Bible Verse of the Day

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Miracle of Faith

However the workings of Jesus are understood – literally or symbolically or both - they proclaim a Kingdom built on belief

And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake. . . And they did all eat, and were filled. . . And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Thus, Matthew straightforwardly reports one of the most redoubtable of Jesus’ miracles.
 What to make of it? By definition, a miracle is an event contrary to the laws of nature, worked by a super-human agency as a manifestation of its power. The modern Christian, brought up on scientific truths, is sometimes hard put to accept all miracles as facts. Still, we can no more ignore them than we can expunge from the Bible the Sermon on the Mount or the Last Supper.
For one thing, we have been familiar from childhood with Christ’s most dramatic miracles: changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, giving sight to the man born blind, walking on the water to the disciples’ ship, raising Lazarus from the dead. For another, these miraculous actions account for a large portion of the Scriptures. We read of 17 healings, three raisings from the dead, six exorcisms and six victories over the forces of nature. Mark’s Gospel devotes nearly a third of its entire text to Jesus’ miracles. In all four Gospels, accounts of miracles form some of the most beautiful, most celebrated passages.
As the successor of the prophets, Christ, to the Hebrew mind, needed miracles for His credentials. “What sign showest thou then,” He was asked, “that we may see, and believe thee?” And miracles reinforced the often faltering faith of His disciples. “What manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” they wonder after He stills the raging tempest in answer to their panicked cry: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Hundreds were won over by His works. “Though ye believe not me, believe the works,” He pleaded, “that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him.” Even Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night, declared, “Rabbi, we know thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
Yet we know, too, that Christ was sparing with His signs, and often shy about them. “See thou tell no man,” He warns the leper whom He has made well with a touch. Often, it is barely a word, a touch, a gesture - and the wonder is done. “Go thy way; thy son liveth” “Be thou clean.” “Take up thy bed, and walk.”
Behind most of Jesus’ miracles is pity for the crippled, blind, paralysed men and women of Palestine’s poor villages. When He passed the two blind men sitting by the wayside, they cried out to Him for help. Jesus spontaneously had compassion on them, and touched their eyes, and they could see. Luke tells us that the Lord restored to life the widow’s only son, who was being carried from the city in a funeral procession, because He had compassion for the mother.

Much earnest thought has gone into discrediting the Gospel miracles. The spirit of Enlightenment could not accept the notion of a world turned upside-down - even by Christ. In 1748, the great Scottish philosopher-historian, David Hume, wrote: “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, there is here a direct and full proof against the existence of any miracle.” More recently, theologian Rudolf Bultmann asserted: “One cannot use electric light and the radio and at the same time believe in the world of spirits and miracles of the New Testament.”
Rational explanations are advanced from time to time by doubters. For example, the feeding of the multitude was really a sharing of food some individuals had brought along. Christ walking on the sea was an optical illusion. The storm He calmed would have abated by itself. Yet behind the Gospel texts lies an oral tradition going back to Christ’s ministry, and what has thus come down to us is based largely on eye-witness accounts. And surely, upholders of belief in miracles point out, God, who made the world and who controls it, can interrupt, or violate, a natural order that is of His own making.
The great debate has gradually, over the years, lost its fervour. Most churchmen today feel that it is up to individual believers to come to terms with the miraculous. “You might consider certain miracles as non-events and still be a good Christian,” says one minister. What matters, to most twentieth-century Bible students, is the relevance of Jesus’ miracles within the Gospel context. Whichever way we read them - as factual accounts, as allegories or as a blend of both - they proclaim a Kingdom built on faith.
But there is yet another aspect of Christ’s miracles. Because of their tremendous impact, on both His followers and His detractors, they point the way to Calvary. After His healing of the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, the Pharisees first seek to slay Him, because He has worked on the Sabbath day and said God was His Father. They charge Him, once again, with blasphemy after the healing of the man born blind. “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God!”
It is the death of His friend Lazarus that brings Him back to the outskirts of perilous Jerusalem, and ushers in His Passion. “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him… Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death.”

Miracles thus become the central evidence against the carpenter from Nazareth. Confirming the already faithful in their faith and conquering new hearts at every turn, they satisfy His foes that He is dangerous and must be killed. His final sign is a quick little gesture of compassion when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. The Master heals it, illustrating, once more, His admonition, “Love your enemies.”
He will work no more wonders in this life. When He is taken before Herod to be judged, the king would like to see Him do some miracle and is enraged when Christ replies with silence. Mocked on the Cross - “He saved others; Himself He cannot save!” - He suffers, obedient to the Father unto death. And the great Easter miracle of Resurrection places God’s seal on Jesus’ earthly mission, authenticating the beloved Son in whom He was well pleased.
“Believest thou this?” Christ had asked Martha, the sister of Lazarus. The question is addressed anew to every generation. Faith cannot rest exclusively on reason, and it would be a sorry age that did not leave a little room for signs and wonders. The fact that Christianity came in on wings of miracles, and swept the world, remains something to consider - even for the sceptic...
(Full credit to ERNEST HAUSER)

Faith is what 'moves' God. When you speak in faith and declare God's favor, you activate the power of the Most High. - who will move mountains for you...