Jesus performed many “signs” (John 2:11; 2:23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30), what we call miracles. Were the miracles in the Bible tricks, an elaborate form of prestidigitation like what stage magicians David Copperfield and Penn and Teller perform? Did Jesus pretend to raise people from the dead, walk on water, and feed thousands? Was Jesus like Jim Jones, using some of His followers to concoct an elaborate deception on the people to build a following of nationalist zealots to overthrow the Romans? Some people believe this, even though Jesus rejected any notion of armed revolt or refusal to pay taxes.
The skeptic will begin with the premise that miracles are impossible. This starting point forces them to conclude that the Bible is an elaborate work of fiction. If there is no god, there are no miracles, except the “miracle” of nothing becoming something and that something self-organized into intelligent beings. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Miracles are possible within the context of a God-created, God-ordained reality.
Walking on Water
The miracles that Jesus performed have never been duplicated. Today’s magicians require numerous assistants, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of special equipment, and days of preparation time to perform their elaborate tricks. Walking on water would have been an elaborate piece of prestidigitation. Imagine the type of gear Jesus would have needed to convince His disciples that He was actually walking on water during a violent storm in the middle of a large lake where their boat was “battered by the waves” (Matt. 14:24). Here’s how Christian magician André Kole describes the impossibility of a walk-on-water trick:
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.1
Keep in mind that Jesus walked on water during a storm “many stadia away from the land” (Matt. 14:24). A stadium is approximately 600 feet. The conditions in first-century Israel were far from optimal for such an elaborate trick, especially during a time when engineering knowledge was minimal…