Have you ever had a miracle in your life? I’m not talking about how it was a miracle that you got a front row parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. I’m talking about a time you know God intervened and there was either no doubt or very little doubt.
I don’t know that I ever have. Maybe. There have been a few times that some would say, “that was a miracle.” For example, I spent the summer between my junior and senior year in Guyana, South America, doing a missionary internship with a church planting team. One night early in the summer, I was going to bed in the guest house in the back yard of my missionary host’s property. Down the road, just a couple blocks, I started hearing drumming. Ritual drumming. It was pitch black outside, and I felt really alone, and scared. Worse, the missionary had told me to expect that drumming, as it was from a Hindu temple where they sacrificed animals for worship. In my neighborhood.
I’ve always had an overactive imagination. That night, hearing the drums, I imagined drunk demon-possessed men crashing through my door with machetes. That had me praying hard. And then my heart which was already amped up started pounding as I heard footsteps walking up my stairs to my front door! What in the world was happening? Then the footsteps stopped, and I heard a noise of someone sitting at my door. I peaked out the window, and it wasn’t someone…it was the missionary’s two Dobermans. In the previous couple weeks they hadn’t done that, and they never did it again all summer. Was it a miracle? Dogs have supersmell. Maybe they caught wind of my fear pheromones and came to help out. Dogs are like that. Anyone else’s dog seem to have a sixth sense about when you are feeling fear or emotion? But was it a miracle? It felt like one to me, and I thanked God.
What do we do about miracles? Many people around the globe live in advanced cultures and societies, and we can believe we don’t need miracles. Think about it. Do you live in such a way that you have to have miracles to get by? Even the rare person that needs a miracle doesn’t need them often. Most contemporary cultures have mostly made miracles unnecessary, and therefore it can be difficult to have any kind of faith.
What do we need God for? To get to heaven? Yeah, at least that’s what we say, but even there, the miracle that is heaven can be hard to wrap our minds around. Some of us in the depths of hearts and minds wonder how heaven can really be so amazing, so miraculous. My point is not to talk about heaven, but instead to point out that we can live in a non-miraculous, non-supernatural way, and that just might be a massive concern when it comes to having a relationship with God, who is by definition supernatural.
I mention this because the miraculous is what we are going to study this week as we continue our blog series about the life of Jesus as told in the Gospel of John. Specifically, we are going to study John 6:1-21.
Before studying that passage, let’s get a bird’s eye of what has been happening in Jesus’ life in recent chapters of the Gospel of John. Starting in John 4, verse 43, after launching his ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus returns to his home region of Galilee. There he heals a royal official’s son. Then in chapter 5, he travels to Jerusalem for a feast, and on the Sabbath Day, Jesus heals a man who had been waiting for a miracle for 38 years.
Immediately the Jewish religious leaders confront Jesus about his work of healing on the Sabbath. Jesus, in response, launches into a teaching that covers chapter 5 verses 19-47, and one of his primary themes in that teaching is to prove that he is who he said he was. Last week we saw him call four witnesses to the stand in a kind of mock trial. One of those witnesses is the work he was doing, and that work was his miracles. Jesus’ miracles were excellent evidence proving that he was truly the Son of God, the Savior. This week in John 6:1-21, we learn about two more miracles.
So to review: Jesus does two miracles, the leaders question Jesus’ authority, then this week we’ll learn about two more miracles. Do you see the structure? Two miracles leads a discussion about how miracles prove Jesus’ claims, and that discussion is followed by two more miracles!
If I had to place a bet, the writer of this Gospel, who we believe is Jesus’ friend, disciple and apostle, John, seems to be intentionally saying to us that the miracles of Jesus are excellent evidence for us to give our lives to believe in, serve and follow him.
What are the two new miracles? In John 6, we find out that they are two of Jesus’ most famous miracles: the feeding of the 5,000 (+) and Jesus walking on water. My guess is that you might have at least heard of these stories before. But let’s try to read these stories with new eyes, asking the Spirit to speak to us.
Photo by Tory Hallenburg on Unsplash