I have been allowed some rigorous self-reflection lately; firstly about my own character and secondly about the miracles.
I have always been a person who was willing to pass over a multitude of flaws, obvious dubieties, even glaring halting questions; about a person whom I have adjudged to be of a good character. Likewise about good products to buy, and seen on display; I have been swayed to much by my wish for the person or the object to be a good addition to my acquaintance or to my possessions. Even after many years of persevering with an item of goods or with a person I have almost knowingly blinded myself to the truth of fact that these persons and objects are not all they were cracked-up to be in my silly hopes and wishes.
Furthermore, I have known myself to be such a character as this and yet still I have not always reined-myself-in at those times when I was about to make another mistaken judgement. Foolish. Wilfully so.
The most important event of my life was the day I became a Christian. The day I committed myself to Jesus the Messiah, to be his servant in as far as my nerve and The Old Adam within me at that time allowed me, was the turning point of my life. I believe and hope I have been growing in Christ since that day; and that my nerve and The Old Adam in me are now rather better quelled than they were at that day twentyfive years ago.
Beside the radiance of Christ and the strong conviction he brings upon people that he is whom he said he was; which are the top-ups of streams of living water ever present in The New Testament; set beside this and in direct opposition and conflict stands the world as any tolerable observer sees it going on every day around us – and no more so is this seen than in that sheer intractability of the material world, the empirical world, which seems to be carrying us on, so it seems, from frying pan into the fire, and to hell in a handcart regardless.
The stubborn facts of material life do not bend nor to they step-aside; when a train is coming if you do not step of the tracks – there’s no mitigation, no negotiation. We were all once babies, and we learned, often by bitter experience, that fires burn and knives cut and so on. Thus we are close to a second nature hard wired state which takes action to avoid such risks, whenever there is no especial gain to be had.
Now back to me and to my pretty craven character. I have been concerned about and I have been caused many doubts by a self-undermining tendency in myself to place Jesus now and then in the category of possibly being one of my impulse buys and self-blinded insistences. Because I know that’s the type of guy I am – who would buy wholesale into Christ and henceforth turn away from the presentation of any evidence which runs contrary to what the Gospels say to me about him.
And now the miracles. And here’s the strange thing. The miracles are those latitudes which are NOT found in or are part of the natural world. They were allowed by God to occur for the sake of his Incarnate Son Jesus to be able to do his work on earth. By the way, I’m just not interested in the nitpickings of theology in my statements; they are rough and ready; to illustrate my drift.
The miracles were those kinds of thing, say , where a train coming somehow does not annihilate you there stood on the tracks. They are not ‘normal’ outcomes, assuredly they are not those kind of things which since our births our hard wired second nature has taught us that we must expect to happen and so have to be borne with
So the miracles are two things. Firstly they are stumbling blocks even to seasoned – like I’d like to call myself? – believers; things not readily discussed, avoided because difficult to accommodate within even sometimes a most ardent faith in Jesus. Secondly, they are sore thumbs sticking out which are hard to find a place for in today’s Christianity especially. They seem to many of us to be ‘the elephants in the Gospel rooms’
Now the miracles Jesus did were not, as many non-believers tend to class them – at best ‘party -tricks’. Nearly every one of them healed sick or crazed or needy people. Some several restored dead people to life. Two I believe only were as it were merely a display of Jesus’ benevolent glory or else a tool for an exemplary lesson in behaviour. But I believe we should include in the miracles too; maybe as a special higher category of miracle; those miracles of Resurrection and Ascension, of Jesus laying down his life and taking in up again, and his translation off this earth to his Father’s right-hand after his Resurrection.
All of the miracles – and especially those miracles to whose effects most of we humanity are best able to respond emotionally and with love and awe – these being the very great majority of the miracles – they raise in us our adoration and worship because they are all tender helps and healings to distressed families and to parents; the hapless and the weak, the insane, the bereaved. Acts of Divine mercy
These tender effects upon our hearts are greatly powerful in shaping our view of Jesus, and help us to our abject surrendered accepting of him being whom he said he was: The Son of God.
But were we to doubt, to deny, or to sweep under the rug the supernatural powers by which Jesus is said to have worked these miracles of love on the people whom he took pity on; these very miracles of love having been so effectual in calling and in keeping us in the fold of Jesus; are we not expecting to cook lunch without having anything to eat in the fridge?
What I mean is that our being Christians has depended, at least initially, and in a substantial part, upon our having seen Jesus in action in our hearts as we read about his deeds; thus can we fairly accept the outcomes of his miracles and the effects they have had and still have on us his followers but yet we reject the miraculous part in the miracles themselves, in a sort of Peter-like denial of them whilst we warm our hands in the courtyard before Christ’s fire?
If we say yes, this is OK, we are deluding ourselves. Love me; love my dog. Take its hard bones along with taking it as a cuddly pet furball
Now I have been a victim? No, a perpetrator – of such contradictory self-deceit; and I have condoned and encouraged it in many others. Can you see now how my character as I have described its flaw to you and how that rigorous second nature telling us ever to beware of the trains; come both together here in a pincer grip of pressure in order to help you and me to decide to deceive ourselves in this matter?
It’s more than mere woolly thinking. It’s the utter consistency of everything in indifferent daily natural actions and events leveraging us to say to ourselves: NO, the miracles could not have happened! – together with that sloppy-wistful, that hopeful pie and cream feeling we just melt into which cushions us from facing the heart of the problem: NO MIRACLES: NO HEALINGS: NO RAISINGS OF JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER nor of THE WIDOWS SON: THUS NO HONEST WAY TO CLAIM THESE EVENTS TO SURRENDER ONESELF TO JESUS AS LORD.
We would rather bear blindly a glaring inconsistency in our thinking than face this problem. Are we all characters like me – the impulse buyer who never looks back with regret at obviously having been sold a very poor deal? A pup.
But Jesus is no pup – we think rightly he is not a bad buy – he is the best buy – he is the guy who pays and lets us get all the goodies.
So there it is: the statement of the problem. To be assured of our integrity in loving Jesus we are forced to set aside our second nature ingrained and learned behaviour about the constant recalcitrance of the natural world. And also we have to face up to our evasive needfulness full-on and see that faith in Jesus cannot be had by way of cottonwool and candy self-deceits. If we want to revel in the love shown in his miracles, then their supernatural operations have to be considered very seriously as being wholly necessary to our abject true worship of him.