We get lost in it. We crave it. We slow down on the freeway to catch a glimpse of it. We demand it in our concerts — it's not enough to play good music and sing great lyrics, there must be an experience that is visceral. We want spectacle!
We shouldn't be surprised that our eyes and hearts are so frequently drawn to the spectacle in Jesus' miracles. We settle in on the inexplicable healing, the incredible circumstances of an exorcism, or the impossible condition that is cured in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, however, we often miss the grace beyond the miracle.
In many of Jesus' miracles of healing and exorcism, there is a gentle subsiding of the climactic healing into routine action by the person who is healed. Jesus raises a dead girl to life and tells her astounded and joyful parents to get her something to eat (Mark 5:40-43). Peter's mother-in-law is healed of fever, and she gets up and serves Jesus and His disciples (Matthew 8:14-15). A leper is cleansed and Jesus sends the man back to the priest to show himself and offer the sacrifice in proof of his healing so he can be accepted back into community life (Mark 1:40-44). Jesus raises the only son of a widowed woman and Jesus gives the son back to the woman (Luke 7:11-15). The woman with the flow of blood is healed when she touches the hem of Jesus' robe: the Lord then calls her out of the crowd, and as she fearfully comes forward, Jesus affirms her faith and blesses her to go live her life in peace — true Shalom, the peace of wholesome and full, godly living (Mark 5:24-34). Jesus casts out a legion of demons from a man, and then sits with him a bit before He then sends the man on a mission to share the good news of God with his family (Mark 5:11-15).
We tend to dismiss these last words of Jesus' miraculous encounters with people because we are amazed at the problems overcome. We miss the meaning of the precious moments that follow them because we are fascinated with the incredible nature of Jesus' miraculous power. However, there is even a greater miracle — or grace beyond the miracle — in these special moments after Jesus has done the spectacular. Jesus restores real life back to these people. They are not some freak show on the midway that Jesus healed to garner the attention of the crowds and increase the popularity of Jesus. Instead, Jesus is restoring everyday life back to people who were lost to life because of their problems.
Sick people, dead people, possessed people, hopeless people, sinful people, confused people ... are returned to normal life. They are given back to their families. They eat. They serve. They are returned to community. They are given the power and blessing to return back to life with those that know them. They are given jobs to do and people to bless and stories to tell and friends to embrace. In other words, they are saved in every way a person can be saved! In many ways, this is the greater miracle - the grace beyond the miracle.
As someone who has been in ministry for decades, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard broken, wounded, and grieving people say, "I just wish things could go back to being the way they were. I would just like things to be normal again." Our loss of connections, normalcy, family, participation in the events of everyday life often hurts worse than the maladies that cause this separation.
If we miss these gentle movements of grace at the end of Jesus' miracles, we also miss something precious that we can provide — blessings we can share with broken people even when their spectacular miracle doesn't come to them. We can be community, family, and friends. We can walk beside folks as they serve, minister, and tell about the work of God in their lives during tough times. We can help them live their lives with as much normalcy as possible. We can affirm their faith. We can pray that the peace of God's presence and the gift of His promises are fully realized in them.
Rather than being discouraged because the spectacle of a miracle hasn't always come, let's make sure that Jesus' grace beyond the miracle is experienced!
The following questions are for your own introspection and meditation with God, but can also be used for small groups and house churches. Comments are also welcome on
What is your favorite miracle of healing or exorcism performed by Jesus?
- How does the miracle end?
- What is accomplished by the ending of this miracle that is as important as the miracle itself?
How does our sense of individualism impact our seeing the importance of restoring a person back into community found in so many of the miracles of Jesus?
- How would many of Jesus' miracles have been incomplete without this "grace beyond the miracle" occurring?
How have you felt the miracle of:
- ... forgiveness?
- ... fellowship?
- ... acceptance?
- ... service?
- ... mission?
Could these have been fully experienced without sharing them with someone else or in community?