Jesus astounded those around Him with miracles. An especially exciting one was The Transfiguration when Peter, John, and James went with Jesus to a high mountain to pray (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2- 8, and Luke 9:28-36). Jesus was transfigured by a great light and his clothes became white as light. Then before Peter, John, and James also similarly appeared Elijah and Moses. They were terrified at the sight and the voice of God when He said “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Jesus consoled the three and told them to not be afraid. They marveled at seeing Jesus in a heavenly light.
The great theologian Thomas Aquinas considered The Transfiguration “the greatest miracle.” This is as it ought to be. But being a theologian, Thomas could not leave well enough alone and simply marvel. No, Thomas, as theologians are wont to do, launched off into a statement about the hypostatic union opining on how Christ’s human body became one with the essence of His divine glory. This is brought up at length, and I mean length, in his impressive work Summa Theologiae. Specifically Thomas dissects The Transfiguration in his Question 45 which is answered in four Articles each of which has three or four objections and three or four replies to the objections. All together that is twenty-eight lengthy paragraphs (a lot longer than these) plus eight more points and commentaries. This is a long way down the bunny trail from marveling, but it has given theology students 750 years of headaches.
Most of the miracles Jesus performed were of healing – and bringing back from the dead cannot be topped. They, though, relate as much to the act of faith as the act of healing. When the ruler’s daughter died and the mother touched the cloak of Jesus, He turned and said, “Your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:18-26). Luke 7:11-18 describes Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead. The onlookers did NOT analyze the hypostatic union but rather were filled with awe and praised God.
Other notable miracles were feeding the five thousand (men that is plus the women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:15-21). Another time he fed four thousand (men plus the women and children) with only seven loaves and a few small fish (Matthew 15:32-39). Maybe the most remarkable was Jesus walking on water with Peter (Matthew 14:28). Let’s not trouble Aquinas with this one. Suffice it to say Thomas had an awful lot to say about what God knows and doesn’t know and the essence of His being. In the future we will have great fun with his Summa Theologiae.
Maybe we don’t know as much about theology as Aquinas, but neither did Peter. Some think it’s a wonder Jesus did not pick a disciple a lot smarter and more articulate than Peter. But, for some reason Jesus chose Peter to be a fisher of men. On a windy night Jesus walked on the sea out to the disciples’ buffeted boat. At first they did not recognize Jesus, but He called to them. To Peter He commanded “Come.” As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he too walked on water. But as he looked to the storm Peter began to sink and Jesus saved him (Matthew 14:31). Then in verse 33 those in the boat worshiped Him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The disciples were awed by the power Jesus had over the sea and marveled. John did not say, “I understand your hypostatic essence did not sink in the waves, but how can it be, Lord, that your body stayed above the water? Does your essence dictate your substance?” It’s too bad the disciples were not theologians equipped to ask these pertinent questions.
The disciples, and those around Jesus, marveled at the miracles, were in awe of them, and worshiped. It was as simple as that. They did not pull an Aquinas and philosophically reconfigure a simple message using Aristotelian logic. They were simply primitive Christians that marveled and believed.
Copyright 2021 by Greg Hallback