Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson #7; Mark 1:14–15, 21–45; Mark 2:1–12; Mark 4:35–41; 5:1–20; Luke 7:11–17, Mark 5:21–43.
I have always loved reading about the miracles Christ performed during his ministry. In some ways, miracles are the great equalizer. They are performed for powerful centurions and lowly Canaanite women. The stories of Christ’s miracles are primarily stories of all kinds of people approaching Christ in their absolute brokenness, soul-crushing desperation, and outlandish hope, and finding Christ’s personalized and overflowing love for them there. I adore the reminder of the mind-blowing power present in God’s love for us as individuals, even if, and especially when, we have hit rock bottom.
On a deeper level, I love that miracles challenge and teach me in all the right ways. Simply put, miracles don’t behave the way I want them to. They are wildly unpredictable and unfairly distributed, at least according to the way I feel like the world ought to function. Christ can perform them for something as seemingly insignificant as making sure a celebration has enough wine to keep the party going, but do not always appear in the forms I want when people I love suffer.
I’m learning to see that the miracles are still there and abundant, even if they look different than I would have chosen. Miracles humble me and remind me that God’s work often doesn’t look the way I expect it should, but that God’s work overflows with power and beauty. Miracles further challenge me by making me examine the relationship between accepting the Lord’s will and pleading in faith. I’m the kind of person that likes to manage my expectations so I don’t get let down, and I often exercise faith very badly as a result. I struggle to find the proper middle ground between not missing out on blessings I am too timid to ask for because I am bracing myself for a “no,” and trying to impose my will on God. I’m learning to ask for the miracle I think I want while keeping my eyes wide open to see the one God is eager to give. I strive to remember that the important thing isn’t what the miracle looks like, but that I exercised the faith to ask for one.
I’m want to follow the example of the woman with the issue of blood discussed in Mark 5. This woman had abundant reasons to believe that healing was beyond her reach. Twelve years, all the money she had, all the physicians she could access, and she could find no relief. Yet when she heard about Christ, she still exercised faith and hope and sought him. When she asked for a miracle, it did not take the form of my bland “please be with’s” that I rely on far too often in my prayers. She did not wait for someone to offer to heal her or follow the traditional script of what a miracle looks like. Her plan was specific and innovative. She asked for nothing less than becoming whole, and to have it done in a way the world had never seen.
I love that despite the audacity of her request, Christ piled on even more power and grace. Rather than letting her have her miracle and be on her way, he took the time to recognize her and teach her. She received more than simply physical healing. She learned that her Savior knew her and her need personally, learned that she was worthy of the Savior’s undivided attention, and was given the gift of peace. I want to follow her example. I want to ask for miracles and keep hoping for miracles as the years go by and God’s plan is not following the script I wrote. I want to be creative in the how of the miracle, rather than trying to stick my need into what I’ve seen before. And I want to continue to feel my Savior’s love and recognition as the miracles flow, whatever form they take.
The following two quotes from Chieko Okazaki have shaped my thinking on miracles.
“Jesus performed [the miracle of healing the blind beggar] immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.” – Chieko Okazaki, from “Spit and Mud and Kigatsuku”
“[People] suppress the perfectly wonderful questions they have, because they’re afraid that the questions may sound accusatory or faithless. As a result, no miracles happen … If we don’t have questions, there won’t be any miracles for us. I don’t know about you, but I need miracles in my life. I want miracles in my life. I hunger and thirst for miracles in my life. So I think I’d better ask questions – questions from the heart, questions that hurt, questions with answers that I’m afraid will hurt” – Chieko Okazaki, from Disciples