A miracle. What do you think about a miracle? Have you ever thought about it really seriously? If you look up a dictionary, miracle is defined as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” Yes, something we all already know. And over the years, I have found that when people talk about a miracle, they tend to describe it in two ways.
Some people understand that a miracle is a pure display of divine power and wonder. This understanding is what we are familiar to as Christians. In so many biblical narratives, miracles happen by divine intervention. People witness in awe to God’s power and glory and come to have faith in God and God’s kingdom. For this group of people, a miracle is always a divine and godly event, something highly improbable and a totally outside-the-world kind of thing.
On the contrary, other people think of a miracle in a more mundane and human way. Have you ever seen this movie, Bruce Almighty? In this movie, Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is granted omnipotence by God. He squanders it on petty things like parting his tomato soup like Moses and on many other selfish things. Finally, God pulls him aside and tells him that although God is not against supernatural intervention, God most often choose to work more subtly. God says, “Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce. It’s a magic trick. A single mom who is working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager who says no to drugs and yes to an education, that’s a miracle.People want me to do everything for them. But what they don’t realize is they have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.” Here, a miracle is an event that can always happen around us, and something we can make in our lives with a gentle nudge of God.
So what do you think now? Do we have to think a miracle in a more divine way or in a more mundane and human way? Which one do you prefer? I don’t think we have to choose a side. And I can tell that both ideas are meaningful, make good sense, and help us understand a miracle better and deeper.
Today’s Gospel story of Bartimaeus is a divine miracle story. Actually, the Gospel of Mark is full of miracle stories, 20 of them in total. They are literally in every chapter until in Chapter 11 Mark begins to talk about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his final days. Yes, the story of Bartimaeus is just another miracle story, we can simply say that. However, there’s something very special about this story. It’s special because Bartimaeus is the only person whose name is recorded in the Gospel of Mark among many that Jesus healed. “Bartimaeus, Son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, who always sits by the roadside” (Mark 10:46). Bartimaeus is remembered by name, unlike all the other nameless people that Jesus healed. Also, this story is special because the Gospel writes, when he was healed, Bartimaeus “followed” Jesus. In any other stories of a healing miracle, we don’t see this following. And last but not least, the story of Bartimaeus is special because this miracle paves the way to another miracle, the final and the most important miracle.
The story of Bartimaeus ends with this sentence: “Immediately [Bartimaeus] regained his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way” (Mark 10:52). On the way… which way is that? That is the way to Jerusalem, the way to the cross. And now you may sense which final miracle that I am going to talk about… Yes, this miracle is Jesus’ death and resurrection. As the Son of Man, Jesus died on the cross taking all human suffering and death onto himself. And so, we are saved and freed from the shackle of sin and death. As the Lord of resurrection, Jesus has risen from the grave and shined forth the divine light of new life into the darkness of the world. And so, we have the everlasting life that will never be defeated by the power of death. The death and resurrection of Jesus…this miracle was done once and for all for the transformation of the world and our lives. So we can say that this certainly is the greatest miracle of all.
Then, is this greatest miracle a divine miracle? Absolutely, yes. It’s a transcendent event that reveals the divine power and wonder. And for sure, it’s none of this world; it’s what God did. Yet strangely enough, this greatest miracle is a miracle that is truly mundane and human. How come? It’s because this greatest miracle of Jesus Christ is something that should be lived, realized, and embodied in his followers’ lives. It’s because this greatest miracle always empowers us to be the miracle in this world even on a small scale. Jesus calls us to remember his death on the cross and empowers us to carry our own cross, to practice his self-sacrifice and self-giving love in our lives. Jesus calls us to abide in his light of resurrection and empowers us to shine our light on others so that they can also see the unending hope for the new life in Christ.
Jesus’ death and resurrection…this greatest miracle of all calls us to be like Jesus, to be the miracle. And indeed, because of the miracle of Jesus’ cross, we learn divine compassion and suffer with others, cry with others; we practice self-giving love, and love the unlovable, forgive our enemies…these are the miracles. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are not afraid of death and do our best to fight against the power of death and violence. And we always live in the hope for the future communion in God’s kingdom with our families and friend who have gone before us…these are the miracles.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, none of us are really worthy of miracles; we are not any better than Bartimaeus from God’s point of view, yet God graciously wills us be healed and liberated. Therefore, all of us have experienced the greatest miracle of all. And we know that this miracle is still happening around us; we know how Jesus’ death and resurrection change people’s lives even at this very moment. So now is the time for us to share this greatest miracle with others, and let them also experience the love of Jesus, be healed by his power and find true meanings of life in the relationship with him. And now is the time for us to invite others to the love of God and to the new life we live. Let us be like Jesus, and let us be the small, mundane, and human miracles wherever we are. May God’s grace empower us always as we follow Jesus on the way. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim