Mark 6:53-56 (NIV): When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went–into villages, towns or countryside–they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Despite appearances, and despite people’s expectations, Jesus did NOT come primarily to heal people or to do miracles. Those things, while quite common in His ministry, were the side-effect of His presence, not His purpose.
Jesus came to inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth as a here-and-now reality; to reform and re-form God’s people into what we were always intended to be: the embodiment of God’s presence in the world. But the people of that day, even the Jewish people, were far from understanding that. Even Jesus’ own followers had a worldview that was tainted by false expectations of who the Messiah would be and what He was to accomplish. Many of them still carried the expectation of a largely political Messiah, who would free Israel from its Roman overlords, and raise them again to the glory, magnificence, and power that they had in the days of Solomon. To the people with those expectations, the miracles were just a bonus – a wonderful blessing that they clamored to take advantage of. But they, like the disciples, missed their deeper significance.
The fact is, where God is, miracles happen, and they happen all the time. Jesus’ miracles were proof that He was, in fact, God in the flesh. Where He was, God was, and people were healed, sins were forgiven, and demons fled. When Jesus gave His disciples authority to do miracles and cast out demons (Mark 6:7, 12-13), those miracles were proof that God was present with them, and that they were actively living in God’s kingdom and acting in His power to do all kinds of things that were beyond human ability.
Many people have said that miracles are “by definition” rare. Meaning, I suppose, that if they were common, they would no longer be “miracles”. But the miraculous cannot be defined merely by frequency (or lack of frequency). God provided manna to the Israelites in the wilderness every day for 40 years. Each morning for over 14,000 days it was a new miracle. The fact that it happened every day, and that the people began to take it for granted (and to even look down on it – cf. Numbers 21:4-5) does not diminish the “miraculousness” of it one bit. The fact that Jesus healed dozens, sometimes hundreds of people at a time, and that he did that often (the very opposite of “rare”) doesn’t make those events “normal” and not miraculous. A miracle is not defined by its frequency, but by its agency. A miracle is something that is done by God’s power outside of the normal processes of the physical world, whether they happen once a century, or many times a day.
Sadly today miracles ARE rare. But Jesus came to demonstrate that that was not to be the case among God’s people. Miracles happen when God is present in the midst of His people; when we allow Him to work unimpeded in and through us. Even the book of Acts only specifically details a few of the frequent miracles that God did in the midst of His people. The rest are covered with only general statements that still give you the sense that they were frequent. (cf. Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12-16; 6:8; 8:6-7, 13; 14:3; 19:11-12.) Because God was present in the midst of His people, miracles happened all the time. It would have been impossible for them not to!
Jesus was the very embodiment of God’s kingdom – the model of what kingdom people are supposed to be. He was one through whom all of God’s power flowed to bring healing, freedom, and restoration to the people and the world around Him. He embodied the promise of what God can make of all of His people – a promise realized to a high degree in the people of the early Church.
Father, thank You for this insight. O, Lord, how I long to see this promise of Your kingdom embodied in Your people. How I long to see the ability to be a genuinely miracle-living, miracle-producing people lived out in our own time. Help us, Lord, to follow You so closely, to open ourselves to You so completely, and to live for You so thoroughly, that Your miracle power can once more flow through us into the world, healing, freeing, and restoring the people and the world around us. Amen.