Miraculous?

While Jesus was walking along, two blind men came up to Jesus and cried out for him to have mercy upon them. After Jesus entered the house where he was staying, these same men came up to him. Jesus asked them if they believed he was able to do this, meaning that he was able to heal their blindness. They told him “yes”. Jesus then touched their eyes and said that it would be done according to their faith. Then their eyes were opened. He instructed the two men that no one should know about what happened, but the two men went out and told everyone in that area what Jesus had done for them.

Sometimes we can miss things by being focused on one aspect of a passage. Jesus’ healing the men’s blindness often grabs our attention, but there is something else of note here as well. In this passage I find one word interesting. It is the word “ability”. Jesus asked the two men if they believed if he was able to do what they wanted. What is curious about that word “ability” or “able” is that it is the same word used to translate what we call “miracles”. This raises a question in my mind. Why do we sometimes call an action a miracle and other times the very same word is translated merely “power” or “ability”? The word “miracle” comes to us in English from the Latin term for something that causes us to wonder. While Jesus’ powerful works do cause us to wonder and be amazed, originally that was not the meaning of the word that was used. In fact there are other words that meant “wonder” that at times the authors did use, but not here. On this occasion Matthew chose to use the word for “power” or “ability”. So why do sometimes we see the word for “power” or “ability” gets translated as “power” and other times as “miracle”? We have an internal criteria that we use to categorize something as a normal expression of power and another as an extraordinary use of power that is not common among men, the latter we refer to as miracle. However, that distinction is not present in the gospels. Rather it was categorized as an ability that Jesus possessed and later others who followed Jesus also possessed. What is further curious is what we categorize as a “miracle” actually changes over time. Much of what we take for granted today, such as driving cars, flying in airplanes, treating and curing certain diseases would have been considered miraculous in previous centuries.

The way that we interpret or understand Scripture is often a result of our belief system. As people living in the Western world, we have been powerfully influenced by Greek philosophy, which separated the world of “God”, the supernatural world, we would call it today, from the world of men, the natural world. However, that distinction does not seem to be present in the New Testament. Jesus and his followers didn’t move from living in the natural world at one point in time to living in the supernatural world at another point. They just exercised the abilities that had been bestowed upon them as if they were the most natural thing in the world. This is why Jesus was often surprised at his disciples’ inability to do what he did and called them men of little faith. In fact the word, “supernatural” doesn’t even occur in the New Testament. It is a word we have created to describe what Jesus and later the apostles did that we cannot do now with the same regularity. Let me suggest that we might want to rethink what we call “supernatural” or “miraculous” in order to bring our thoughts into alignment with how Jesus thought.

Scripture tells us not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That could include the way that we think and the assumptions that we have. As we journey through life with Jesus, he will from time to time challenge some things that we have always thought were true in order to bring us into greater alignment with how he thinks. That leads us to ponder an important question. What might be some assumptions that we have now that might need further evaluation?

2 thoughts on “Miraculous?

  1. Great post, Dave. It has always interested me when I traveled in Cambodia, how much easier it was for a Cambodian villager to accept the miracles of the Bible than it was for a student or professor at a western university. The reality was unchanged. Just the cultural perspective. Westerners too often are deceived by thinking our way of thinking is the right way, our assumptions are the right assumptions.

    Like

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