Jesus, the miracle man
January 21, 2011 by Pastor Jeremiah
I’ve always had a difficult time believing in miracles. It’s funny because the biggest miracle of them all, Jesus rising from the dead, is something I’ve staked my life upon, however, having the faith to believe that God will heal my friends’ cancer is something I have relegated to the impossible. Recently, I was praying for a friend following one of our church services at Westside. He was struggling with severe back pain and was scheduled for emergency surgery within days from that Sunday morning. He was miraculously healed! There was no denying it. He came in limping and went out skipping and jumping. My dilemma is…what does this mean?
Jesus was a worker of miracles. As I read the gospels, I am confronted with this fact. He heals the blind, the lame, and the leper, practically on command. There were times when he would display the miraculous for seemingly no reason at all – as if he was just trying to show off (walking on water Mark 6, or turning water into wine John 2:1-11). The Apostle John seems to indicate that the miracles of Jesus were performed and recorded in order that we would hear about them and believe in Jesus (John 20:30-31). However, I’m aware that faith is not always my initial reaction when confronted with the supernatural.
I remember as a kid being fascinated with the miracles of Jesus. I would pray for God to show me a miracle in order to prove his existence. When I sat down to read the gospels, the miracles of Jesus were what stood out to me. I thought that his miracles were the greatest point of emphasis for his life and ministry. When I read the gospels today, I’m struck by how Jesus downplayed the miraculous. He absolutely refused to perform a miracle in order to prove his deity and often when he did perform a miracle, he made every effort to insure that everyone kept it quiet (Mark 8:22-26). In this way, Jesus displayed incredible wisdom. While many assume that experiencing the supernatural is a catalyst that will lead to faith, often times that is not the case. In his great novel, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky notes, “The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Faith does not…spring from the miracle, but the miracle from faith.”
I have to admit that this describes my own experience with the miraculous. I pray for miracles all of the time, but when they actually happen, I’m highly skeptical. The how and why questions begin to swirl around in my head. How does one pray for a miracle? Is there a formula? Why does God choose to heal in some cases, but in others he seems to be unwilling? Why won’t God heal my friends’ cancer when he seems to come through for other people who are simply asking him to locate their car keys? These are the questions that plague my inquiring mind.
Sadly, my response towards miracles mirrors the sentiments of the Pharisees. They scrutinized Jesus’ miracles to the extent that even when faced with clear-cut evidence of his healing power, they claimed that he was under the influence of the devil (Matthew 12:24). On one occasion the Pharisees went as far as to try and kill Lazarus on account that many Jews were placing their faith in Jesus who had raised him from the dead (John 12:10-11). This would seem to contradict the commonly held belief that people in the first century were somehow more gullible, or more accepting of the miraculous. I think they were just as skeptical as people living in the 21st century. Then, as now, miracles created skepticism, controversy, criticism, and only occasionally, faith. So, why did Jesus perform any miracles at all? Is there any reason we have to believe that he will display his power in our lives today? I’ll tackle these questions in my next post… stay tuned!