The Cross is Our Miracle1
For the next few weeks, until Ash Wednesday, the Church celebrates the season of Epiphany. The season of Epiphany has a lot to do with teaching us that Jesus is God. For this reason the Gospel lessons on Sundays feature many miracles of Jesus. We hear of Jesus turning water into wine, healing the sick, casting out demons, and much more. These miracles show us that Jesus is clearly sent by God, for God alone can defy the laws of nature in such amazing ways. The power and authority with which Jesus performs His miracles also confirms for the world that not only is God with Jesus and not only is Jesus speaking God’s Word, but that Jesus is God and that Jesus is speaking His own Word as the Word made flesh.
As we hear of many of the miracles of Jesus this Epiphany, however, it is important that we remember the reason why Jesus performed them. In other words, we must remember that God the Father did not send Jesus to earth to perform miracles. God the Father sent Jesus to us to die for our sins and raise us up from the dead. Every miracle of Jesus – just as every miracle of Scripture - serves to direct our attention toward this singular mission. The miracles of the Old Testament show us that the promise of the coming Messiah was reliable and true. The miracles of Jesus show us that He is the Christ who has arrived to lift the curse of sin once and for all. Therefore the miracles themselves aren’t the thing on which our faith rests. Rather we see in these miracles a small preview, anticipation, and foretaste of the one and only complete and full and eternal miracle of all history: the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.
What this means for your life today is that if you read about the miracles of Jesus in Scripture and you set your heart on desiring a similar miracle for yourself, you are expecting much too little from Jesus. Remember that Jesus didn’t come to earth to heal one blind man or ten lepers or even a whole town’s worth of sick people; He came to heal the bodies and souls of all people of all time on the cross. Jesus didn’t come to forgive one man’s sins or cast out a few demons; He came to forgive everyone’s sin and cast away every demon from the earth on the cross. Jesus didn’t come to supply the wine for one wedding banquet at Cana; He came to shed His blood for the eternal wedding banquet of Himself and the Church in the new heaven and new earth.
You must resist the temptation to be so short-sighted with God’s grace. Don’t think to yourself that only if Jesus would just miraculously heal your disease, or restore your sight, or relieve your poverty, or ease your oppression as He did for so many in Scripture, that only then could you be sure that He truly is God and that He truly loves you. Don’t despair as if God is not present with you today because your life is absent of any of these great miracles. That’s not the point. That’s not the goal of our faith in Jesus. If you have in fact experienced a miracle of God in your life, then God be praised. Nevertheless, if your entire faith rests on these miracles then you don’t know what you are missing.
There is one miracle of Jesus in Scripture that is especially helpful for teaching this point. That miracle is the one Jesus performed among the crowd at Nazareth recorded in Luke chapter 4. Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth one Sabbath day and stood up to read from the Scriptures. He rolled open the scroll of Isaiah and read a prophecy about the year of the Lord’s favor, when the Lord would send His Anointed One to proclaim good news to the poor and liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. When He finished reading, Jesus sat down and said: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All the people then spoke well of Jesus, likely because they thought He was about to perform these great miracles among them as He had in other towns. Instead, though, Jesus rebukes the Jews in the synagogue. He reminds them that the Gentiles often had much more faith in God than they did. Now the crowd, enraged at Jesus, drives Him to the edge of town to throw Him off a cliff. But here is where Jesus performs His miracle. Jesus miraculously passes through their midst and He journeyed on to another town.
For the crowd at Nazareth whose heart was set on a miracle, and for all of us who are tempted to settle for a miracle, Jesus performs for us just the right one. The miracle is that Jesus escapes death on the hill of Nazareth. By itself this isn’t really that impressive, and seemingly not all that important. But think again for a moment about what this miracle prepares for us to receive. Jesus shows us on that hill of Nazareth that He is perfectly capable of escaping angry mobs. And yet when Judas led the angry mob to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus allowed them take Him away to be crucified.
Therefore the hill of Nazareth teaches us that the hill of the cross was no mistake. Jesus went to the cross willingly, according to the eternal will of the Father, to rescue you and all people from sin and death. The cross is the true miracle that Jesus wants us all to receive. Instead of giving in to the crowd’s desire for only a temporary miracle with temporary results, Jesus points them to the eternal healing and eternal forgiveness of His cross and empty tomb. This is what makes this miracle one of the greatest of Scripture. Jesus’ miraculous escape from death in Nazareth reveals to us with great clarity the ultimate purpose of every miracle of God: to anchor our faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
Therefore the next time you are sick, or poor, or oppressed sure, pray for a miracle. It certainly won’t hurt to receive one from God! But don’t ultimately settle for such a temporary fix. God has so much more to give you. Pray more so for faith to rejoice in the miracle of the cross. The forgiveness, life, healing, and rescue that you receive from the cross of Christ lasts more than a few days or a lifetime, but into eternal life.