“I want to see a miracle”
A widow told me recently that she wants to see some miracles for once. She wants to see people she’s praying for get well. She wants it to be like the Bible stories. She wants a miracle she can actually see and believe in.
Don’t we all want a miracle we can touch and see? Don’t we all want the risen Lord to show himself to us, to make us sure that he’s real? Don’t we all want to be able to run our fingers over the wounds of his feet, hands and side – so that our unbelief might be quenched with the clear water of reality?
The risen Jesus’ words to the doubtful Thomas are powerful—no? “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” I have not seen the risen Lord appear to me in the same way that the twelve did, or that Paul did. I have not seen the empty tomb, spoken with angels, eaten fish or walked to Emmaus with Jesus, or been thrown from my camel on the way to Damascus by a vision of the risen one. And neither have you–I venture to say–although the 8 o’clock does attract an older crowd.
But whilst I have not brushed my fingers across the scars of the fully-risen Son of God, I believe that I have eaten some of the first-fruit of the Kingdom of God. Do you believe you have tasted something of the things to come? Have you been shown a little something of God at work in the world?
My mom and her family were the first people to witness to the reality of God in my early years. My grandfather used to go to mass every morning before 8am, and they would take me to church, and put holy water on my head, and tell me that God was there. And I believed them. They were good people who were good to me; they were giants in the world of my childhood; and I believed in their witness.
As an adult, the first time I began to believe that Jesus Christ was not only crucified but resurrected, was again in large part to the testimony and witness of people I knew and trusted. They told me that they had come to know Christ, and I believed them. I believed that they had come to know something real.
And I started from these two points of initial belief in God and in the risen Christ–and as I put my faith in the power of the real God, I too began to see the scales of unbelief fall from my eyes, and I saw miracles in this world too. I saw hearts change. I saw people turn from deathly ways to life-giving ways. I met goodness, and I touched beauty. I came to believe that God was so very ultimately real.
But this is not everyone’s story.
One of my oldest friends is handsome, talented, funny and rich. Yet he complains all the time of an emptyness inside, a shallowness, a sense that he is vastly immature in the fullness of personhood. He wants to live only for himself. He knows this is unhealthy, but he cannot overcome the yearning to be his own person, to belong only to himself, for himself, to the utmost degree.
Since he is an avowed atheist, I used to try every non-theological route I could to offer him some direction, some hope that life can be good no matter what horrors there are. But finally I realized that his was the desolate voice of a man blind to the beauty and reality of God. And I knew that I could offer him nothing but my love, and testimony that God was right there.
So when he asks me “man what is wrong, what do I need?” I say, “God is real, God is true, God has brought me to a place where I am proud to be, and he is there for you right now.” And for all our years as friends, he still says, “I just can’t believe.” I can’t believe in marriage, women, relationships, and self-giving, much less God … And I have said, “man, God is there … just … right there, just … right there. But if you can’t see him yet, why don’t you trust me enough to take my word for it for a little while?” But for now, he is not there. I will keep trying. I will still be his friend. I will still believe in him.
Now, another friend of mine has an altogether different story. The other day, after Easter, he said, “You wanna believe in the resurrection of the dead? You should have seen me four years ago.” An addict and alcoholic, this guy had been dwelling at the bottom of the barrel for years. One day he was invited to church by a friend, who had been struggling with cancer for a long time, and had been winning. He responded to her witness of kindness and love, and on this first step of faith in her, and in his own unexplicable sense that maybe there was a God, he began to believe.
And something clicked. He came and talked to a priest, and he said, “I’m a wreck, and I don’t want to be anymore. I need help.” And by Grace, he began to change, to heal, to grow, to shed the scales. And now this man is nothing like his old self. He is alive, he is charming, he is happening, and he is a witness to the power of God for countless people who come to know him. And he told me yesterday, “I’m proud of who I’ve become, and I’ll tell everybody what happened to me.”
This man is a miracle. And there are millions like him. His story is my story. His story is the universal story of walking in the valley of death, yielding to a witness of grace and love, and becoming able to see the reality of the resurrection from the dead.
Perhaps you have a story to share about how God changed you from your old self, and made you into a new person. Perhaps you have been blind, but now you see. Well, sisters and brothers, if you have this story, then you have the Gospel written on your heart, and you need to share you story with others. Because there are people right next to you, who need to see a miracle. They need to see something of the resurrection.
For while those who believe without seeing are indeed most blessed ones, most of us need to see something. Most of us are Thomas. Most of us need to touch the wounds of Christ, to be reminded, that he is real.
For those of us who have a story of the risen Lord, we need to tell it. Over the hills and everywhere, we need to say, why we believe Jesus is Lord.
And the wounds we bear in this life, which we allow to be healed by Christ, will become the glorious scars to be proud of, and we can show them to our neighbors, so that they too might see the healing power of God. For then our scars will become like touchstones of faith for those around us, who are always watching and waiting for a witness to the power of God.
Do you want to see a miracle? I do.
I will show you mine, if you show me yours…