Have you ever thought about the reasons why Jesus performed his miracles? Many of us take the purpose of the miracles for granted. I think I see more pastors and Christians miss the point of Jesus’ miracles than anything else in the Gospels. Its like they turn to the Gospels and forget how to draw out the intended meaning from a text. Is the healing of a blind man really an example that Jesus provides for us to follow? Am I really supposed to walk up to people who are blind or sick and heal them? Maybe. Maybe not. But was that the primary purpose of Jesus’ healing miracles? What about Jesus’ miracle of turning water to wine? How about his divine food pantry he developed from a few fish and loaves of bread? And what about all of those fish he caught in Peter’s boat? What is the purpose in all of these miracles? Each miracle deserves its own answer, but they all carry one overarching message: Jesus Christ is the Lord God. Miracles are an attestation to God. John Frame argues that miracles attest to God’s control, authority, and covenant presence (all following quotations taken from Frame’s Systematic Theology pp. 129-131). He writes that miracles are “the result of enormous power, the power of God.” They attest to God’s total control over the world. Miracles are also “signs” that bear God’s “supreme authority.” Frame continues, “Miracles are revelation. They show the character of God, the person and work of Jesus, the blessings of redemption, and its fulfillment in the messianic banquet.” Finally, miracles are “wonders” that communicate the covenant presence of God. It creates a “religious awe, arising from the sense that God is present.” Frame concludes, “As displays of God’s control, authority, and presence, miracles may be defined as extraordinary manifestations of God’s lordship.” So, while there may be specific purposes in each miracle of Jesus, there is one overarching purpose, namely, to communicate the divine nature of Christ. Let’s take a look at one particular miracle to see this ultimate purpose. In Luke 5, Luke tells us the crowds were surrounding Jesus to “hear the word of God” (v. 1). As four fishermen were washing their nets, Jesus stepped into one of their boats to use it as a platform from which to teach the people. He sat in Simon Peter’s boat and taught the people for a while. Then, he asked Peter to do something crazy.
“And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’” (v. 4).
Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face? Peter was an expert fisherman. Jesus was a carpenter. In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was a gifted teacher and maybe a prophet, but he was definitely a carpenter. In other words, he was not a fisherman, yet he was telling a fisherman to take his boat to a certain spot on the lake to catch some fish. Jesus was asking a man who had spent all night on the sea without catching one fish, who probably hadn’t gotten much sleep, to take him out to sea and throw out his newly cleaned nets to catch fish that probably were not there. Insane, right?! But something about Jesus must have caught Peter’s attention. He replied, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). Peter is saying, “Look, we are expert fishermen and we didn’t catch anything all night. But, out of respect to you, I will take you out to see what we can do.” When Jesus took Peter and Andrew out to sea, he gives them the fishing tale of a lifetime.
“And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink” (vv. 6-7).
Not only did they catch a few fish, but they caught so many fish that the fishermen’s boats began to sink from the weight of the fish in the nets. Now these boats were not small. They were likely around seven feet wide and twenty-seven feet long. This was a catch that even Peter and his partners had never seen before. It just wasn’t natural. It was a miracle. Now what is the purpose in this miracle? Why did Jesus do this? Later, we will see a specific purpose, that Jesus was teaching them about the nature of salvation and what he is going to empower them to do. But the ultimate purpose found in this and every other miracle is that Jesus is shouting with full clarity: “I am God!” Jesus had just demonstrated his great power and authority. He showed that he is in control of nature and creatures. While professional fishermen could not catch one fish, Jesus goes to basically the same spot and caught thousands of fish. He was able to do this not because he was a gifted fisherman, but because he is God! Only God could show this kind of power over nature. When God rescued his people from Egypt, he sent ten plagues. All of them showed that he was in control over nature, life, and even death. He sent swarms of frogs, gnats, and locusts. Jesus was not just showing himself to be a carpenter who was a good teacher. He was showing himself to be God in the flesh who has power and authority over nature. The problem with many pastors’ hermeneutics is that they are to self-centered. They focus the point of the story or miracle on the people they are preaching to. Instead of seeking to communicate what the passage communicates about God, they use the passage to say, “This is about you!” What typically follows is some bland and disingenuous call for service in this-or-that project or ministry. The point of Jesus’ miracle catch is not, “We need to go where the fish are!” but, “This Jesus is the Lord God who rescues us from sin and death!” We should see in Jesus’ fishing miracle that he is God in the flesh, the Lord over all creation. If even the frogs and fish obey his command, then surely his people should do whatever it takes to obey his command as well. The catching of fish depended on Jesus’ word. Obeying Jesus, pleasing God, and leading others to salvation in Christ all depend on Jesus’ word too. Even better than a phony fishing tale or a Christian’s poor interpretation, Luke tells us the true story of Jesus catching thousands of fish to show us that this Fisherman is God.
Mathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.