A miracle is an occurrence that is not explicable in human terms or is impossible according to the laws of nature. A miracle can only be explained as supernatural, at the volition of God.
The Bible records many miracles.
Last weekend, my wife and I attended a wedding. The minister reminded us of Jesus at a wedding, too.
In his first recorded miracle, Jesus doesn’t address a big need, such as healing someone of a life-threatening illness or debilitating condition; he just turns some water into wine. Although this kept the host from suffering an embarrassing social blunder, it falls far short of Jesus’ purpose to heal and to save.
Today we trust Jesus to save us and may look to him for healing, but what about more wine?
Sometimes we try to handle the small things ourselves, turning to God only for those big items or when we’re in a jam we can’t fix ourselves. But Jesus is interested in the lessor things too.
If he can provide some extra wine at a wedding, what else can he do for us? If we don’t ask, we’ll never know.
His answers may just surprise and delight.
Once Jesus drove a demon out of a man. The man had been mute, but when the evil spirit was exorcized, he began speaking.
The people should have been in awe of the power Jesus displayed. They were not.
Instead they chose to be critical. Some questioned the source of his power and others insisted he do another miracle, as if the first wasn’t enough.
Things aren’t much different today. When someone comes along with a variant understanding of God, lives life in a different manner, or walks with a greater degree of spiritual power, the common response is criticism.
People tend to fear what challenges their status quo, to vilify what is different. They criticize what they don’t understand. It was done to Jesus two millennia ago and it’s still being done today.
Instead of looking for what makes us different, the better response is to focus on how we are the same. Pursue unity; avoid division. Celebrate diversity and embrace variation. I think that’s what Jesus would want us to do.
Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:
Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit). Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.
Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.
1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.
2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.
Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.
Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.
Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.
John (referred to as John the Baptizer) was Jesus’ cousin and a couple of months older. John preceded Jesus in ministry, pointing people to Jesus.
John did his work admirably and without fault, albeit amidst criticism. He was eventually imprisoned because of what he said.
With all the amazing things Jesus did and the miracles he preformed, you’d think that he would have freed John from jail. He could have, yet he didn’t. At least he could have visited his cousin, yet that doesn’t appear to have happened either.
So, John is sitting in jail, pondering his fate (he would soon be executed); his faith in Jesus begins to waiver. We know this because in what is likely the darkest days of his life, he sends his followers to Jesus, asking if Jesus is the “one” or if they should be expecting someone else.
John seemingly wants validation for his work and confirmation that his life of service to Jesus was not in vain.
Jesus replies, providing John with the assurance that he sought.
Sometimes God acts strangely, not giving us what we want or expect, but he does give us what we need — just like he did for John.
If you accept that God exists and exercises providential care over his creation, it is, therefore, reasonable to expect that from time to time, miracles will occur – either for our own good or for his pleasure. As such, an occasional divine intervention is not an irrational desire, but a reasonable expectation.
At the risk of trivializing God and his care for us, consider a person wishing to enjoy an “ant farm.” That person would need to first establish the ant colony and would therefore understandably opt to do what is needed to ensure its ongoing survival. At the same time, he or she would also seek an overall “hands-off” mentality in order to most effectively enjoy the ants in their natural, everyday existence. In other words, the ant farmer would intervene (that is, do an “ant miracle”) when there was a prevailing reason to do so, but not as a matter of course.
Although God is much more generous and caring then an ant farmer, the analogy is nonetheless helpful in understanding the possibility of miracles occurring in our world today.
Imagine you are going down the side of a 200-foot cliff — with a 100-foot rope. At 99 feet down, you find yourself literally dangling “at the end of your rope.”
What an apt metaphor for a hopeless situation. At this juncture, there are but three options — none of them good: 1) Try to climb back up (which is physically impossible for most people), 2) hang on as long as you can in hopes of an eventual rescue, or 3) give up and let go.
Eugene Peterson uses this powerful “end of the rope” image in his paraphrase of the Bible, which puts ancient thoughts into contemporary terms. Consider the following “end of the rope” references from The Message:
When we are at the end of our rope — and it happens to all of us sooner or later — God is there to rescue us (option 2); so don’t give up.
After Jesus performs a miracle — healing a paralytic man (see Matthew 9:2-8) — the people were fearful of God, yet full of praise at the same time (this precise wording is not apparent in all translations — see the New Living Translation or the Amplified Bible).
Although it seems like a paradox to simultaneously fear God and praise him, perhaps this is a view we should adopt.
Yes, there are reasons to fear him, but they must be carefully balanced with praising him. It may be in the midst of that balance that we are able to best connect with him.
The people have been with Jesus all day; they are hungry and without food. Jesus asks how much food is available; the report is merely five loaves of bread and two fishes from a boy. [John 6:9]
Surely out of more then 5,000 people, other people there also have some food, but they are keeping it to themselves (which seems wise and prudent). However, one boy is willing to share what he has. Because of that, his small gift is used to feed all those people.
We don’t have to give Jesus something huge or beyond our means, but we do need to give him what we have. When we do, Jesus can do great things with it.
In Mark 5:2-17 there is the account of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. It is a dramatic story in which the man is healed and a herd of pigs are killed (the demons kill the pigs, not Jesus).
The people of the nearby town who are told of this miracle have two ways to respond:
1) In awe of Jesus’ power and authority, they could turn to him and follow him.
2) Out of fear of the unknown and the uncomfortable, they could reject Jesus and push him away.
They choose the later, insisting that Jesus leave them alone and not bother them any more [Mark 5:17]; how sad.
I wonder, how often are we confronted with the work of God, but fearing the unknown or the uncomfortable, end up pushing him away?