means living with the possibility and even the likelihood that bad situations are going to turn around, perhaps when you least expect it.” 

What are the things in your life that you feel most hopeless about? Are there situations that you don’t think will ever improve? As Christians, we must call these things to mind and then remind ourselves that Jesus really is working through them for good—though we cannot always see it. Truly, things often turn around when we least expect them to, as with Aeneas and Tabitha. 

The healing of Aeneas and the raising of Tabitha were both signs of Jesus’s ability to bring wholeness to broken things. They were a testament to the unexpected and enduring work of Christ in the world today. They were also a preview of what life will one day be like in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. These miracles remind us that Christ is working in the world now and that he will someday bring about an enduring wholeness—both personally and socially. That’s the Christian hope. 

Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.


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