Was Jesus a teenage miracle worker?

Question
Did Jesus perform miracles before his baptism as a child or teen? If not, what would be the reason that he did not perform miracles before his baptism?
Answer
The second century Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a probable Gnostic gospel, claims that Jesus performed miracles before his baptism; however, in Against Heresies Iraneus includes this writing in a list of unreliable, non-canonical documents. Interestingly, the Qur'an also says that the child Jesus did miracles (Surah 005.110). But for me, these books carry no weight. Why? Consider John 21:25:
"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
This same John wrote that Jesus' first miracle was at Cana of Galilee:
"This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him" (John 2:11).
At this point Jesus was an adult, not a teen or a child. The young Jesus, being God, had authority to do miracles, but look at what Scripture tells us about his childhood.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. On one occasion during his ministry he made a visit back there and entered the synagogue to teach (Matt. 13:53-54), and we're told his teaching amazed the people. Their reaction included a reference to the miracles they had heard about:

Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? (Matt. 13:54-56).

Their response was one of surprise and astonishment. They thought Jesus was an ordinary carpenter's son, the normal kid at the end of the block and not some teenage miracle worker (cf. Luke 4:22). Nazareth was a rather unbelieving town (Mark 6:1-5), so if Jesus had done miracles there in his youth, why would they be surprised and astonished? Scripture clearly disqualifies claims that Jesus performed miracles before the event in Cana.

So why didn't Jesus do miracles prior to his baptism? This is in part because his ministry didn't begin until John the Baptist's introduction and baptism of him (Luke 3:21-23). And this was because Jesus, to fulfill Scripture, had to be properly introduced (Isa. 40:3-5; Luke 3:4-6). Also, remember that God has an ordained time for everything under the sun (cf. Eccl. 3:1-8; Gal. 4:4). (Please see Is God sovereign over every second of time? below.)

Moreover, a miracle-working child or teen would have drawn numerous questions from others regarding who Jesus was. The Jews desired to kill Jesus even before Calvary because he performed miracles and claimed to be God (cf. Matt. 12:33-34). Such attention earlier in his life may have brought about an earlier time for his crucifixion or have led to a stoning instead, thus not fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.

Indeed, Jesus had to reach certain people with his gospel while he was still upon this earth. There was a set order to Christ's life; he had a specific earthly ministry to accomplish. At the appointed time, Jesus would do and say all that the Father gave him to do and say (John 5:19-20). The deaf would hear, the bind would see, the lame would leap, lepers would be cleansed, demons would be cast out, the dead would live again, seas would be stilled, fish and bread would be multiplied, and a fig tree would wither. Judas would betray him and Jesus, a sinless man, would be put on trial. He would take his last ordered steps on the Via Dolorosa or the "Way of Suffering." And then, only at the appointed hour, at Calvary, the sins of his people would be atoned for, justice would be satisfied, the earth would quake, the temple veil would be split from top to bottom, graves would send back their dead, and three days later Jesus would be resurrected from death.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be born, and a time to die …" (Eccl. 3:1-8).

Related Topics

Is God sovereign over every second of time?
Were Jesus' miracles for real?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).