Miracles have been defined as events ‘that cannot be explained by the known laws of nature' and are therefore attributed to a supernatural or divine power. In the Bible, miracles tend to be associated with key people at particularly significant points in time, such as the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the ministry of Jesus. Miracles have continued throughout the development of the Church.

The Exodus

The story of the Exodus includes a number of miracles, including the parting of the waters of the Red Sea to let the Israelites through (Exodus 14:21-31), the provision of manna for the people (see Big ideas: Bread) and water from the rock (see Big ideas: Rock and stone) to meet the people's needs. These miracles often initially strengthen the faith of the people:

‘When the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him' (Exodus 14:31)

but this does not always last. Miracles in themselves do not always seem to bring about long term obedience. See Big ideas: Exile; Jews, Hebrews, Children of Israel; Journeys of faith, Exodus, pilgrims and sojourners.

The miracles of Jesus


In John's Gospel, the miracles performed by Jesus are called ‘signs', because they support his claim to be the Son of God (see Big ideas: Messiah, Christ, Jesus). John ends his account of the wedding feast where Jesus turned water into wine:

‘This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him' (John 2:1-11).


Luke's Gospel focuses particularly on Jesus' healing miracles, probably because of Luke's professional interest as a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He shows Jesus healing an ‘untouchable' leper with a touch (Luke 5:12-15). He then sees beyond physical paralysis to underlying crippling guilt, in the man let down through the roof by his friends. Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven. The man then picked up his bed and walked and, ‘everyone was amazed and gave praise to God'. However, the Jesus heals bleeding womanPharisees and teachers of Jewish law accused Jesus of blasphemy, because in forgiving the man's sins he was claiming to be God (Luke 5:17-26). Luke's account of the healing of a woman with long-term internal bleeding shows that Jesus did not heal without a cost to himself. When she unobtrusively touched his cloak in the crowd, he felt it, ‘Who touched me? I know that power has gone out from me' (Luke 8:43-48). (See Big ideas: Forgiveness, mercy and grace; Redemption, salvation; Sin)

Restoring the dead to life

The Gospels give three accounts of Jesus restoring dead people to life, a widow's son in Nain, Jairus' little daughter and his friend Lazarus. These accounts show Jesus' humanity. ‘When the Lord saw her (the grieving widow), his heart went out to her and he said, “Don't cry”' (Luke 7:11-17). At Lazarus' tomb Jesus wept (John 11:17-44), and when he had restored the little girl to her parents, he told them to give her something to eat (Luke 8:41-56).

The resurrection of Jesus

The one miracle Jesus would not perform was the one mockingly suggested by the bystanders at his crucifixion, ‘Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!' (Matthew 27:40-44). He had taught his disciples that it was necessary for him to die, but that he would come to life again, rise from the dead, on the third day (Luke 18:31-33). Christ's resurrection from the dead, overcoming the power of death, is central to Christian belief. Paul wrote: ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.' Paul lists over 500 people who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection, many of whom were still alive when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:1-14). See Big ideas: Atonement and sacrifice; Cross, crucifixion; Death and resurrection; Forgiveness, mercy and grace; Redemption, salvation.)

Miracles in the history of the Church

Before his death, Jesus told his disciples that they too would have power from the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (John 14:11-12). Many miracles are described in the Book of Acts as the Christian message spreads through the Roman Empire. See Big ideas: Christians; Community, the Church, the Body of Christ; Trinity, Holy Spirit.

There have been ongoing accounts of miracles throughout the history of the church, and they are still reported today across the whole of the global Christian church. To have been used by God to perform a miracle is a necessary qualification for someone to be recognised (canonised) as a saint within the Roman Catholic Church.

Related topics

Big ideas: Atonement and sacrifice; Bread; Christians; Community, the Church, the Body of Christ; Cross, crucifixion; Death and resurrection; Exile; Forgiveness, mercy and grace; Jews, Hebrews, Children of Israel; Journey of faith, Exodus, pilgrims and sojourners; Messiah, Christ, Jesus; Redemption, salvation; Rock and stone; Trinity, Holy Spirit

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