Jesus traveled through Galilee, teaching and performing miracles at the beginning of His three-year ministry. Galilee supported a mixed culture. There were Samaritans, who were a mix of Israelite and north-Asian descent. Some cities were wholly Greek; others were “Jewish” with the name “Jews” being assigned to any descendents of Jacob (also called “Israel”). Rabbinical Judaism had evolved as sages took the place of prophets, and corruption had entered Jewish leadership, especially under Roman rule. Jesus had His favorite places in Galilee, and much of His preaching centered in the town of Capernaum (Kfar Na’um).
Jesus performed miracles for many reasons. First of all, He could. The ancient prophets had performed miracles, and the people all knew the stories of the ancient prophets. They had the scriptures before them. But miracles had been missing for awhile. If the end of the Old Testament record meant the end of prophets, then it had been hundreds of years since miracles had been seen among the people. Since Jesus performed miracles, people had to begin with one of two assumptions — either He derived His power from the devil, or He was at the very least a prophet.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes (Mark 1:22).
Jesus performed miracles to lead the people to the knowledge that He was the promised Messiah, and that the Messiah was divine — the Son of God. He performed miracles to reward the faith of those He healed. And He performed miracles to show His unwavering love for us.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean (Mark 1:42).
At this time in His ministry, Christ was fairly discreet about His miracles, urging the healed not to spread the news abroad. He desired to fulfill His entire ministry. Knowing His ministry would lead to His death, He could not have that happen prematurely. At the end of His ministry, Christ became very public about His works, and more sensational. He began by turning water into wine for a wedding, but ended with raising Lazarus from the dead.
While preaching in a house in Capernaum, some caring people lowered the bed of a man stricken with palsy through the roof.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:5) .
Christ perceived the thoughts of His enemies, who wondered where He got the authority to forgive sins.
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house (Mark 2:10, 11).
The healing power of Christ is available to us for both physical and spiritual healing, and often, they are intertwined. Being sick of spirit affects us physically, and being physically ill can decrease our faith.
One evening Christ asked His apostles to cross the Sea of Galilee. A storm arose that threatened to sink the ship and drown its crew. Christ was seemingly oblivious, asleep in the aft of the boat. This in itself is telling. Christ had perfect peace, while the others feared. He knew He could not die and feared nothing on earth.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him (Mark 4:38-41)?
This miracle served the increasing knowledge of the apostles as to the true identity of their master. Their awareness of His true nature increased continually, and especially after His resurrection and forty days with them preparing them for the ministry.
As recorded in Mark 5, Jesus cast a legion of devils out of a man and into a herd of swine. This was further proof that the devil had no hand in Jesus’ power. A power divided against itself cannot stand. There is an important lesson in the fact that the devils cast out by Jesus knew Him. This is a proof that there was an existence before earth life. There was a war in heaven after which Lucifer (Satan) was cast out. We have forgotten that existence so we could develop faith during mortality, but Satan’s minions have not forgotten. They know that Jesus is the Christ.
As recorded in Luke 7:11–17, Jesus raised a young man from the dead:
And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about.
Jesus’ fame began to be spread abroad. Mark 5:25–29 shows us the story of the woman with an issue of blood, a condition she had suffered from for many years. This condition would have rendered her unclean for all that time, unable to participate in family or community life. Because of stories spreading of Christ’s power, her faith was so great, she knew she could be healed simply by touching His clothes, perhaps his Jewish prayer shawl. She was immediately healed. Jesus knew it. He had felt virtue go out of Him.
In Mark 5:22–23, we learn about Jairus’ daughter being raised from the dead. Jairus was the ruler of a synagogue. His daughter, Talitha (“little wooly one) lay near death. Jairus was taking Christ to her, when the woman with an issue of blood touched the robes of Christ. A crowd had thronged them and was following along to the house of Jairus, but Christ made Talitha’s healing (for she had since died, and the weeping and wailing had begun) a private matter, for the instruction of Peter, James, and John, and for the child’s parents. Again, He urged that news of the healing not be rumored abroad, but with such a huge crowd outside, that may have been an impossible request.
Mormon belief holds that faith precedes the miracle. Miracles are not meant to convert people. As a conversion tool, forgetfulness overcomes them. But as a reward for faith, they add to the strength of faith.
Brigham Young said: “Miracles, or these extraordinary manifestations of the power of God, are not for the unbeliever; they are to console the Saints, and to strengthen and confirm the faith of those who love, fear, and serve God” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 341).
*Parts of this article were adapted from the LDS Gospel Doctrine New Testament Manual.