Jesus’ Mediated Miracles

Icon of the Wedding Feast of Cana
Most miracles in the Gospel of John share a common trait: Jesus works great deeds but in a somewhat withdrawn manner. There’s usually some degree of distance between the Lord and his miracles in John’s Gospel. Let me show you what I mean with several examples:

  • In the second chapter of John, at the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus does not fetch water from the well or hold his hands over the water jars to change their water into wine. Jesus instructs the servers what to do and his miracle is accomplished through their cooperating efforts.
  • Later at Cana, in John chapter four, a royal official whose son is gravely ill begs the Lord to come to Capernaum some twenty miles away and heal him: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” After a dialogue Jesus replies, “You may go; your son will live.” The father believes him and leaves. The next day, on his way home, the royal official’s servants meet him and share good news about his son: “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” And the father realizes that was the hour that Jesus had said “your son will live,” curing him at a distance.
  • In the next chapter, at the pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem, Jesus meets a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus says to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” The Lord makes no physical contact with him, he simply says the word. And immediately the man becomes well, takes up his mat, and walks.
  • In John’s ninth chapter, Jesus encounters a man blind from birth. Jesus bends down, makes a paste of dirt and spittle, and smears it on the blind man’s eyes. The blind man is touched by Jesus but does not immediately see. Jesus tells him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam.” The man goes there and washes his eyes, but Jesus is not present when the man sees for the first time.
  • In John eleven, Jesus’ beloved friend Lazarus dies and the Lord journeys to the tomb. He tells others to roll away the stone and does not go inside. Instead, Jesus commands, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus comes out by himself, wrapped head to foot in burial cloths. Then Jesus directs others to “untie him and let him go.”
  • Finally, in the last chapter of John, Jesus works a post-Resurrection miracle from a distance for seven disciples fishing on the sea of Galilee. Jesus is on the shore, about a hundred yards away from Peter, John, and the others in the boat. He asks, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answer, “No.” He tells them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast the net and are not able to pull it back in because of the great number of fish they catch. Jesus was not in the boat with them, but he guides his disciples’ efforts and make them miraculously fruitful.

Why do the miracles of John’s Gospel share this theme of Jesus working once removed? (John observes in closing, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” So this Gospel’s miracles have been curated, chosen over others.) Of the four Gospels, John’s was written last. By this stage in the late first century, the majority of Christian believers had never seen Jesus walking the earth and St. John was likely the last of the living Apostles. Perhaps they sensed that John too would soon pass on, which would lead to Christians questioning in their hearts, “What is our remaining connection to Christ?” John’s Gospel reassures its readers (then and now) that though Jesus is visibly removed from our eyes his power remains active among us.

In his Last Supper Discourse, Jesus says, “I am going away and I will come back to you.” (This speaks to Jesus’ death and Resurrection but also his Ascension and Second Coming.) “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father…. I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. …Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Why didn’t Jesus stay? Surely he can do what his saints can do and numerous saints have manifested the power of bi-location (being at two places at the same time.) In the twentieth century, St. Padre Pio is reported to have bi-located repeatedly; to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, visit a deathbed, and other things. The seventeenth century nun Venerable Mary of Ágreda is well-documented as having evangelized Native Americans in the American Southwest without leaving her Spanish convent. She instructed Jumano tribe members where to travel to find Franciscan missionaries for sacraments, affirmed under oath to Church investigators in Spain that she was bi-locating, and possessed inexplicable first-hand knowledge of the New World. If his saints can bi-locate, why couldn’t Jesus multi-locate on earth? He already does this in a veiled way in the Holy Eucharist; he is truly present (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity) living in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church. So why not be visibly present in this world throughout the centuries? Jesus could be the pastor of every parish, the teacher in every classroom, the doctor in every hospital, and the leader for every country. Wouldn’t he do a better job than us?

This is why it was better for us for Jesus to ascend. We are called to be children of God; daughter or sons of the Father, and brothers or sisters of Christ. We must be childlike to enter the Kingdom but we are not to be childish. We must rely on the Lord, for apart from him we can do nothing, but he desires us to become reliable as well. If everything of importance were solely Jesus’ job how would we grow out of immaturity. How would we mature into the full likeness of Jesus Christ? Jesus desires to work through us, and with us, and in us so that we may share fully in his glory. This is the work of love for God and neighbor and it is vitally important; it’s important for your soul, it’s important for the salvation of others, and important to God.

The Church Father, St. Jerome, living in the late 300’s A.D., leaves us this extra-biblical story about St. John the Apostle:

The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”

This work of love in Christ is important for our souls and the salvation of others; it is the mission entrusted to us by the Lord so that we may share fully in his glory.

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