Saturday, December 7, 2013

The God of Wonders and the Joy of Being Human

The stories in the Gospels become so mundane to churchgoing, Bible-reading folk that it’s easy to miss the obvious fact that the disciples of Jesus, and Jesus himself, were people. Further, all the Bible stories we read consist of real people.

Could you imagine following someone who appears to be an ordinary spiritual teacher only to discover that this guy is borderline magical? He turned water into wine, walks on water, calms storms, casts out demons simply by speaking, raises the dead as one wakes a sleeper, and heals the sick and blind. Are we reading the Bible or Harry Potter here? This sounds more like the work of a fictional magician than a 1st-Century Rabbi. 

How in the world did the disciples respond to this?  

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41b)

Right before this statement from the disciples, Mark says that they were filled with fear. It’s almost comical. Here they are, trapped in a small boat with this guy who just calmed the storm by merely telling it to do so. I think I would be afraid too. 

After reading this section of Scripture, I am reminded of the film, Man of Steel, and a line spoken by Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner, who tells Clark (Superman) that the world would be filled with fear when they discover that someone like him exists. 

Perhaps Man of Steel and Harry Potter show us something that has been missed in Christendom.  

Although God's activities with humanity have dramatically changed since Jesus and the stories of Scripture, he still works wonders today. Even though the type of wonders are different, the God who performs them is the same.

Humanity craves these wonders of God, which is evident from the fact that the Bible is the most-read book in the world. We all want to experience the power of God. When reading the Bible, we learn about what he can do and how he interacted with humanity in ages past. In doing so, we can vicariously experience it for ourselves. 

Still, there's a gap between what we read and what we experience today.

When is the last time I saw a blind person healed?

When was the last time I saw someone walking on water?

When was the last time I saw a storm calmed by someone speaking to it?

Can I recall a time when I walked around in a furnace? Survived a lions' den?

The Bible tantalizes us with stories of grandeur from days gone by. We know God has always been God, but we find it hard to reconcile what we read with what we witness in our daily lives. Where are the wonders of God for us today?

The point is not trying to see wonders, but to see God. Forget what he can do, let's focus on who he is. Every time we read the Bible, particularly the Gospels, we enter a "simulator" and experience him from afar. We may only be able to glimpse him from our simulator, but that is enough for us to drop our jaws.

How prepared is a soldier for the enormity of war after playing a simulation game? How prepared is an astronaut for the wonder of space after training in a simulator? The same is true with Jesus. Reading the Bible can only do so much to prepare us for the moment when we will see him; no matter how much information about him that we have, nothing can prepare us to meet him as he is. Reading about God, as he is described in the Bible, ushers in a wave of anticipation for Heaven. The anticipation of meeting Jesus in Heaven is perhaps the greatest joy of being a human.

Only when we begin to see God can we begin to see the wonders he has given us in the 21st Century. The horse must pull the cart; we must first desire God, not his wonders, because only then will we be able to appreciate his wonders. Perhaps the best wonder we have to enjoy in this era is our new life in Christ. This new life unleashes joy and goodness into all of our experiences, and the more we tap into it, the more we will anticipate meeting the one who gave it to us. Let us begin to anticipate again--the world needs Christians who anticipate Jesus. 

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