Preaching the Miracle Stories of the Synoptic Gospels -- By: David H. Johnson
TrinJ 18:1 (Spring 1997) p. 85
Preaching the Miracle Stories
of the Synoptic Gospels
Whether a preacher follows a lectionary, preaches passage by passage through various books of the Bible, or chooses which passages of Scripture to expound for other reasons, it is almost inevitable that at one time or another a synoptic miracle story should be the text for a sermon.1 There are twenty-nine such stories in the Synoptic Gospels.2 Eleven are in all three gospels, three are unique to Matthew, two are unique to Mark, and six are unique to Luke. Only two are found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. For various reasons, such stories have proved a problem for preachers through the centuries,3 so they are often avoided or used merely for illustrations. This article attempts to show how these stories can enrich the life of the church through preaching.
Miracle stories can be divided into two hermeneutical types. One type is simply a narrative and can be treated as such in preaching. The narrative has its own plot and characters. It may result in a controversy or a particular response of the crowd or a saying of Jesus or any combination of these. The other type of miracle story has a more parabolic intention.4 In this type the miracle is a symbol of
* David H. Johnson is Associate Professor of New Testament at Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada.
TrinJ 18:1 (Spring 1997) p. 86
some larger spiritual reality. It is most apparent in the fourth gospel, but the Synoptic Gospels also contain some parabolic miracle stories, for example, the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22–26),5 the withering of the fig tree, the feeding of the five thousand, and the stilling of the storm.6 The symbolic meaning of these stories is discovered through intertextual research both in the OT and in the immediately surrounding context. For example, the stilling of the storm should be interpreted in light of God’s control over the seas in the Psalms (e.g., 65:7; 107:28) and ultimately in the creation narrative. Likewise, the feeding of the multitudes recalls the story of Elisha in 2 Kgs 4:42–44 and also the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness.7
I. The Fo...
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