Synagogue Miracles of Jesus

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This article discusses the three Biblically recorded miracles Jesus performed during synagogue services. These awesome events were purposely done in a public setting, on the Sabbath (Saturday), not only as proof that he was the promised Messiah but also to clarify the true meaning and intent of the Biblical day of rest.

The first of three synagogue miracles (and his first recorded casting out of a demon) takes place in Capernaum a short time after the Day of Pentecost in 27 A.D. (Luke 4:16 - 30). At the time, Jesus' ministry was less than a year old (it started in the fall of 26). Capernaum, located in a region known as Galilee, is the place where Christ and at least five of his disciples lived.

Then they (Jesus and the disciples) went into Capernaum; and on the Sabbath day He immediately went into the synagogue and taught the people. And they were astonished at His doctrine . . . (Mark 1:21 - 22, see also Luke 4:33 - 35, HBFV throughout).

Unlike the scribes or others who taught during synagogue services, Christ's teachings did not rely on Jewish traditions or what he "thought" certain Old Testament passages meant. As the God of the Old Testament manifested in the flesh, he taught the true meaning behind what was written in the Bible. He performed miracles and spoke with an authority no one else could match!

Now in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean (demonic) spirit; and it cried out, Saying, "Ah! What have we to do with You, Jesus, the Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know Who You are - the Holy One of God!" But Jesus rebuked it, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him" (Mark 1:23 - 25).

Capernaum Synagogue Collage
A Capernaum Synagogue

Note the power our Savior possessed! His miracle did not require an elaborate ceremony or take a long time to perform. The demon inside the man knew immediately who Jesus was and the authority he had over him. All that was required was that the demonic spirit be told to leave!

Is it a sin to heal?

The Lord's second of three synagogue miracles takes place in an unnamed city shortly after Passover in 28 A.D. (Luke 6:6 - 10, Matthew 12:9 - 13, Mark 3:1 - 5). It is the first time the New Testament records religious leaders actively watching to see if Christ violated one of their rules regarding proper Sabbath observance (Matthew 12:10).

But He knew their (scribes and Pharisees) thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, "Arise and stand in the midst." And he arose and stood in their midst . . .

And after looking around on them all, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored . . . (Luke 6:8, 10)

The scribes and Pharisees attending the synagogue firmly believed in the "tradition of the elders" (see Matthew 15:2 - 6, Mark 7:3 - 13) which considered any healing miracles as "work" which was forbidden by the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8 - 11).

Jesus made it a point to heal someone in front of these self-righteous leaders to show that "it is lawful to do good on the Sabbaths" (Matthew 12:12), even though such efforts required a certain amount of work (see John 5:16 - 17).

Interestingly, the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia asserts that first century Jewish leaders did not oppose healing miracles per se on the Sabbath. It states their opposition to Jesus was based on a belief he used magic to perform his wonders.

"In all cures effected by Jesus this (the use of magic) was the matter at issue, not the incidental violation of the Sabbath, which might be justified on the ground that life was in danger" (section entitled New Testament Examples).

This is another way of stating they opposed Christ because they felt he performed miracles not by the power of God but by using demonic powers. Not only did they frequently accuse him of using the powers of darkness to work wonders, they also asserted he was possessed of the devil (John 7:20, 8:48, 10:20, Matthew 10:25, 12:24).

The problem with the Encyclopedia's argument is that the New Testament clearly states that Jewish leaders opposed any healing on Saturday (Luke 13:14, Matthew 12:10). Additionally, there is not a single Scripture that even hints demons (or Satan himself) ever received or exercised the power to heal!

Hypocritical rules

Jesus' third of three recorded synagogue miracles, mentioned only in Luke, took place sometime between the fall of 29 A.D. and spring 30 A.D. A woman, suffering from an affliction that caused her to be bent forward for eighteen years, is healed at Sabbath services.

And when He saw her, Jesus called her to Him and said to her, "Woman, you have been loosed from your infirmity." Then He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God (Luke 13:12 - 13).

The "spirit of infirmity" was likely either a demonic spirit who made the woman suffer (e.g. Satan causing Job and Apostle Paul to suffer physically) or possibly a mild form of demon possession (Luke 13:16). The man who was the head of the synogogue was not at all pleased with how Jesus behaved and sought to correct him in public.

There are six days in which men are obligated to work; therefore, during those days come and be healed, but not on the SABBATH DAY (Luke 13:14).

The above angry reply by the synagogue ruler regarding the miracle he witnessed shows, once again, how distorted the Jews understanding of God's commandments had become. Jesus, after a stinging rebuke of some religious leaders for upholding traditions they said represented God's will, summed up his criticism of them by stating the following.

But they worship Me in vain, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9, see also chapter 23)

Christ rightly points out in Luke 13:15 how hypocritical Jewish teachers were in regard to observing the Sabbath. On the one hand, they condemned as sinful the merciful work needed to free someone from their burden of physical pain and spiritual suffering. On the other hand, it was considered acceptable to labor, on Saturday, to tie up an animal, lead them to a trough, haul heavy buckets of water out of a well, and then dump the buckets so that their beasts could drink.

In other words, these religious leaders felt another person's suffering could wait a day in order to be healed, yet work to protect the life and marketable value of their animals was entirely acceptable!

Christ's public miracles during synagogue services showed that the Sabbath, in spite of what some religious authorities taught, was the best time for selfless acts of mercy.

"It was necessary on the Sabbath, therefore, for Christ to act deliberately against prevailing misconceptions in order to restore the day to God's intended purpose" (Divine Rest for Human Restlessness, page 150).

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When Did Jesus Miraculously Provide Food?
Miraculous Events in New Testament
Old Testament Mighty Works
What Are Evil Wonders?
Why Couldn't Jesus Do Miracles in Nazareth?

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