Sunday April 19, 2020 Second Sunday of Easter (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Signs and Wonders
When you talk about religion, signs and miracles inevitably enter the conversation. So, what are they all about? Well, it boils down to your personal perspective. First, you can start with the signs in creation. You can either agree with their silent proclamations that something is out there, or you can come up with your own rationale for the perfect harmony of the cosmos and assert that there is nothing out there at all. Then, we come to our reading in Psalm 118:2-4. Here, we discover that the something out there is really a someone out there who wants to have a relationship. God, in His lovingkindness, became a man, lived with us, taught us about Himself, and performed signs to back up His claim to deity. Psalm 118:13 and 22 tell us that many rejected Him. Why? Because He did not fit their mold. They did not want to believe. In fact, when they demanded a miracle from Jesus, He refused and called them evil. Basically, He said, “Guys, no matter what I do, you’re going to spin it your way. If I walked on the water, you would say that I could not swim. I am not some Las Vegas act here for your entertainment and I don’t do tricks! However, there will be a resurrection in the future for you all to consider.” It was Jesus’ miracles that, in the end, caused them to crucify Him. If you can’t deny the truth…stamp it out! Bottom line, no one comes to genuine faith just by a miracle. Miracles are road maps for seekers to find God and to confirm their faith once they become believers. Still, you may think that you might be different and if Jesus would only do that walking through the wall thing that He did for doubting Thomas, then you would be a believer too. Let’s explore that in today’s reading in John 20:19-31.
In my opinion, Thomas was the bravest of the Apostles. At least he was out doing what apparently needed to be done for the group, instead of cowering behind a barred door. You’d think that maybe Jesus could have waited until he came back before visiting his disciples and breathing the Holy Spirit onto them. But perhaps, this scene is recorded for the precise reason of explaining miracles and faith. Look at the struggles that all the disciples had with the Lord’s teaching about His death. Add the unbelieved witnesses to His resurrection that morning. Throw in the turmoil swirling around them. Shake well and come up with a guy who wants to believe but is afraid to commit. Despite the account of the Lord’s visit by the other ten disciples, with Thomas, I see a case of, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Then Jesus comes back the next week, seals the deal for him and adds, “For you, seeing is believing, but it is better when believing is seeing.” John wrote this account into his gospel so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and in that believing have life in His name. Here, we can examine how miracles play into the two types of believing: head faith and heart faith.
My best example of miracles leading to head faith is the Exodus adventures of the Hebrews. After the ten plagues, the parting of the Red sea, manna from heaven, water from the rock, the ten commandments, etc., you can bet that the Hebrews absolutely had a belief. However, except for a few, they all died in the desert, as God puts it, due to lack of faith (Hebrew 3:18-19). They believed that something was out there, but they rejected the someone who was there. They saw. They had a head faith…but did not believe. The miracles and signs of God could not bring them to a heart faith. Our reading in Acts 2:42-47 gives the contrast. Here, the early church was devoted to the apostles teaching, prayer, breaking of bread, fellowship, and other evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They may have had a sense of awe at the supernatural wonders of the apostles, but these were only encouragements to act on the belief they already had in their hearts. They would have done these things without the apostle’s miracles. For them, the miracle already occurred in their hearts. Believing was seeing. The signs and wonders were only an add on.
In the end, the signs and wonders in the Bible aren’t the real show. The diseased are healed, but they die eventually. The multitudes are fed, but they get hungry again. Even after the Lord raised him from the dead, Lazarus is rotting in his grave today. Our reading in 1 Peter 1:3-9 brings the only two real miracles into focus. First, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has caused us to be born again to a living hope for a future in heaven that will never end. The second miracle is seen in the changed lives of the believers. The love of the Christians for God and each other as they struggle through the fire of life’s trials with joy is the greatest testimony of divine power in God’s relationship with mankind. That is the proof. That is the real miracle the world is looking for. Now where are you in this picture? Are you waiting for a supernatural event that, even if you got it, would never bring you to a real heart faith in God? Work from the recorded miracles to discover the joy of the Lord in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). If you ask, God will save you through the sacrifice of Christ and the new birth. That will be your sign. Then you will understand that believing is seeing. Jesus doesn’t do tricks, but miracles for a changed life…they are always on the table.