Miraculous

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” — C. S. Lewis

I’d like to say I have amazing spiritual insight every time I read about one of Jesus’s miracles. I’d love to say I sit down to a book like the gospel of Mark, chock full of stories of Jesus defying laws of nature, and always walk away with an overwhelming sense of awe and insight into the world.

Some stories really do inspire me to that level of wonder. Passages like Mark 4:35-41 are positively cinematic— the wind is howling, water’s going everywhere, everybody’s yelling and panicking and convinced they’re dying, and in the midst of it all Jesus climbs from the stern of the boat, says three words, and puts a hard stop to the chaos. It’s beautiful and dramatic and exactly the kind of story I’d want my life to be.

But then there are passages like Mark 6:30-44.

It starts as a normal day: the apostles and Jesus decide to rest from the limelight, so they climb in a boat and journey across the sea, only to find a huge crowd has anticipated their arrival.

I can imagine how the disciples would have felt. In fact, the sentiment is a little too familiar. But, Jesus, you promised we could rest… But, Jesus, they’re not even supposed to be here… But, Jesus, this is not what I expected… But, Jesus… I’m no stranger to the exhaustion and disappointment felt when God seems to fail my selfish expectations.

Jesus, however, is undeterred. Overwhelmed with compassion, he gives the crowd what they’re looking for: guidance, teaching, and his presence. The impromptu seaside conference concludes late at night when the disciples once more take the stage to lobby for rest and food for the masses (and themselves, one could assume).

Cue the miraculous. Jesus responds by turning the tables and issuing a challenge in response to the disciples’ concerns: you feed the crowd, he says. The disciples are, of course, incredulous. But, Jesus, that’s crazy… But, Jesus, that’s impossible…  Jesus, of course, sends them out regardless, takes the loaves and fish they come back with, and multiplies the food to feed the crowd.

Perhaps this is irreverent, but in a world where the supernatural and fantastical are CGI-ed into even basic cable TV programs, I find it hard to get very excited about the mysterious multiplication of a few scraps of food. C’mon Jesus, really? You follow the Lord-of-all-nature passage of Mark 4 with this? The disciples handing out bread? You could have at least made it rain from the sky or something…

But if C.S. Lewis is right about miracles, then maybe there’s something more that I’m missing in my lackluster reading. Lewis suggests that the story of the God who created and sustains the world is written all around us— in the trees, in the stars, in the sunset, in the sea— but most of us can’t understand it. The shock-and-awe miracles in Mark might make it easy to see God’s power and might by rewriting the story via Jesus’ triumphs over weather, death, brokenness, and disease.

But then there are passages like Mark 6:30-44.

While perhaps underwhelming on first read, the story of God presented here is a beautiful facet of that big-picture mystery. Jesus takes some tired, antsy, faithless guys and a meager amount of food and uses them to meet the needs of a hungry crowd.

This story is of a God who both cares and sustains. Jesus is there, not only to meet the life-or-death needs of those around him and to demonstrate God’s might, but also to provide for the everyday-hunger needs as well. What’s more, he chooses his disciples, in all their antsyness and tiredness, to be the messengers, running food back and forth until the need is met. Glamorous? No. Dramatic? Not quite. But it is beautiful, and on second thought, exactly the kind of story I’d want my life to be after all.

Between Two Storms Graphic

 

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