I wrote this brief collection of thoughts “about miracles” after creating a Bible study for lessons on the Feeding of the 5000, a.k.a., the Miracles of the Loaves and Fishes, (John 6:1-15 and in all three other Gospels.) I hope it provides some insight to your own thoughts on the subject.
Biblically speaking, miracles are literally “signs” from God. That’s what the Hebrew and Greek word for miracle means. Miracles are messages. And when we listen instead of demand, we discover insight and grace that sustain us long after we’ve left the Galilean hillside, or prayed in Gethsemane’s Garden, or made our way out of the Sinai wilderness.
When miracles become largely defined as acts of divine compassion and supernatural intervention prompted (or unprompted) by fervent prayer and dire need, we are immediately on shakey theological ground. Shakey because it raises the issue of God’s apparent lack of action or compassion in the face of so many legitimate needs and fervent requests.
The problem of our definitions and expectations is that they have led to thinking of God as some sort of heavenly slot-machine whose arm we need to keep pulling (or twisting) until our numbers come up, …or worse, beginning to think God isn’t really there at all.
The Bible struggles with this subject as do we, and then along comes Jesus — who is the answer to every prayer and the subject of every miracle. He is the One we were hoping for, said the crowd full of bread and fish in John 6:14.
When Jesus needs as much help as any human ever did, he asked for it in the Garden of Gethsemane — until he understood.
The miracle that night was Jesus’ acceptance, not God’s acquiescence and physical intervention.
So go ahead and ask, but please listen, …because miracles are primarily messages. And the message is not usually what you wanted to hear, but what you NEED to hear. Something along the lines of “my grace is enough.”
Jesus never said, “Come to me and I will give you what you want.”
He said, “come to me all you that labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Rest from wondering if you’re good enough, or did enough.
Rest from thinking what’s happening now is the end of the story.
There are many Christian traditions that focus on asking God for “interventional” miracles, …physical healing for example. Some preach it so much that it borders on being a false Gospel. Certainly, miracles do occur, often in response to prayer, but just as often not, and frequently undeserved.
When we consider the number of prayers that go unanswered, we either have to assume God lacks compassion or compassion wasn’t “part of his plan,” or we’re not good enough, or there is no God. Often, the answer is all of the above.
Can you imagine Jesus telling the crowd that they hadn’t asked or prayed hard enough? Of course, some religious leaders preach miracles because it prompts people to give more out of a false sense of needing to BE more in order to GET more. And in this day and age, how many have jettisoned God in the aftermath of not getting what the preachers told them they should expect? Better no religion than the follower of a false one.
This is why I think it’s a basic biblical and theological error to focus on “what the boy gave Jesus” in the Feeding of the 5000, and tell kids that “we should give like him and Jesus will multiply OUR gifts.” It’s misleading. It was nice that he shared, but Jesus can make bread from stones, remember? And it misses the point of the miracle, which was to reveal Jesus true identity and purpose.
What I would rather ask is how was the boy’s life changed when he found the Christ standing right in front of him? Did he get the message?
I want to tell him and the child within me, “Never take your eyes off of Jesus in these stories or in your prayers.
I want to tell him that the One you need, and not the “things you think you need,” is standing right in front of you.