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Monday, May 20, 2013

Miracle of Faith (John 4)

In studying the Bible, I am aware that true miracles, things unexplained by human reason, can only occur when Jesus does them. Consider first the Pharaoh’s wizards and advisors. When Moses came before Pharaoh with the ability to turn a rod into a snake, Pharaoh countered by having his advisors do the same. Pharaoh did not attribute the “miracle” to Yahweh. When Moses, at the prompting of God, had locusts enter Egypt and eat the harvest, Pharaoh was perplexed because he could not explain the influx of locusts, but it did not trouble him. When Moses said God would kill the first-born of every household that did not smear the blood of an untainted lamb on the doorposts (believers of Yahweh did this), Pharaoh scoffed, but did not do it. Pharaoh believed the next morning because he saw the might of Yahweh. Until physical miracles affect the spiritual side of a person, they are not true miracles. In other words, a physical miracle must instill the awe of God in the person so the person believes God actually did the action and worships Him. 
Let us consider a few miracles Christ performed while He was doing His ministry on earth. First, look at the story of Peter’s mother-in-law in Mark 1:29-31. When Jesus, John, James, Andrew, and Peter arrived at Peter’s house, Peter told Jesus his mother-in-law was sick. Usually women prepared the meal or other food and drink for guests. Peter explained his mother-in-law was unable to serve them. Peter’s wife would serve. It does not appear Peter asked Jesus to do help his mother-in-law, but Jesus showed the disciples He has power to heal the sick. He just showed He could remove demons from a person (a spiritual need). Now Jesus showed He could physically heal a person. He offered no fancy words for Peter’s mother-in-law to hear to help her trust Him. Jesus took her hand and helped her arise from the bed. The mother-in-law had to believe Jesus for her body to be able to stand. No words passed between them, but their spirits connected. She trusted in who Jesus is. 
Consider, too, the man with leprosy in Mark 1. This man came to Jesus. He accepted Jesus was able to heal people. The leper just had to be in Jesus’ presence to ask for healing. He asked for Jesus’ blessing of healing by saying, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). Jesus willingly healed the leper’s body and thereby made him ritually clean. Having leprosy in those times made a person unclean in the religious sense. The Mosaic laws disallowed him to go to the synagogue. Being unclean meant lepers lived outside the city/town as an outcast away from other people. Yet, this leper had such faith in Jesus he presented himself, though unclean, before Jesus and asked for healing. This was the prelude to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Jesus came to make sinners clean so they can be in God’s presence for eternity. He healed this man’s body and cleansed him spiritually.  
Consider now a nobleman’s child. In John 4:46-54, a royal official walked from Capernaum to Cana (about 27 miles) to meet with Jesus. He asked Him to go to his house.  The nobleman believed that if Jesus came to his house, He could heal his child. Theologians and historians consider this nobleman was a courtier of the king. Others understand he was the king of a small location, like a tetrarch. Still others figure this nobleman was a centurion under Herod Antipas. Whatever he was, he was a Roman royal subject. It says a lot that a Roman would hear of and trust Jesus, a Jew, could heal his child. This Roman believed good could come from the Jews and Jesus could heal his child. His faith, though, was not complete. The Roman asked Jesus to go to his home and heal his child. Jesus confronted the Roman’s unbelief when he said in verse 48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” He challenged the Roman’s faith and required him to believe. The Roman still did not trust and requested Jesus to come with him in verse 49. In verse 50, though, Jesus commanded him, a Jew commanding a Roman, to “Go; your son lives.” At that point, the Roman believed and returned to his home. Before he arrived home, his servants met him on the road and told him his son no longer had a fever. The fever broke when Jesus proclaimed the Roman’s son healed. Jesus rewarded the Roman’s belief. The physical miracle met with spiritual belief and a true miracle occurred. A new believer was born. 
Jesus healed many people during His ministry. He touched many people and many people touched Him. Some people Jesus did not touch, but commanded. His ability to command obedience among the Jews as well as among the leaders of the country is astounding considering He was a carpenter’s son. This showed God’s Spirit spoke to the person’s spirit affirming who He is. Cleansing, healing, and becoming children of God could not occur without the person’s belief. For a true miracle to occur, a spiritual belief along with a physical blessing must occur. When only physical occurrences happen, it cannot necessarily be said the miracle came from God. When we automatically give glory to God for a physical blessing, then we acknowledge a true miracle. This sounds simple, but if it was simple, why were the Hebrews, particularly the Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees), unable to believe in Him? Part of the reason is like the reasons people state today; they do not want to give control of their lives over to someone else, especially to some personage "out there”. People want to “see to believe,” about which Jesus challenged the Capernaum Roman nobleman. Jesus challenged Saint Thomas on this point, too. Thomas did not believe until he saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet. Jesus, at that point, told the disciples, blessed is he who believes without seeing.   
Miracles occur nowadays. We observe them every day when healing occurs to cancer patients. When these occurrences affect our spiritual life, then they are true miracles. Jesus’ miracles affect both the physical and the spiritual aspects of life. God blesses us when we believe without seeing. He blesses us with faith if we will ask Him for this gift. Believing is not hard to do. We must be willing to accept God is real and He has an eternal gift for us – faith - that leads to belief in Jesus Christ. The question we must each ask ourselves is will we believe God is. On this hinges not the stuff of our lives and our eternity.