Christians who trace their heritage to the Protestant Reformation have tended to be cautious when it comes to miracles. With visions of unbiblical excess running through our heads, this wariness is often merited. Nonetheless, Christianity is a supernatural religion, and believers base their lives and eternal destinies on the truth of amazing claims about God's supernatural intervention in history at numerous points. We confess that this God became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory. Yet few and far between are those books and other resources that draw our attention to some of the key biblical examples of this glory: the miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jared Wilson believes that the miracles of Jesus reveal the nature of his glory with laser focus. Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont, shines a spotlight on these miracles in The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles, a companion volume to his earlier book, The Storytelling God, which focused on Jesus' parables. Wilson's blend of biblical depth, vivid writing style, and pastoral focus make this new book a worthwhile resource for a wide audience.
While The Wonder-Working God is primarily an exposition of the miracles recorded in the Gospels, the introduction and first chapter orient readers both to the "problem" of miracles in our contemporary age and to Wilson's approach throughout the work. The miracles, he argues, are meant to highlight the glory of Jesus. His miracles reveal his character and, in Wilson's words, are "the very windows into heaven" (31). Wilson helpfully situates the miracles of Jesus in their redemptive-historical context with a summary of God's good creation, humanity's fall into sin, and the buildup to the pivot of all history in the incarnation of Jesus. In a world twisted by sin, the entry of the long-awaited king shakes things up’a fact made gloriously clear in the miracles. Our fallen world is not "normal," Wilson asserts, and the miracles of Jesus, far from a diversion from the "normal" course of things, are actually a restoration of the way things are supposed to be. The miracles of Jesus mark the new beginning of God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. These opening chapters are a useful entry point to a consideration of the miracles of Jesus, especially in a culture in which the language of miracles has been marginalized.
After this helpful introduction, Wilson guides readers through expositions of several categories of miracles in the Gospel accounts: Jesus' power over the created world, his power to heal, his power over forces of spiritual darkness, his power to raise others from the dead, and’the grandest miracles of all’his own incarnation, transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension. Each of these chapters is sermon-like in content, and Wilson bridges the gap between the biblical text and a contemporary audience by blending interpretation with an engaging writing style. Though he is concerned with application throughout the work, Wilson's main aim is for readers to see the glory of Jesus in these familiar stories from the Gospels.
The unique blend of strong biblical exposition and lively presentation is where Wilson's book shines. He remains firmly rooted to the biblical text and is faithful to theological nuance, and throughout he offers a winsome presentation’not to mention some funny turns of phrase. The Wonder-Working God will appeal to a wide audience, from seasoned believers to those just beginning to consider the claims of Jesus. In addition, Wilson's chapter on the miracles that characterize the life of Jesus is one of the book's most stirring sections. This chapter skillfully weaves Old Testament promises and their New Testament fulfillment together with historical and systematic theology, all in the service of calling readers to worship the true king.
If any weakness were to be noted in Wilson's book, it is simply that some themes cry out for more development. For example, while Wilson does spend some time summarizing the wider biblical teaching on the themes of Jesus' miracles, the reader is left wanting more. He helpfully reflects, for instance, on the Old Testament themes of banquet as they relate to the miracle of water into wine at Cana and the miraculous feeding of thousands in the wilderness. He also alludes to the coming banquet for God's people in eschatological glory. It is somewhat surprising, then, that no mention is made of the way that God's people can experience a foretaste of this coming glory in the ordinary bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. This criticism notwithstanding, The Wonder-Working God is an inviting gateway into greater wrestling with Scripture.
Readers will not agree with everything Wilson writes or with some of the specific ways he bridges the ancient text and our contemporary context. As with any work, wisdom is found in consulting multiple thinkers (many of whom Wilson helpfully highlights in the footnotes). None of this, however, should detract from the fact that The Wonder-Working God is a wonderful choice for individual or group study. Any reader will come away encouraged by the way Wilson helps us encounter Jesus in his miracles. Likewise, pastors will find in Wilson a brother who proclaims Christ from all the Scriptures in an engaging and pastorally sensitive way.
The constant refrain in The Wonder-Working God is that the miracles always serve to point to the glory of Jesus. In a similar way, Wilson whets the reader's appetite for Scripture. His lively writing style shakes us awake from the drowsy way we often read the Gospels. The Gospel accounts of the miracles of Jesus, like all Scripture, are treasure troves. By driving readers to these familiar passages with fresh eyes, The Wonder-Working God accomplishes the same goal as the miracles: to point to the glory and grace of God in the face of the miracle-worker himself, Jesus Christ.