I don’t think you can live a life without, at some point, needing a miracle. Emotionally even the most hardened person may want a miracle and even the secretly pray for one. A miracle of course is not an accident or an incident that a doctor might describe as unexplainable. A miracle is something that God does and in the biographies of Jesus Christ he did many miracles. In fact, in the Jewish Talmud, even amidst the testimonies of those who took joy in crucifying Jesus, is the admission that Jesus was the doer of many marvellous miracles.
In an attempt to reintroduce Jesus into people’s thinking, I want to talk about Jesus the miracle worker. But miracles can be very problematic. For some they are just random unexplainables. For some the lack of a miracle causes them to despise God. For other there exists an optimism for miracles that can be annoyingly disappointing. Worse are those who demand of God miracles or who seek to manipulate God for them! One has no expectation that God is involved, another is angry because God doesn’t seem involved, yet others misrepresent God with false expectations and some just fail to respect God’s space.
I of course believe in miracles and particularly those miracles of Jesus Christ recorded in the four biographies of his life – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When John the Baptist, a friend of Jesus, was troubled and facing death and wondering about the trustworthiness of Jesus, Jesus said “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
Now John didn’t get a miraculous deliverance. In fact he was beheaded by a local secular leader who was trapped in sin, a point I think is really very instructive. From Jesus’ perspective it wasn’t getting a miracle that was crucial for John. What was crucial for John was knowing that God had offered signs to the world that he has the power to manage all circumstances of life: sight, movement, cleansing, hearing and even the raising of the dead. What was crucial to John was not a miracle but knowing that Jesus was who he said he was. If in your poverty things are out of your control, even your understanding, Jesus is indeed good news. His miracles were historical signs to the world that God has come among us and that there is comfort and hope in Him as there was for John the Baptist.
The miracles of Jesus don’t prescribe that God should do miracles for us whenever we ask. They prescribe for the world who Jesus is – the king of heaven with the power to repair all that is broken and hold out to us the hope for better things. The miracles of Jesus don’t prescribe that God should do miracles for us whenever we ask. That is a wrong expectation that misses the much more significant intentions of God for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. People were definitely blessed when Jesus did miracles but the purpose of His miracles was that people would want more of Him. As John would understand, the miracles were not his comfort, Jesus was.
Interestingly, Jesus at times chose deliberately not to do miracles because of their capacity to distract. Jesus did two things: he preached about the Kingdom of God and did miracles that drew attention to the Kingdom of God. His being hung on a cross until dead would indicate a world that will take a miracle but not the Comforter or His Kingdom.
When we are imprisoned by guilt or grief, Jesus send a message and miracle that reminds us that God has come and there is comfort for those who trust in Him. That message is the cross and the miracle is His resurrection. One offers the cleansing of forgiveness, the other the promise of life, a message and miracle for us all.