Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk to those around him! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “We have seen the hand of God at work today.” - Luke 7:15-16
Matthew Arnold concluded the preface to the 1883 edition of his monumental work Literature and Dogma with the bold statement, “Miracles do not happen.” Those more interested in sports than either literature or dogma disagree. They insist that the age of miracles continued to 1969, when the New York Mets won the National League pennant and then went on to win the World Series! Arnold, of course, was serious. The sporting crowd was simply being facetious.
But what are we to say about miracles? Miracles are those events for which, according to Western patterns of thinking, there is no immediate natural explanation. Reverent people do not hesitate to attribute them to divine intervention. They reason that God, who made the world and who upholds it, is perfectly free and able to intervene in its affairs and workings whenever and however he wishes, in order to further his own purposes. Those who, like Arnold, have determined that a miracle is not about to happen—for whatever reason—have either dismissed God as reality or banished him to a position of irrelevance as far as this world and its affairs are concerned.
Scripture speaks regularly of miracles, including some of the most dramatic performed by Jesus, himself. They were certainly acts of compassion—as was clearly the case in the raising of the bereft widow’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17). But there were many bereft widows with dead sons and an abundance of destitute beggars in Christ’s time. And he did not raise or heal them all. He was not selective in his compassion, so apparently he was selective in his demonstrations of power.
Those who are at the opposite end of the scale from Matthew Arnold think that miracles should be normative, that God should be performing them all the time. Miracles by definition are not normative—they are extraordinary! Neither are they promised by the Lord to all people whenever they desire or require one. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that those who see a miracle will be led to live in devotion to the Wonder-worker. Many of the people who witnessed the miracles of Jesus demanded to see more but declined to stand by his side at the time of his rejection.
To say that miracles don’t happen is to be dogmatic without warrant. To insist that they should be normative is to be expectant without wisdom. To believe that they serve God’s purposes in his time is to be reverent and worshipful. Miracles do happen—even after the 1969 Word Series.
For Further Study: Luke 7:11-17
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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