Knowing the Mind and the Heart
(and Knowing the Future)
[Note: this article is a chapter from a book by John Oakes and Dave Eastman
on miracles to be published in 2007]
The miracles we have looked at thus far involve Jesus violating physical laws
of nature. We will now consider a miraculous ability of Jesus which may or may
not involve the violation of a physical law. Jesus Christ had the ability to
know the thoughts of the people with whom he came into contact. The nature of
human thought, and on a deeper level the nature of human consciousness are not
yet completely understood by the practitioners of neuroscience. To the scientific
materialist, human thought is just nerves firing and chemicals moving around.
For such people, consciousness is not a meaningful concept. Most of the rest
of us believe that the human heart, consciousness, the will and the spirit are
not just words: that they are very real, whether that reality is spiritual, metaphysical
or something else.
Some have claimed telepathic powers?the ability to read the minds of other human
beings. Attempts to create reproducible experiments to test such claims have
been unsuccessful to date. If one were to have the ability to know the thoughts
of another, what would that ability imply? Is there some sort of detectable energy
produced as the neurons involved in human thought are firing in the brain? According
to classic science, any sort of electromagnetic field produced by the electric
currents zipping around in the brain is extremely small. That being so, the
miniscule electromagnetic radiation produced would reach undetectable values,
given background electromagnetic noise, within a very small distance. Besides,
as far as we know, humans do not have any sort of electromagnetic energy detecting
mechanism. One of the reasons scientists are deeply skeptical of telepathic
powers, in addition to the lack of supporting evidence, is that it does not
make sense scientifically that there could be a detectable signal. Is there some sort
of parallel non-physical reality?a non-physical aspect to human thought? Is
consciousness real, but not reflected by any material phenomenon? If so, science
will not have anything to say about that. For a scientist to speak of such a
spiritual reality is to address areas outside their expertise. Is the ability
to read the thoughts of persons some sort of purely spiritual ability? Is the
telepath tapping into some sort of separate reality? We can only speculate.
In any case, what we know for sure is that Jesus showed the ability to know
the hearts and the minds of the people around him. This is not a known, reproducible,
human ability. To do so is to perform a miracle. The other miracles we have
considered are a reflection of the omnipotence of God. Jesus? knowledge of the
thoughts of people reflects the omniscience of God. Like the Psalmist said,
?The Lord knows the thoughts of man.? (Psalm 94:11) Which is easier; to turn
water into wine or to know the thoughts of people? That is hard to say. It is kind
of like asking which is easier: to forgive sins or to heal a paralytic (Matthew
But that brings us to our first example. Jesus told the paralytic that his sins
were forgiven. His hearers silently scoffed, saying to themselves, ?This fellow
is blaspheming!? (Matthew 9:3) Much to their shock, Jesus read their thoughts.
?Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ?Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your
hearts??? (v. 4) Busted! Hopefully convicted! Believers in God know that he
is aware of all our thoughts, but do we really believe it? If we really did,
surely we would make more effort to control our thoughts. Speaking for myself
(John O.) if I were honest, I would have to admit that I am a kind of practical
atheist when it comes to my own personal thoughts. I think they are private?that
God does not hear. I often allow thoughts to run through my mind about which
I would be extremely embarrassed if they were heard by those around me. I forget
that God hears all my thoughts. If I were around Jesus, something tells me I
would have a different perspective.
Those who spent time around Jesus were at times shocked to realize that he knew
every one of their thoughts: good and bad. Probably it made them feel a bit
like being nude around him. Let us take a glimpse of the effect of this miraculous
power of Jesus. Philip had met Jesus and believed in him. His friend Nathanael
was more of a skeptic. Philip appealed to his curiosity.
?Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?? Nathanael asked.
?Come and see,? said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ?Here is a true Israelite,
in whom there is nothing false.?
?How do you know me?? Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, ?I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip
Then Nathanael declared, ?Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of
Israel.? (John 1:46-49)
We are not completely sure why Jesus? answer elicited such a strong response
from Nathanael. Perhaps it was the knowing look in Jesus? eyes. Perhaps something
happened under the fig tree that both Jesus and Nathanael were aware of, but
which we are not. Either way, Nathanael knew that Jesus had looked right into his
heart. This miraculous knowledge of Jesus was so striking that right then and
there, Nathanael knew that Jesus was the Messiah?the Son of God. What an awesome
This was not some sort of isolated occurrence in the ministry of Jesus. No one
could be around Jesus for long without getting a sense that he knew them better
than any normal person could. He knew their heart and their thoughts. The Pharisees
thought they were speaking behind Jesus? back; ?It is only by Beelzebub, the prince
of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.? (Matthew 12:24, also see Luke
11:14-17) Little did they know that ?Jesus knew their thoughts.?
The disciples were arguing among themselves about which of them was to be the
greatest in the coming kingdom headed by Jesus. They thought they were out of
hearing of Jesus. They should have known better! ?Jesus, knowing their thoughts,
took a little child and had him stand beside him.? (Luke 9:47)
On the night he was betrayed, we can assume that Jesus? mind was working at
a quick pace. However, he was not too busy in his mind to read the thoughts
of Judas. ?For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said
not every one was clean.? (John 13:11) He knew exactly what Judas was thinking. ?What
you are about to do, do quickly.? (John 13:27) Was this telepathy (knowing the
thoughts) or was this prescience (knowing the future)? It was probably both.
Jesus knew the thoughts of people. He also knew the future. He was God! God is omniscient.
What Does This Mean?
Jesus had the power to know the thoughts of those around him. He also had the
power to know what was to happen to him and to others in the future. What does
this mean to us? Let us bear in mind that Jesus resurrected. He is now with
his Father in heaven. We can assume that his knowledge of our thoughts and of
the future path of our lives is still in force. Like John said, ?The Word became
flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the
one and only Son, who came fro
m the Father, full of grace and truth?. No one has
ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father?s side, has made him
known.? (John 1:14) The life, and even the abilities of Jesus while in the flesh
give us a glance of the nature of God who is in heaven. Believers in the God
of the Bible know that he knows the thoughts of the heart, but seeing Jesus
in the flesh knowing the thoughts and the hearts of those around him makes this
truth more concrete.
Seeing Jesus as he miraculously knew the hearts of those around him makes some
biblical truths take on more force for us because, as Jesus said, what we see
him doing, that is what the father does. Jesus said to Phillip, ?Don?t you know
me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen
me has seen the Father.? (John 14:9) When we see Jesus knowing human thoughts,
it brings alive passages such as Hebrews 4:12. ?The Word is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,? it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God?s sight. Everything is uncovered
and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.? God knows
our thoughts, our attitudes and our underlying motives. Ouch! We want to ignore
this fact, but the miracles of Jesus make this harder to forget.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that righteousness is based,
not just on our actions, but our thoughts as well. Murder and violence are sins,
but so is being angry at your brother. Adultery is sinful, but committing adultery
in the heart by lusting after those to whom we are not married makes one equally
liable to hell. When we see Jesus knowing the thoughts of all those around him,
this helps us to reduce our human tendency to consider only our actions as righteous
or unrighteous and not our sinful thoughts.
Our knowing that God is aware of our every thought, as proved by the life of
Jesus, also gives force to a passage such as Galatians 5:19-21. ?The acts of
the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry
and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions,
factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you as I did before,
that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdomof God.? In this list,
Paul bounces back and forth between sinful actions and sinful thoughts. Sexual
immorality is an action, while impurity is in the mind. The pattern of alternating
action and thought continues in this list of sins. Through Jesus we understand that
God knows our every thought, desire and motive. Let us remember this and let
it motivate us toward righteousness.
Prescience: Jesus Accurately Predicted the Future
There are some practical implications of the fact that Jesus miraculously knew
the future as well. Science tells us that time is linear. The law of cause (the
past) and effect (the future) tells us that it is literally impossible to know
the future, at least according to science. Yet, Jesus definitely knew the future
as it applied to his life and to his death. When they came to arrest him, ?Jesus,
knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ?Who is
it you want??? (John 18:4) Many times Jesus told his followers both privately
and publicly exactly how his life was to end. ?And he said, ?The Son of Man
must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers
of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.? (Luke
9:22) He told his followers repeatedly, and more clearly as the time approached,
how he was to be betrayed and die. In fact, his enemies were well aware that
Jesus had publicly proclaimed ahead of time both his death and his resurrection
The next day, the one after the Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees
went to Pilate. ?Sir,? they said, ?we remember that while he was still alive
that deceiver said, ?After three days I will rise again.? So give the order
for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may
come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the
dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.? (Matthew 27:62-64)
Evidently, the fact that Jesus was able to predict the future was a matter of
If a miracle is defined as an action which breaks the laws of nature, then Jesus?
perfect knowledge of his own future is clearly miraculous. Others have claimed
the power to predict the future with a very limited success rate. Supposed prophets
such as Nostradamus and Jean Dixon are either wrong almost all the time or are
so vague that their statements can be interpreted to mean almost anything. Jesus?
prophecies were nothing like this. They were specific and they were never wrong.
Jesus (along with other prophets of God) knew beforehand what would happen both
to himself to others. He told Peter that he would betray him three times (Matthew
26:34, Mark 14:30). He knew that Judas would betray him and how that betrayal
would play out. He knew when he went to the Gardenof Gethsemanethat this would be
the night of his arrest and trial. Jesus knew that Lazarus would die and also
that he would raise him from the dead (John 11).
Jesus also accurately predicted the destruction of Jerusalemwhich occurred in
AD 70. ?When you see Jerusalemsurrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation
is near. Then let those who are in Judeaflee to the mountains, let those in
the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.? (Luke 21:20-21)
This prediction was published in writing several years before the events (see
also Matthew 24:15-25). Josephus described in lurid detail the playing out of this
prophecy in his book The Jewish Wars. According to Christian historians such
as Eusebius, the church took the advice of Jesus when the Roman armies under Vespasian
surrounded Jerusalem. He reported that they fled to Pellaat that time. Because
they took the prediction of Jesus seriously, the Christians in that city escaped
the tragic death and enslavement which was the fate of tens of thousands of
Implications of the Prescience of Jesus
There are a few practical implications of Jesus? miraculous ability to know
the future. The God of the Bible is omniscient. Omniscience implies knowledge
of the future. This idea, though true, is abstract and hard for us to relate
to. Jesus?God in the flesh?made this truth about God concrete. God is in control.
He knows what will happen before it happens. By contrast, we are not in control
and we do not know the future! We believe that God knows and controls the future,
but somehow seeing the human being Jesus know his own fate, the fate of the apostles
and the fate of Jerusalem makes the omniscience of God more real to us. It makes
it much easier for us to trust in God. We see Jesus fully aware of the future,
yet at peace with God and it teaches us how to handle life. We may not know the
future but God the only Son, Jesus, does. No wonder Jesus was able to say ?Peace
I leave with you; my peace I give you.? (John 14:27)
Consider another implication of Jesus proving his miraculous ability as a predictor
of the future. There is one thing we learn immediately from Jesus? prophecy
of the destruction of Jerusalem. Accepting
and acting on the statements of Jesus
about the future can result in salvation. Obviously the first century Christians
believed in Jesus as a prophet. Very few of the Jews left Jerusalemat the time
it was surrounded by Vespasian?s troops, but if we can trust Eusebius, all the
disciples fled the city. It is not easy to move to another city. We can assume
it was no easier and no less traumatic for a city dweller to do so in the past.
The Christians would not have moved unless they were fully persuaded that Jesus?
prophecy in Matthew 24 and in Luke 21 was about to be fulfilled. The lesson
here is that if we are fully persuaded that Jesus is a prophet of God and if
we are willing to follow his commands, we will be saved?we will have eternal life.
This truth is wonderfully illustrated by the prophecy of Jesus and by the result
for the Jerusalem Christians when they took Jesus? advice.
This brings to mind another implication of Jesus as a perfectly prescient person.
If the short-term prophecies of Jesus all came true, then that strongly implies
that his predictions which have not yet been fulfilled will ultimately come
to pass as well. If a gambler picked the winner of ten horse races in a row
correctly we would say that he or she was very lucky. If that same person also
changed water to wine, cured people of leprosy and raised the dead, the implications
would dramatically change. In that case, if this person were to predict the next
winner, I think I know where I would place my money!
Such is the case with Jesus (except that he was not a gambler). He did considerably
more than predict the future. The wise person will pay very careful attention
to the other predictions Jesus made.
?At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the
nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the
clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with
a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from
one end of the heavens to the other?. No on knows about the day or hour, not
even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father?. So you also must
be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.? (Matthew
24:30-31, 36, 44)
Would anyone like to take bets on whether this prophecy will happen? Jesus has
already proved his miraculous ability to predict future events. Personally,
I would not want to bet against him. Yet, many people around us are taking this
bet. They are hoping that Jesus is wrong. Not only are they hoping Jesus will not
come back today, they are betting that the trumpet sound will never be heard
at all. They are not ready. They have not made Jesus Lord of their lives. Let
us not be like the foolish virgins (see Matthew 25)!
There are still other prophecies of Jesus which remain to be fulfilled.
?When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will
sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before
him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates
the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his
?Then the King will say to those on his right, ?Come, you who are blessed by
my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation
of the world?. They he will say to those on his left, ?Depart from me, you who
are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.?? (Matthew
Jesus, the one who got the details of his death right, as well as the denials
of Peter and Judas, the ultimate fates of John and Peter (John 21:20-23), and
the fate of Jerusalem, predicted that there will be a Judgment Day. He also
predicted that as a result of this Judgment, some will go to eternal glory and
others will go to eternal fire. In still another prophecy, Jesus tells us that
most will not be in heaven (Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:22-30) Because of the
miracles of Jesus we can be dead certain that this prophecy will come true. There
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, as well as great joy. You can bet your
life on it. In fact, if you are wise, you will do exactly that.
John Oakes, PhD
 It is an interesting question whether Jesus, while limiting himself to a
physical body, was not completely omniscient. We know that the Son of God gave
up a lot in order to become a human being. Most likely, in taking on a human
nature, Jesus willingly limited his power as God. While he was in a physical body,
Jesus may well have voluntarily but temporarily not been omniscient and omnipotent.
Despite this, his miracles show that he was very powerful.
 Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Wars (Penguin Classics, 1984)
 Pamphili Eusebius Ecclesiastical History (Hendrickson Publishers, 1998).
?If any man will compare the words of our Saviour with the whole History of
the Jewish war, as related by Josephus; he cannot forbear to admire and acknowledge
our Lord?s prescience and prediction to be wonderful above nature, and truly divine.? (
Book III. Ch. 7) "But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded
by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the
city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella." (Book III, Ch. 5)