Miracles Today?

Why don’t we see any big, biblical-order miracles occurring in the world today?

Joshua_passing_the_River_Jordan_with_the_Ark-Benjamin-WestOne answer is that most of the 250 miracles recorded in the Bible occurred during narrow periods in biblical history when God was revealing new truth and confirming new messengers. Most of the miracles occurred during the lifetimes of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the Apostles. There were long periods, hundreds of years, when no miracles occurred. Why? Because God had no new truth to reveal or messenger to confirm.

Today the Bible is complete. We are waiting for the end of history and the coming again of Christ. Until those days begin—and it may not be long—we shouldn’t expect any big, cinematic miracles worthy for another Charlton Heston to show us on the screen.

A second question: Are miracles occurring today on a smaller scale, unnoticed by the media?

The answer is yes. For several years I was on the missions team of Calvary Evangelical Free Church. While there I took the “Perspectives on the World Christian Mission” class. This is an intensive, fourteen-week course focusing on world missions. In each class there is a guest speaker, several of which were missionaries who served in remote, spiritually dark areas of the world. Their stories were eye-opening. The most common miracle they reported—sometimes to their own astonishment—was miraculous healing. They prayed for the sick and were able, through the Holy Spirit, to heal persons their families had given up for dead. One missionary reported that several of them fasted and prayed for a demon-possessed woman. After they laid hands on her, she became like a new person.

It’s easy to scoff at such stories. But these were not televangelists standing in front of a television audience asking for donations. They were sober servants of God who sacrificed comfort, an easy life in America, to go to remote, dangerous locations. And because they confronted spiritual darkness head-on, God gave them the power to heal and exorcise demons. There seems to be a principle that where spiritual light meets the darkness, God more often works through his servants using miracles.

Next time we’ll look at a modern-day example of a miraculous event in a remote region.

Jesus Walks on Water

Again, we’ll contrast the miracles of Buddhism with a famous one from Jesus in Matthew 14:22–33 (NLT):

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
JesusWalksOnWater24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

It’s a famous story. Its power comes from the God who created the universe. Its point is in verses 31-32, to help Jesus’s disciples recognize Jesus as the Son of God and to teach them about faith. It’s also benevolent, as Jesus saved the disciples from a powerful, sudden storm.

We can contrast this with the previous miracles from Buddhism. Instead of glorifying an individual who himself makes no claim to being a god, this one glorifies the Son of God.

Next time we’ll ask: Why don’t we see miracles today?

The Miracles of Buddhism

The Dhammapda contains the sayings of Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha. Buddhists are essentially atheists who don’t believe in a god at all, but rather in an impersonal, endless cycle of reincarnation. The goal of the Buddhist is to end the cycle and merge “into the One,” like a drop of water merging with the ocean. Essentially their goal is personal, spiritual annihilation.

In Dhammapada Ch. 4, Sec. 12, a man tries to make the Buddha look foolish. buddhistTempleHe sets a trap by making empty pots look as if they had food and then invites him to a feast. But the Buddha causes the man’s pots to fill with food. The man then tries to lead the Buddha into a pit filled with burning coals. But the Buddha causes lotus flowers to grow up from the pit.

The source of this miracle is an individual. And all the glory went to an individual—the Buddha. And the point was to gain another disciple for the individual. The second miracle was, however, benevolent.

In Dhammapada Ch. 28, Sec.12, a young Buddhist monk was able, through Dhamma meditation, to gain supernormal powers. Then when his master was ill, he flew to a distant lake and brought back some water. Afterward, the monk appeared before the Buddha who asked him, for the benefit of other monks, to go again to the faraway lake using his flying ability. When the young monk returned, the Buddha pointed him out to the others as an example to follow.

Who was glorified here? The young monk. The purpose? To show that practicing Dhamma meditation can give the individual supernormal powers. But the meditation is a self-serving, selfish pursuit. It only benefits one person. There is no benevolence in the act. It glorifies only that individual, not God.

While all the miracles of Buddhism glorify and derive their source from the individual, all the biblical miracles come from God, glorify God, and confirm his message and messengers.

Next, we’ll look at another miracle of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.