Showing and Telling

Showing and Telling

Luke 5:12-26


          A young mom was at work when she received a phone call from her babysitter that her daughter was very sick with a fever.  The mom immediately left work and stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some medication.  However, when she got back to her car, she discovered that she had locked her keys inside.

          The woman didn't know what to do, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened.  The baby sitter said that the girl’s fever was getting worse.  She suggested, "You might find a coat hanger and try to use that to open the door."

          The woman looked around the parking lot and found an old rusty coat hanger on the ground, possibly left by someone else who at one time had locked their keys in their car.  She looked at the hanger and thought, "I have no idea how to use this." She then bowed her head and asked God to send her help.  Within five minutes a beat-up old motorcycle pulled into the parking lot, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man wearing an old biker skull rag on his head.

          The woman thought, "Dear God, this is who you sent to help me?"  But, she was desperate, so she decided to just trust in God.  The man got off of his motorcycle and asked if there was something he could do to help.

          The woman said, "Yes, my daughter is very sick.   I stopped here to get some medication and I accidentally locked my keys in my car.   I must get home to her.  Please, do you know how to use this hanger to unlock my car?"

          The man said, "Sure."  He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute, the car was opened.   She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Oh, thank you so much!  You’re such a very nice man!"

          The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man.  I just got out of prison today.  I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour."

          The woman hugged the man again and through sobbing tears cried out, “Oh, thank you God!   You even sent me a Professional!”

          {Thanks to Debbie Haidet and Nancy Harsh who e-mailed me that story!}

          Miracles.  People have all sorts of interesting ideas when it comes to miracles.  Some of us believe that miracles happen all day, every day, whether it is the birth of a child, the majesty of a sunrise, the warmth of a friend’s touch, or the generosity of others.  Each new moment and each new breath is a fresh miracle.  Others, however, see miracles nowhere.  These are the ones who believe the world is strictly governed by a set of rigid physical laws that do not change and cannot be superseded.  There is no such thing as miracles because there can be no such thing – rational explanations exist for everything and anything that might be considered a miracle.

          You probably know both kinds of people.  We’re going to chart a middle course between these two extremes during our study of miracles.  For our purposes, miracles are those rather dramatic moments when the natural course of things is altered and something quite surprising, even confounding, happens instead.  This can be when a storm is calmed by a spoken word, or when a single meal feeds thousands, or when a dead man returns to life.  The life of Jesus Christ was reliably recorded in the Bible and contains mention of numerous miracles. 

          The miracles of Christ can either be understood as supernatural interventions in the world, or as mere coincidences.  When Jesus heals a person with a touch, like he did for the leper in today’s scripture, we can either believe that Jesus has the ability to heal sickness and illness, or that the man simply happened to get better from an incurable skin disease right after Jesus touched him.  When Jesus heals a person with a word, like he did for the paralytic, also in today’s scripture, we can either believe that Jesus has supernatural healing power, or that a man who was lame spontaneously developed the ability to walk immediately following an encounter with Jesus.  In miracle story after miracle story, you can choose to believe that Jesus wields awesome spiritual power, or that he is the beneficiary of some incredible coincidences, time after time after time.  Which is harder to believe?

          By the way, it’s important to realize that we have it on good authority that these miracles did, in fact, happen.  There were many eyewitnesses.  Jesus’ fame grew and spread, largely because of his miracles.  People really were healed and, during his lifetime, no one disputed or suggested otherwise that Jesus worked authentic miracles.

          They certainly would have if they could have.  Jesus had many enemies.  And I find it interesting that none of Jesus’ foes – those Pharisees and scribes and Sadducees and teachers of the law who wanted him to fail - ever leveled the charge of fraud or charlatan at him.  Oh, sure, they said he worked for another supernatural power besides God, but they never accused him of fakery.  The evidence was just too great.

          Whether it was the recovery of sight for the blind, or the opening of the ears of the deaf, or the resurrection of the dead, even Jesus’ harshest critics had to concede that He did, indeed, perform miracles.  That is why, when we begin to study “The Meaning in the Miracles,” the first thing we notice is that one of their purposes is to give credence to Jesus’ ministry.  They testify to the accuracy of his claims about himself and the rightness of his teaching.  Jesus himself pointed this out.  Reading from John 10:31: “The Jews took up stones again to stone him.   Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God...”  

          [Jesus said]”…If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.”

          “Even though you do not believe me, believe the works.”  Here Jesus is submitting into evidence his miracles as a kind of testimony on behalf of his message.  One of the meanings of his miracles is that of “show and tell.”  They both show His nature and His power and thus tell, or reveal, that He is the Messiah.

          The miracles of Christ are sometimes “the first step” into faith.  It’s not okay to stop there, but they do give Jesus that initial hearing.  Miracles can draw us closer to God and open our eyes to what God is doing and open our ears to His message of love.  Miracles serve as God’s megaphone.  Miracles are supremely attention-grabbing.  That makes them useful, but also limiting.  People flocked to Jesus not necessarily to hear his teaching but to see a show.  Herod put Jesus on trial, hoping that he would perform for him and work a miracle. 

          In today’s scripture reading, Jesus allowed his miracles to speak, to both show and tell: Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy.  When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him.  

            Like many of Jesus’ healing miracles, this one begins with a display of faith – the leper tells Jesus that he knows Jesus can heal him.  Jesus’ response is not indifference or callousness, but compassion.  Just as we sang earlier today, “He Touched Me” so Jesus touched the leper – something that would have given the priests fits!  And the result of the miracle is that the leprosy left the man “immediately.”  But that’s not all that we can learn here.  There is another meaning in this miracle…And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.”  But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

          Jesus ordered the Leper to tell no one?  This command actually happens several times in the gospels.  It’s called “The Messianic Secret.”  Why did Jesus want to keep his miracles quiet and under wraps?  Didn’t we just learn that they were there to show and tell His divinity?  There are several different theories to explain this.  Some suggest that Jesus was employing reverse psychology – by telling someone to keep it a secret, he was really ensuring that it would be blabbed all over Judea.  Personally, I can appreciate that this was the effect, but I highly doubt it was the intention.  It’s hard to see Jesus playing cynical games like that.  Others have suggested that it was a matter of timing – Jesus knew that his ministry had to first ripen and develop.  If he made open claims to being the Messiah too soon, his crucifixion would come prematurely.  He had to wait until the disciples were trained and prepared to take over.  But I think one of the most reasonable explanations is that Jesus recognized the miracles had the ability to get in the way of his message.  Miracles could have easily been all that Jesus would ever be doing.  He would be exhausted by countless demands for healings and signs, when his real objective was to proclaim the kingdom.

          Things work best when his miracles and his message go hand in hand, as the next miracle story shows: One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.  Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.  When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”  

     Again, a display of faith is given as the friends of the paralyzed man are so desperate to bring him before Jesus that they are willing to go up on the roof and tunnel down.  Of course you may have noticed that at this point, Jesus had not yet worked any miracle – at least, not any physical one.  But he did work the spiritual miracle of forgiveness.  He recognized that the man’s greatest need wasn’t his paralysis of body, but of spirit.  But with the gentle word of forgiveness spoken by Jesus, a challenge reared up in the hearts of his opponents:

     Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.”  Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God.

     Now this is Show and Tell!  It is showing and telling who Jesus is and what He has come to do!  Not only does Jesus reveal Himself as one who is able to make the lame walk, He also shows that He is able to make the spiritually crippled walk with God again.  The word of forgiveness is confirmed by the act of a miracle.  The meaning of this miracle?  That Jesus is who He says He is, and that if He is able to mend the body, He is able to mend the soul as well.

     Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

     The conclusion of this account shows us that the miracle accomplished its purpose – not only was the man able to walk again, but amazement seized everyone in the room, glory was given to God, and testimony about Jesus’ power was shared.  More than just one man benefitted that day from a miracle of healing – all the rest of the people of that day, and of our day as well, did.  

     Let us pray…

     The meaning in the miracles that we talked about today have to do with attracting attention – the right kind of attention – to Jesus’ ministry.  They were a ministry of Showing and Telling.  God has a message that He wants people to hear, and while miracles can attract their attention, they can also become a distraction.  The key that Jesus sought was a balance between what would attract listeners and what would detract from the message.

          On Sunday, April 3, we are hoping to attract attention to what God is doing here at Science Hill by holding an Open House.  Please take a look at blue insert in your bulletin this morning…