I suppose that a great many things could be said about miracles. We could describe a great many events in Scripture where the miraculous occurs. We could investigate the reasons for their occurrence or find little tidbits about their causes. But to begin to understand the idea of a miracle we must begin with the admission that miracles seem ever so uncomfortable to the Christian Theist. Often I feel awkward as I discuss topics of worlds being spoken into existence, diseases being cured by a touch, and dead men coming to life again. All this comes off rather suspicious to the modern listener who has only heard of rumors of healings being done by bizarre preachers who oddly walk away with millions and no hard and fast evidence of such miracles ever being accomplished. A miracle, to my friend at Starbucks, seems too farfetched and other-worldly to be imagined and is rejected for that reason.
At first the rejection bothered me. After all, why would someone reject miracles as bizarre? But then I considered my own inhibitions about the whole notion and I had to admit that I too held my own inhibitions. Sure, I believe the Bible, but wouldn’t a Bible without all the miracles and other-worldly concepts be somewhat easier to believe? I do not suppose that other Christians have ever had such inhibitions because most Christians have more faith than me. My faith has always been something of a struggle, or, as the Apostle Paul often says, a battle. I don’t have big faith. I shudder often at difficult things and feel the giant of despair in my life because I so often walk by sight so as to avoid seeing the key in my pocket that would free me from the dungeon. I often find myself sympathetic to the man who cried out that he believed, but that he needed Jesus to help his unbelief. Ultimately my faith is not the object of my faith. My faith, albeit something of a mustard seed variety, rests in Christ and His work on my behalf. So when I am pierced with doubt, I return back to the Gospel and begin reminding myself of where my faith rests and then working outward to the other things. And it is in this outworking that I stumbled across the idea of miracles.
As I considered miracles it seemed to me that they must be considered at face value and given at least a fair shot at consideration before anyone should reject them out of hand. So as I consider the idea of a miracle I find myself considering what the substance of a miracle is. Perhaps if we understood this it would make much more sense. Take, for example, the story where Jesus was welcomed to a wedding party where the poor bride and groom ran out of money for wine. Jesus arrives on the scene and turns water into wine. In the midst of the mundane of the mundane I read that the most other-worldly sort of thing has happened. Water turned into wine. It would seem that the rules of the universe as I know them have been suspended. Herein we have arrived at something of our first conclusion in regard to miracles. Miracles are an intervention into our world.
What I mean here is that the little blueberry that we know as Planet Earth has been touched by something quite unknown to the specks on the blueberry. We are made uncomfortable by miracles for this very reason, namely, that they intervene with our world but that we do not understand them. It is like someone attempting to explain the color yellow to a blind person or an iPad to a caveman. Without the ability to see what these things, explanation is impossible. I’m often led to the neat little Doctor Seuss story of “Horton Hears a Who” as I think on this point. In the neat little story, Horton tries to convince all the big animals that a speck he has found contains an entire world of strange little creatures. Everyone around him thinks he’s lost it because he talks to a speck. Meanwhile, on the speck the mayor of Whoville talks with Horton and finds out that the entire city is merely a tiny speck. He tries to tell the Whos about this, but they laugh at it because they see it. Ultimately, the Whos end up believing that they are a speck when Horton is able to interact with them and the big animals end up believing that the Whos are real when they are able to shout loud enough for the animals to hear. Miracles are God’s way of shouting into our world. They crackle like fireworks to tell us that there is something else out there. Miracles are the explosion of the infinite crashing into the finite. The real matter at hand now seems to be not a question of who so simple as to accept the existence of miracles, but a question of who is so arrogant as to believe that no other realm has interacted with our own. Miracles are God’s way of reminding His creation that He exists.
This thought leads me to another. Miracles, as we find described in the Bible, lead us to believe that this God which is worshipped is not aloof from His creation, but cares deeply about it and is involved in and with it in some extraordinary way. Imagine that you have a son in the 4th grade. He’s bullied because he’s ugly and has freckles. When your son comes home from school with a bloody nose, how would you respond? Would you simply hand him some cotton balls and send him to bed, or would you break into his world, call the teacher or principal, go to the PTA meeting, and do everything you could to rescue him from his sad estate? In a similar manner, miracles are God’s way of showing us that He cares. He even cares about the poor couple who couldn’t afford a proper wedding party. Miracles are a sign, not merely that God exists, but that He cares about His creation.
Beyond this, another obvious point needs to be made (although I think most of this is obvious and I may be wasting many good peoples’ weekends of reading by writing this), namely that miracles speak not only to the fact that God exists and that He cares about His creation, but also to the fact that He is able to do something for His creation. There are many of us that are happy with a sentimental view of God who hugs us and cares for us, but we don’t like what theologians refer to as an omnipotent and all-knowing God. This is intimidating. But this is what miracles speak to. Miracles scream out that God is able to do something about the mess that we’re in. This leads me to another point.
Miracles teach us that something is broken. As we look out in our world we find hospitals full of sick and dying people. We find earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes that destroy life. We find that most of the world lives on $2 a day. We see that 100% of us will someday face death. Miracles amplify this brokenness because through them we see that there is hope for healing. You see, Jesus came around teaching people on the hillsides of Galilee and told them that there was a coming kingdom. In this kingdom everything would be made right again. By again it is meant that there was once a time when humanity did not experience sickness, hurricanes, poverty, or death. All this was before man’s rebellion against God. Jesus spoke of a kingdom where all of this would be no more. But He did more than just talk about it. He showed us what this kingdom would look like. From the eyewitness accounts we hear of numerous afflictions being cured, storms being stilled, the poor being fed, death being reversed, and even the minions of Satan being repelled. All of the miracles of Scripture resonate with this reality, specifically that humanity is broken, God is there, God cares, and God is able to heal that brokenness.
So as I return to the idea of the awkwardness of miracles in this post-Christian age I am driven to consider that miracles are awkward because they are meant to be. Miracles have been and always will be otherworldly and strange because hope for humanity’s healing does not come from within. If we reject the miracles of the Bible then we are left with a humanity with all the answers to the problems of sickness, disaster, poverty, and death. Call me what you will, but I refuse to believe in such a humanity. Even a simple glance at the record of human history exposes that humanity is its own worst enemy. We are broken and our hope must come from another realm. Someone must break through to fix our problems, but we cannot let Him in. Our culture cannot allow for such a breakthrough.
Our culture believes in the miracle of naturalistic evolution. It sincerely believes that billions of years of explosion, mutation, and natural selection made the world and the complexity of the human genome. I suppose that if my culture can believe something so fantastical and unobserved, then I may go on believing the eyewitness accounts of the man named Jesus who turned the world upside down by the greatest miracle humanity has ever known. Death was shown to be subject to God. While all the created order shivers and shakes and groans in its brokenness, the Healer shouts into the world by nothing less than the resurrection from the dead and tells us that He is there, He cares, and He has done something about all the brokenness. And to this end the Christian prays when he says, “Thy kingdom come.”