"Prove it to me."
"Show me the facts."
"When I see it, I'll believe it."
We are all keen observers, but even the best of us have been tricked with a sleight of hand. At one time or another we have all been lied to and cheated by the trickster and the magician, so that our species has become cold, rational and in need of indisputable evidence in order for us to say, "I believe." This is a reasonable response, especially if the world were steely deterministic, but thankfully, the universe does not work that way.
To begin our journey into the miracles of Jesus, let's look at the difference (if there is one) between a miracle and general natural phenomena. Ever since our species has been able to wonder and ponder the cosmos, we have asked a number of important questions about the nature of things, mostly based on what, how and why. Aristotle had exactly four questions he asked when pondering the phenomena of nature. They have been called Aristotle's Four Causes.
Of Aristotle's four causes, I give the formal cause my closest attention, because I think it is most overlooked and most fascinating. For me, the best way to think about this cause is to think of what the artist does when he begins to work. He first thinks of something to create. He studies the picture in his head and then he begins to draw, hammer out, paint or mold his creation. He may have to study and sketch, but eventually, his dream becomes reality. The formal cause is the dream.
The Feeding of the 5,000 was the only miracle recorded by all of four gospel writers. Of any of the Bible stories, it ranks alongside Noah and Jonah as one of the top 'signs and wonders' that most non-Christians know about from the Bible. The story is rich with meaning and truth. Page after page can be gleaned and written from this one story. But the story is really less about the miraculous multiplication of food and more about the breakingof bread. It's really all about the breaking of Jesus.
In the miracle of the Feeding of 5,000 we briefly touched on how being truly compassionate with others is a suffering enterprise. When we help others, we are inevitably drained. If we are not suffering ourselves, we probably aren't doing much good for the other person. In this scripture we find the one recorded account when Jesus actually relays to us what it felt like for him to heal someone.
Of all the miracles, for me, the miracle of Jesus walking on water is probably the most unbelievable. How is it if I can believe Jesus multiplied bread and healed sicknesses, why can't I believe that Jesus can interrupt the law of gravity?
The miracle of the man born blind is a deep mystery to me. Why did Jesus use a mud poultice formed by his saliva to heal the man born blind? Secondly, there seems to be an implication that the man was made blind from birth by God in order display the glory of God. Did God really blind the man from birth in order for Jesus to show his glory? Let's first look to see if this man's blindness was a 'set-up' by God. This issue has by far the most profound theological implications. The answer to this question will change what we know about the character of God.
The men and women who approached Jesus for healing met the living manifestation of their hope. He fulfilled their most deepest desire, whether it be for their own health or for the life of a friend or a family member. They knew Jesus was their last and only hope. We need the same hope in Christ today as much as they needed him back then. Hope is the vision that the Almighty Father has prepared for us. When Jesus said that "he can do only what he sees his Father doing," he was seeing hope through a crystal-clear lens. Jesus saw hope in its final, true form. We must rely on Christ's perfect eye, for our sin-blinded eyes sees the Father and his kingdom only through the opaque lens of Christian hope.
Most of our minds are password-unprotected. The content that we allow ourselves to dwell on is staggering: the articles and books we read, the music we listen to, the images we look at, the ideas we are convinced by, and even the people with whom we identify. Our hearts are much like a home. Charlatans come knocking at the door. If we succumb, they take what they want and sometimes leave behind a secret entryway into our heart. Then they can come and go at their pleasure. And amazingly, much of the time, we just sit back and let it happen.
Now, be honest, how often do you feel like you're talking to a blank wall when you pray? One reason we feel that way is because we aren't listening. We're just babbling. Another reason is because of our lack of faith. Jesus becomes exasperated with his disciples for their lack of faith. He sighs, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" Why did he utter these words before healing a demon-possessed boy? Did he not have compassion for crazy situation?
How often do you mumble angry thoughts, toss a verbal jab at friends, or even explode at family members? Ironically, it's most often the family member who gets the heat. But what we don't realize is what we say can and will be used against us. Jesus explains in Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) that we are defiled by what comes out of our mouth. We open up pathways to our hearts. Those roads are then exploited more and more by the seedy travelers, whether they be anger, lust or something else worse. As we burn in those paths, they may become well-traveled super highways.
How many of us spend our days trying to live up to another person's expectation for us? We act like all kinds of other people rather than ourselves. We argue, "But I was taught by my Dad to make sure people respect me or I'll be trampled on. And my mom taught me that I must present myself like this. You know I won't be accepted in the workplace if I don't..." The fact is that as Christians we will never be accepted by the world if we follow Christ. We will always be rejected just like he was. The only expectation we need to live up to is Jesus' and he already knows who we are. He knows we are sinners.
The miracle of the temple tax in the fish's mouth competes for the oddest miracle award in the New Testament. Understandably, Jesus, our savior, would miraculously feed the hungry, heal the sick, cast out demons, and calm the storms. But paying our taxes or church tithes? Now, that's a savior many of us would actually want to meet. But don't get too excited, this miracle has very little to do with taxes and has everything to do with sacrifice.
How did you become a passionate disciple of Jesus? Was it the family you were born into? Did God reveal himself to you in "signs and wonders" that transformed your life? Did God circumcise your stoney heart and reveal that soft flesh that allows Jesus in? What turns a halfhearted Christian into a person driven for God? Initially, the apostle Peter was one such lukewarm disciple. It wasn't until he looked deep inside that he caved into to himself and opened up to the light of Christ.
In childhood we learn about our mortality through the death of a loved one or even a pet. If we live on a farm or in a war zone, we discover death much sooner than others. Death is a reality that has shaped philosophies and religions since the beginning of humanity. Even our theories in science are driven by the observations of death. In our sciences, death and decay have lead to theories of about entropy and chaos that we have applied to the universe itself. As a result, some profess that all the universe's systems will one day halt or at least slow down to a grind of minimal energy. But what if it won't? What if death is only what we 'think' is beyond the horizon because our scope is so limited?