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word and works

John Wimber

From an article written in 1986, John Wimber looks at ‘The Words and Works of Jesus: Is the Message the same or different?’

There is a vital relationship between the words and works of Jesus, that is, between his message (preaching, parables) and his miracles. Contemporary theologians offer many explanations why Jesus worked miracles. One suggestion put forward is that the miracles of Jesus were attention attracting devices, a form of advertising in which interest was heightened, startling men and women into paying attention to his messages.

A second suggestion is they were rewards for faith. If a person had a great amount of faith, a miracle was given to him as a bonus. There are certainly places in the Synoptic Gospels that could validate this view. Jesus does say on certain occasions, “Go your way, your faith has made you whole.” There are other places, however, where this is not the case, where a miracle was not recompense for personal faith. An illustration would be the widow’s son who was raised from the dead. Certainly this is not a reward for the dead man’s faith.

The words and the works of Jesus both centre on the Kingdom of God.

Another reason offered for miracles is that they came because of Jesus’ compassion. This has biblical support. At Luke 7:13, we are told that Jesus had compassion on the widow from Nain because her son had died. Again at Mark 6:34., Jesus fed the multitudes because of his compassion. But this reason alone is an insufficient explanation. Jesus left many people on earth both sick and hungry — more people, in fact, than he healed or fed. If a miracle is a reward for right faith, then an unhealed person who has sincere faith might assume that his faith was insufficient. If a miracle is an evidence of the compassion of Jesus, the unhealed person may assume that in his case Jesus is not very compassionate.

There is no difference between the words and works of Jesus.

What then is the meaning of the miracles of Jesus? There is no difference between the words and works of Jesus. The works have exactly the same message as the words. The message and words concentrated on the announcement of the Kingdom of God. The miracles and works show us what the Kingdom is like. The preaching and parables were verbal announcements of the impending arrival of the Rule of God and destruction of Satan’s rule.

The miracles were concrete parables. With his works, Jesus came and destroyed Satan’s grip and ushered in the Rule of God, restoring God’s control over that which Satan had seized. The miracles are dramatisations which illustrate precisely the same truth that the sermons and parables did. The words and the works of Jesus both centre on the Kingdom of God. They are a unity. They both show and tell what the Kingdom is.

The fullness of the Kingdom will come when Satan is destroyed. This is the only way in which the miracles can be rightly grasped: within the context of attack or warfare.

The miracles of Jesus, then, are understood within the context of battle with Satan.”The whole world is in the power of the evil one . ..,” 1 John 5:19 plainly affirms that. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul calls Satan “… the god of this world …” In Ephesians 6:10., Paul warns his readers that the real enemy is not flesh and blood, the real enemy is Satan. Paul also describes the frightening dimensions of satanic power and insists that we must stand against that cosmic foe. We must stand against the “principalities and powers,” the “world rulers of this present darkness.” Paul seems convinced that the present world is entangled in the snares of Satan and estranged from God, ruled by fallen powers and principalities (Gal. 1:4).

Word and Works… show and tell what the Kingdom is.

The New Testament does not affirm that Satan is in control of the world in which we live, but it does affirm that he has limited power and authority in the world. The ills and woes of man originate with Satan. Suffering, tragedy, and pain are not punishments of an angry God; they are attacks of Satan.

The miracles are attacks on Satan and his demonic forces that bring about God’s Rule. Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God was coming, then he dramatically proved it by carving out an area in which the Kingdom ruled.

His miracles can be seen in four different areas: expelling demons, curing diseases, dealing with nature, and overcoming death.

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