Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. (John 10:22-41) The theme of Hanukkah is miracles, that’s what the Jews were celebrating, the miracles God had done for their forefathers – delivering them from the evil hand of Antiochus Epiphanes and keeping the oil lamps burning for eight days on a one-day supply. Yet the conversation Jesus had with the people was all about their inability to believe that He was the Son of God. He addressed their unbelief and they are ready to kill him for it.
The people were looking for a reason to accuse him of blasphemy and stone him to death. They asked him, “Tell us plainly, are you the Christ?” Literally, their question was, “Are you the Anointed One, the One Who comes smeared in the oil of Heaven?” Jesus replied by telling them that even though He said he was, they did not believe. He directed them to look at His works and see with their eyes that He was operating as One sent with an anointing to do miracles. His works testified to His identity.
These people did not want to believe even though they said they did. They expected something else, and when the miracle of the ages, Jesus, the Son of God, stood in their midst, they could not accept it. Their hearts were hardened by their unbelief because they were so sure that God would send a different looking Messiah. God wants us to be open-hearted toward the way He will answer prayers and fulfill promises. He wants us to trust Him so explicitly that we do not question the signs or answers He sends our way. It is important that we understand this because our tendency is to have an expectation that puts God in a box. Receiving a miracle is touchy business. When a miracle first occurs we can be overwhelmed by the goodness of God, but after a few days go by, the enemy will cause us to question, “Was that really God, or did the circumstances just work out?” After that initial shock, we might be tempted to think, “That wasn’t such a big deal?” We see this over and over in scripture. The people did not know how to receive their miracle and live a life of miracles.
What is a miracle anyway? The dictionary defines miracle as a “supernatural wonder or marvel,” or “an extraordinary event that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” There are some things that are very dramatic and certainly cannot be explained logically, like when a doctor gives a diagnosis of some terminal disease because the person is exhibiting the symptoms of that disease. Suddenly, if the symptoms disappear and the doctor finds no trace of the disease, most would call that a a miracle that cannot be denied.
Yet, there are less dramatic things that could technically be reasoned away. For instance, when a person is in need of money or food and suddenly, someone shows up with provision. The person with the need was very anxious, praying, maybe even crying about their need. Initially, this mysterious provision brings great relief and tears of joy are flowing. But a few days later, that same person might begin to wonder, “did so-and-so know that I had that need? They probably just came to help because someone told them ….” They might even be tempted to say, “If it was a real miracle, I would have opened my refrigerator door and there would have been food in there.” And so we begin to chip away at the glory of God and rationalize the miracle. We may still praise God, but there is doubt in our heart.
Doubt grows like a cancer. It hardens our heart and causes us to lose our thankfulness. We waffle between gratefulness and cynicism, and if we are not careful, we grow hard to the things of God. Our ability to see what God sees grows dim and we no longer walk in the light. The disciples did this and they walked right next to Jesus. Remember when they saw the miracles of the loaves and fishes, but then they got in the boat and as they traveled to the other side, they were caught in a storm. They were so fearful they thought they were going to die, so they woke Jesus up. His response was, “Where is your faith?” In other words, “Haven’t you seen enough of my works to believe that when I tell you we’re going to the other side of the lake, you believe that we are going to get there safely? Don’t you believe?”
In order to live a life of miracles, our hearts need to be set on the faithfulness of God’s character. We must press in to know Him and believe in His works. Our hearts must be set on the wonder and majesty of Who He is, so that we can believe what He does is authentic, no matter what it looks like. All through the Old Testament, God was showing the Jews His character, yet most remained hard-hearted toward Him. He showed them signs (miracles) that pointed the way for them, but they couldn’t read the signs correctly. Each of the miracles through the wilderness was like a signpost pointing them to the Promised Land, yet when they stood at the edge of the promise, they refused to enter in because of their unbelief. When the Father sent the promised Messiah, they refused to receive Him because of their unbelief. What will we do when we are confronted with the signs that point to our promise? Will we recognize our signposts?
The shepherds in the field could have dismissed the angelic host that appeared to them announcing the birth of the Jesus. The magi could have ignored the star leading the way to Him. God is leading us into the promise both for our immediate future and our eternal future. Let us come to worship Him. Let us pray for eyes to see every sign and then respond with hearts full of faith, so that we can live the life of miracles.