Many skeptics today that believe Jesus walked the Earth but was not God, and claim that the miracles He did were really just illusions or magic tricks. I know that they were miracles, but what is a good apologetic response defending Jesus' miracles against such accusations?
Did Jesus perform miracles or magic? The answer to this question is given in the gospels of the Bible and by secular writers. Therefore, we examine some secular quotes, and some of Jesus’ miracles that are described in the gospel of John. You will discover that Jesus was not a magician.
Secular Writers and Jesus’ Miracles
There are two very significant secular writers who state that Jesus did miracles. The first writer is Flavius Josephus. One of his statements about Jesus is,
Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.
His statement about “wonderful works” is echoed by Pontius Pilate in a report to Rome. Pilate was a Roman governor of Judea (AD 26 – 36) during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. He sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion. Some critics dishonestly want us to believe that Pilate never wrote about Christ. For a discussion about this fraudulent claim, visit Pontius Pilate. Justin Martyr refers to Pontius Pilate’s report in First Apology. His is a short quote,
And that it was predicted that our Christ should heal all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was said. There are these words: “At His coming the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerer shall be clear speaking: the blind shall see, and the lepers shall be cleansed; and the dead shall rise, and walk about.” And that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”
The message of both secular writers is that Christ did perform wonders or miracles and signs. For more information about these statements, visit What happened to Pontius Pilate after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ? In addition, there are many other historical quotes about Jesus’ existence and death.
Jesus’ Miracles in the Gospel of John
The gospel of John describes some of the most important miracles that Jesus performed. The miracles found in the gospel include physical healings, the control of physical matter, walking on water, and raising a dead man to life. We will examine all seven of them.
1) Jesus Turns Water into Wine
In John 2:1-3, we are told about a wedding that occurred in Cana of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had been invited to the wedding and so that went. At some point in the wedding, Jesus’ mother told Him the wine had been consumed. Then in verses 4-7 we are told that Jesus asked the servants to fill six 20 to 30 gallon stone water jars to the brim with water. Verse 8 says He then asked them to take some of the wine to the headwaiter. Verse 9 states the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine. Finally, verse 10 states the headwaiter said,
“Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” John 2:10 (NASB)
Notice that when the headwaiter tasted the liquid, he recognized it as the best wine. Now magicians routinely change the color of water, but do they change the taste of 20-30 gallons of water into the best wine? That is truly a miracle as the famous magician André Kole in his book Miracles and Magic. André Kole is a magician and has appeared before millions in 174 countries of the world. He is one of the leading investigators of unusual phenomena inducting witch doctors in Africa, psychic surgeons in the Philippines, and levitation in India. He states this about the miracle,
Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, when the host ran out of wine. In the Gospel of John we read that six stone waterpots were set aside for the Jewish custom of purification. Jesus commanded that these six 20-to 30-gallon pots be filled with water. After the pots were filled, Jesus commanded the servants to draw out some of the water and take it to the headwaiter. When he tasted the “water which had become wine,” he told the bridegroom that normally hosts served the best wine first, but the bridegroom had saved the best until then.
Jesus might have fooled a few people with a simple trick, perhaps using a chemical to change the color and taste of the water, but there was no way He could have done that with 120 to 180 gallons of water. He could not have fooled all of those guests into thinking that it was some of the finest wine they had ever tasted.
The message is that Jesus’ first miracle was a miracle and not magic.
2) Jesus Heals a Boy from a Distance
John 4:46-54 describes another miracle that Jesus performed. We are told that a royal official found Jesus in Cana of Galilee. The man asked Jesus to heal his child because he was near death (v. 47). Verse 49 states that the man asked Jesus to come to his son, who was in Capernaum. The distance between Capernaum and Cana is estimated to have been about 26.51 km (16.47 miles). But Jesus told the man his son had been healed.
Verses 50-53 reveal that as the royal official traveled home, he was told the child was well. Then he realized his son was healed at the same time Jesus told him “Go, your son lives” (v. 50). It would have been impossible for Jesus to heal the man’s son from such a long distance. It was impossible for a magician to fake such a healing in ancient times before wireless devices.
3) Jesus Heals a Lame Man
The third miracle in the gospel of John records that Jesus did was for a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years (John 5:2-17). In verse eight, Jesus said, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” The next verse says the man immediately picked up his pallet and walked away. So, how could a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years immediately walk? Jesus did not touch him. He only spoke to him.
4) Jesus Creates Food
The fourth miracle is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). We are told that Jesus and His disciples were on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Five thousand men were with Jesus. (John 6:10). Since it was the custom to only report the number of men present, it has been estimated that as many as twenty thousand men, women, and children were may have been present. Verses 11-13 state that Jesus multiplied two fish and five loaves of bread (v. 9) and fed all of the people. When Jesus finished, there were twelve baskets of fragments from the bread left over. That would have been more bread than which He started.
This is another miracle. André Kole in his book Miracles and Magic states,
One miracle recorded in all four Gospels is the feeding of the 5000. The writers all record the presence of 5000 men, not counting women and children. It is reasonable to suppose that Christ actually fed 15,000 to 20,000 people with five loaves of bread and two small fish.
A few years ago I produced a show presenting some of the greatest events in the life of Christ. Presently I am working on a new version of the show, which will include a staged recreation of this miracle. The audience will see the bread visibly multiply in the hands of “Jesus,” and then actors playing the disciples will pass out the bread. Every person in the auditorium will receive a good-sized piece of the bread either to eat or to take home as a reminder of that experience.
But you can do many things on a stage that you cannot do out in the open. Jesus was outdoors, with no stage protecting Him. He certainly could not have hid that much food up his sleeves! To do such a trick and fool so many people about the source of the bread would have required the disciples’ involvement in the deception. And if indeed the disciples participated in that trick, then why do we never hear any more about it? None of them ever even hinted at collaboration to produce such a marvelous miracle.
All except one of the original apostles died a martyr’s death for witnessing to the deity of Christ. Throughout history people have willingly died for a lie when they did not know it was a lie, but it is contrary to all human experience for a group of men to die as martyrs, claiming that a lie was the truth when they knew differently. Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 was obviously not a trick.
5) Jesus Walks on Water
The fifth miracle recorded in the gospel of John is Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee at about 3 a.m. We are told the disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. There is a storm on the sea at 3 a.m. It would have been pitch black in the midst of a storm. John 6:19 says the disciples were three to four miles from shore. They would have been in the middle of the sea. Then Jesus walked on the water to the disciples. Since the boat was in the middle of the sea, this means that Jesus was not stepping on stones near the seashore!
André Kole in his book Miracles and Magic also comments about this miracle. He writes,
On several occasions I have been asked to perform before magicians’ conventions. One time a convention host asked me to perform on the beach before 700 magicians from around the world. He wanted me to create an illusion in which I would get out of a boat and walk on the water a short distance to land.
After spending many weeks trying to formulate all the methods we could use for such an illusion, it was finally scrapped. It was impossible to create any type of effect that would convince anyone I was really walking on water.
This experience showed me that, even with all our modern technology, we can’t come close to duplicating many of the things Jesus did nearly 20 centuries ago.
How could a magician perform such a magic trick with storm tossed waves in the midst of the night and in the middle of the Sea of Galilee? The answer is Jesus did not perform a magic trick but a miracle.
6) Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
The sixth miracle recorded in the gospel of John is described in John 9:1-12. The gospel reports that Jesus healed a man who was born blind. Now a magician may be able to fake the healing of a man who had become recently blind, but not a man who had been born blind. John reports that the miracle was followed by an investigation performed by the Pharisees (v. 15-41). The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus had actually healed a man born blind. So, they interrogated the man’s parents. Verse 20 says the man’s parents confirmed the man had been born blind. Then the Pharisees asked the man. Verse 25 reports the man said he was “born blind, and now I see.” Then verse 30 records that the man said, “He opened my eyes.”
This is another miracle that Jesus performed.
7) Jesus Raises the Dead Man Lazarus
The final miracle recorded in the gospel of John is found in John 11:38-44. We are told that a friend of Jesus named Lazarus had been dead for four days. Then Jesus raised him from the dead. Here is John 11:39-44
Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus *said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus braised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, abound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:39-44 (NASB)
Here is the evaluation by André Kole in his book Miracles and Magic,
One more miracle bears mentioning: Jesus raised men from the dead. One such incident occurs in John 11. Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, died and was buried in the typical Jewish manner of the day. After washing the body with soap and water, they made a final test to assure that he was not breathing. Then they wrapped the body in long strips of linen cloth, about six feet in length. They started at the feet, wrapping the legs, and between the wraps they put a very sticky, syrup like substance made of myrrh and aloes. This preserved the body. They wrapped each leg and arm separately, and then the trunk. Gradually the gummy paste, mixed in with the cloth, hardened. A man of Lazarus’ stature in the community might have been encased in more than a hundred pounds of material and spices.
After the body was prepared, it was laid in a cave which was then sealed with a large rock so animals would not disturb it. No one doubted that the person was dead by the time he was laid in a cave.
Jesus arrived on the scene four days after Lazarus had died. Family and friends were still mourning. When Jesus asked them to roll the stone from the cave, Martha, one of Lazarus’ sisters, protested that the body would stink from the decay. Nevertheless they removed the stone. Then Jesus, with a loud voice, called, “Lazarus, come forth!”
Then we read, “He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ ” Many of the Jews who were with the sisters when Lazarus died believed in Jesus as a result of what He did.
We could examine many other examples of Jesus’ miracles. Anyone honestly investigating His works would have to conclude from all the evidence that Jesus had supernatural ability.
In summary, the witness of secular historians and the record of the gospels demonstrates that Jesus performed miracles and not magic. The world-renownd magician Andre Kole has testified that Jesus could not have faked His miracles. The evidence is incredibly and overwhelmingly strong that Jesus performed miracles. As a result, John 20:30-31 reports the logical conclusion,
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 (NASB)
Jesus is the Christ. He was God in human flesh. Ultimately, each individual has to decide whether or not they accept the Bible as the very Word of God and the ultimate authority attesting to the miracles of Jesus.
At the conclusion of chapter 8, André Kole shares this news.
This man’s job was to raise and lower a giant drawbridge over a river. One day he took his eight-yearold son with him to work. The bridge was up, as a ship had just gone through, but now a train was coming, so he started to lower the bridge. Suddenly he heard a horrible scream behind him. He turned around and saw that his son had slipped and fallen down among the giant gears of the bridge, and was being crushed.
The father knew that if he raised the bridge, he could save his little boy’s life. But he also knew that this would cause the train to crash, killing hundreds of people. He had to make a decision. He chose to lower the bridge and watch his own son die, crushed among the gears. As the train went over the bridge a number of people waved to the father as they went merrily on their way, unaware of the sacrifice that he had made in order to save their lives.
Likewise, I realized that 2000 years ago God had watched the death of His only Son on the cross, when He could have ,stopped the whole thing at any moment. The Bible says,”For God so loved the world [so loved you and me] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Finally it all made sense to me. One day, in the quiet of my own home, I simply prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. Right now I invite You to come into my life. Forgive my sins and make my life what You want it to be. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming into my life. Amen.” At that moment I knew that Jesus Christ had indeed come into my life. I was a new person! Shortly thereafter I read inJeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”I knew that at last I had found truth; I had found God.
We encourage you to seek Him.
1. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3.
2. Justin Martyr, First Apology 48.
3. Kole and Janssen. Miracles and Magic? Harvest House Publishers. 1977. p. 110.
4. Ibid. pp. 111-112.
5. Ibid. pp. 111.
6. Ibid. pp. 112-113.
7. Ibid. pp. 119-120.
Suggested Links:Flavius Josephus
What happened to Pontius Pilate after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ?
During what years was Pontius Pilate governor of Judea?
Searching for God — In Search of God — Go To Heaven
Historical Quotes About Christ