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I Say to You, Arise!

General Audience — November 18, 1987

If we examine attentively "the mighty works and wonders and signs" spoken of by the Apostle Peter on Pentecost day in Jerusalem and provided by God as a proof of the credibility of Jesus Christ's mission, we note that in performing these "miraculous signs," Jesus acted in his own name. He was conscious of his divine power and at the same time of his intimate union with the Father. Once again and always we are in the presence of the mystery of the "Son of Man—Son of God," whose identity transcends all limits of the human condition (although belonging to it by his own free choice), and all possibility of human achievement and even of knowledge.

A glance at some individual events recorded by the evangelists enables us to take note of that mysterious presence in whose name Jesus Christ performed his miracles. For example, Jesus responded to the entreaties of the leper who begged him, "If you will, you can cure me!" In his human nature, moved with compassion, Jesus gave a word of command which, in such a case, is proper to God and not to a mere human being: "'I do will it. Be made clean!' The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean" (cf. Mk 1:40-42). Similarly in the case of the paralytic who was let down through an opening made in the roof of the house, Jesus said, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home" (cf. Mk 2:1-12).

Again, in the case of Jairus' daughter we read that "he (Jesus) took the child by the hand, and said to her, 'Talitha koum,' which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, arise!' The girl arose immediately and walked around" (Mk 5:41-42). In the case of the young man of Naim who had died, Jesus said, "'Young man, I tell you, arise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak" (Lk 7:14-15).

In so many of these episodes we see appearing from Jesus' words the expression of a will and a power to which he interiorly appealed and which he expressed, one might say, with the greatest naturalness. It was as though the power to give people health, healing and even to bring the dead back to life, belonged to his own mysterious condition.

The raising of Lazarus described in detail by St. John is especially noteworthy. We read, "Jesus looked upward and said; 'Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they may believe that you sent me.' Having said this, he called loudly, 'Lazarus, come out!' And the dead man came out" (Jn 11:41-44). In the precise description of this event, John emphasized that Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead by Jesus' own power and in close union with the Father. Here we find a clear confirmation of Jesus' words, "My Father is working still and I am working" (Jn 5:17). Moreover, it could be said that we have here an anticipated demonstration of what Jesus will say in the upper room during his Last Supper conversation with the apostles concerning his relations with the Father, and, indeed, concerning his identity in being with the Father.

The Gospels show by various miracles-signs that the divine power at work in Jesus Christ extends beyond the human world and is revealed as a power of dominion also over the forces of nature. The calming of the tempest is significant. "Meanwhile a great storm of wind arose." The terrified fishermen-apostles awoke Jesus who was asleep in the stern. He "woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Quiet! Be still!' The wind ceased and there was great calm...[the apostles] were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'" (cf. Mk 4:37-41).

This series of events included the miraculous catches of fish which took place at Jesus' command (in verbo tuo) after previous attempts had failed (cf. Lk 5:4-6; Jn 21:3-6). The same can also be said, as regards the structure of the event, of the "first sign" performed at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus ordered the servants to fill the jars with water and then to bring "the water changed into wine" to the headwaiter (cf. Jn 2:7-9). As in the miraculous catches of fish, so likewise at Cana of Galilee, people played their part—the fishermen-apostles in one case, and the servants at the marriage feast in the other. But it is clear that the extraordinary effect of the action did not come from them, but from him who had given them the order to act and who worked with his mysterious divine power. This is confirmed by the reaction of the apostles, and especially of Peter who, after the miraculous catch of fish, "fell at the knees of Jesus and said, 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man'" (Lk 5:8). It is one of the many cases of emotional feeling which assumes the form of reverential awe or even of fear, both in the apostles as in the case of Simon Peter, and also in the people when they feel touched by the wing of the divine mystery.

On a day after the ascension, those who witnessed "the wonders and signs...done through the apostles" (cf. Acts 2:43), were seized by a similar "awe." According to Acts, the people "carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them" (Acts 5:15). However, these "wonders and signs" which accompanied the beginnings of the apostolic Church were done by the apostles not in their own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ, and were therefore a further proof of his divine power. One is impressed by Peter's reply and command to the crippled man who had asked him for an alms near the gate of the Temple of Jerusalem: "'I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.' And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong" (Acts 3:6-7). One recalls also what Peter said to the paralyzed man named Aeneas, "'Jesus Christ hears you. Get up and make your bed.' And he got up at once" (Acts 9:34).

Also the other prince of the apostles, Paul, when recalling in the Letter to the Romans all that he had done as "minister of Christ among the pagans," hastened to add that his sole merit is to be found in that ministry. "For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit" (15:18-19).

In the early period of the Church and especially in the evangelization of the world carried out by the apostles, those "mighty works, wonders and signs" abounded, as Jesus himself had promised them (cf. Acts 2:22). But it can be said that they have always been repeated throughout salvation history, especially in decisive moments for putting God's plan into effect. Thus it was in the Old Testament in regard to the Exodus of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and the journey to the promised land under the leadership of Moses. With the Incarnation of the Son of God "the fullness of time had come" (cf. Gal 4:4). Those miraculous signs of the divine action then took on a new value and a new efficacy through the divine authority of Christ and through the reference to his name—and therefore to his truth, promise, command and glory—with which they were performed by the apostles and by so many saints in the Church. Miracles happen even today, and in each of them the face of the "Son of Man-Son of God" is outlined, and we see an affirmation of a gift of grace and salvation.