Miracles Are Not Over Yet
Recently, a church became embarrassed.
For there was a woman, already sick for 16 years, and she was healed.
As through a miracle.
Fortunately, God’s almighty power was also recognized, to him be the glory! But why the embarrassment then? I do not understand it.
We live after Easter. The Son of God conquered death by the complete atonement of all our sins. Death does not belong to life but belongs to our sins. When those are paid for, then death is no more.
With that all powers which have to do with death are dethroned, such as sickness, handicaps, physical or mental decline of the body, and also hate, jealousy, assertiveness, lust for power, and every form of rebellion against God. In short, everything in which we carry the traces of our disconnection with God. Jesus has disarmed all these rulers and authorities on the cross (Col. 2:15).
Expressed positively: the believers will be surprised and notice in various ways that the Lord reigns! Satan is no longer the ruler of this world, because of us (John 12:31). But Jesus is from now on the Lord of heaven and earth. After his resurrection he predicts to his disciples that signs and wonders will follow the believers. Evil spirits, who possess people, must give way. Foreign languages will be spoken just like that. Poison will not be deadly. The bite of a snake will be harmless. The sick will recover (Mark 16:17, 18). And so on! For this has not been exhaustively formulated, of course, it is just a selection. With this purpose: do not be surprised by this but rejoice over it.
The Lord has truly risen!
What about embarrassment? That belongs with the enemy, not with us.
Thinking Big of the Lord
We are being encouraged to think big of the Lord. To expect everything (truly every thing) from him. Also there where we do not see a way out. And especially, where we do not see any options. For that is what this is all about. The miracles are not there for fun, the Lord wants to add them as signs to the witness of his servants. They were asked to go into the world with the Word alone, by themselves they could not persuade anyone. The Lord looks after that with his Spirit and he shows with his signs that His Word is the truth.
In this way he comes through everyone, the toughest hearts he cracks open, also when we think there is no use to even start there. That is what this is all about.
The Lord will be with us, all the days until the end of days (Matt. 28:20). He says that in the framework of: “make disciples of all nations”(v.19) It is his personal promise, to each one of his followers: “You are not alone, for I am with you always when you witness of Me”.
The only way to find this out, is by witnessing of him. When you do not do this, you will notice little of Jesus’ power, which is stronger than death. While everywhere, when people give their lives in his hands, surprisingly learn that they are being ruled from heaven.
Why do we daily speak to God as our Father “Who art in heaven”? So that we would not think in earthly ways about the heavenly majesty of God (Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 121).
This is so that we would not hem him in within our realm of possibilities. To not bind him to our limitations. He can always do more, and he often does this in a way that we do not consider as a possibility. He will always let us feel that everything begins with him, and not with us. That applies to us personally, that also applies to us as church. It is deadly when we want to keep things in our own hands and with our own understanding.
Everything that is Christian starts with surrendering to Christ, the great King. We learn not to be embarrassed, but to worship and to live in expectation. The hope of faith shall not deceive us (Hymn 71:1, Book of Praise).
To Expect, Not to Claim
But perhaps that embarrassment contains yet another element. Namely, that people are asking themselves: “are we doing enough with this?” You hear that a lot, as reaction to such a miraculous event. Why do we not have this? Are we doing enough with this as church?
This seems understandable, but it really is not. For “we” have never been able to do anything with this. It is the Lord himself who works these things from the high heavens. The disciples went on their way to preach the Good News everywhere, “while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20).
To the Hebrews was written that they should believe the Word, which is brought to them by trustworthy people. Then it says: “while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4).
Then the question “are we doing enough with this” does not fit. These are signs and wonders which God gives with his Word. Which he can and shall give according to his free will. There is nothing for us to claim or to organize here. But to be open to it, yes, that is especially important. But no-one is entitled to a miracle.
Many Kinds of Miracles
Moreover, it is important that the miracles from God are multifarious. Read for example Hebrews 11:32-40. There we find the witness of believers who stopped the mouths of lions. That has happened — a huge miracle! And yet, other believers have been eaten by lions, as a spectacle in Nero’s arena. They did not waver, even when they came eye to eye with these brutes. That is also a huge miracle!
Some have escaped the edge of the sword, others have signed their witness with their blood. Women received back their dead by resurrection, it says. Others were tortured unto death.
The differences are big. And yet, the similarities are bigger: pious people let themselves be reigned by their Lord and Saviour, prepared for anything.
They then experienced his wondrous assistance, each in their own way. From this we also learn that we cannot choose our own miracles. Like: “I’ll take the closed lion mouths.” Each person would like that perhaps. But the Lord lets us experience his free grace in this.
That is why it is prideful to only run with the “super” miracles, like healing, liberation, raising from the dead, etc. That would be quite the misunderstanding of those who experience God’s help in enduring under difficult circumstances. Among them are those who in their own person have become a message from God for their entire environment.
We cannot pick and choose our miracles. For we must also realize that we will share in the results of sin as long as we share in sin itself. See e.g., the first baptism question. There it is said summarily that we by nature are subject to all sorts of misery (calamities, accidents, illnesses, crimes, wars, even death) and yet sanctified in Christ. We will get sick, become victims, die, and always be the precious possession of our Lord Jesus Christ. He can suddenly lift the illness from us. He can also be our Companion right through the illness.
The one time Peter is freed from prison, the other time he is crucified. Both times he was in the hand of his Lord. He has glorified him in his life and in his death.
In all this it becomes very clear, that it has never been God’s intention that we would be able to do something with miracles. With Christ we will receive all things from God, in his manner and in his time.
Not Every Miracle Leads To God
Organizing miracles yourself can also be a dangerous activity. Jesus warns about this when he predicts that on the last day many people will say to him: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22-23).
These are people who brag about their miracles. They are their “legitimacy” so to speak, to belong to Jesus. But Jesus never knew them. Apparently, they never knew Jesus either. How could they otherwise have conceived the idea to report to him with their own, good, and even wondrous works?! When miracles have this kind of meaning, they become a curse.
Our works do not merit anything, even our miracles. That is why we do not need them at all in order to belong to Jesus. When miracles are “required”, we are on a dead-end road.
That is why we must especially watch out for miracles and signs. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders” (Matt. 24:24). Do not believe them. In itself a miracle says nothing. The Lord used them to strengthen his Word. Without the Word they lead a different life, in a different direction.
We must test the signs. If they support the message of salvation by God’s grace, then we may thankfully accept them. But if they become a condition for our own faith, then they do not bring us closer to God.
To Be a Miracle
This can lead to thinking something like “oh, fine, we don’t have to show anything”. But that would be a wrong conclusion. For the big miracle…is you yourself!
The fact that the Spirit brings you to believe is equal in power to the resurrection from the dead. He opens your heart, and your will which was dead, he makes alive. He does the greatest miracle in you, by having you partake in Christ, in his resurrection, and in his disposition.
That miracle we will show, in openness and in thankfulness, to the glory of our Lord and to the salvation of our neighbours.
And all the other miracles? They arise at the intersection of faith and unbelief. When you want to be there as witness of the living Lord.