For many people, the stories of the Bible seem like tales from a faraway time - like an epic high fantasy story worthy of the modern big screen. Our current cultural fascination with modern mythological characters is just a reminder that human beings have always been suckers for a good story with epic stakes and unexplainable phenomena. We might even go so far as to describe a particularly epic story as being "of Biblical proportions."
But our world is not, we think, the world of magical or mystical happenings, but the dreary and sometimes glum world of the ordinary. When it comes to the story of the Bible, that kind of stuff doesn't really happen in the real world.
Conventional Christian wisdom may encourage us to change our perspective, to adopt a lens wherein everything is a miracle in a certain way. In Romans 1:20, Paul says "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God" (NLT). This is an example of how we might see all of life has having miraculous or divine significance - all of nature reflects God as the supernatural creator.
But this may not resonate deeply with some people. In western history, The Enlightenment was a time when worldviews were radically changed, and when all magical or superstitious realities began to be discounted. Thinkers like David Hume would treat miracles as events that violated laws of nature, while also defining "laws of nature" as something that by definition cannot be violated. This is, of course, the classic stipulative definition - defining terms in an argument in such a way that other side can't even hope to make a point. Still, this way of thinking has permeated our culture and shaped how even some Christians see the world: the fantastic, the supernatural, and the miraculous are playful imagination and nothing more.
The Apostle Peter, speaking of those who reject the gospel, said "They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command [...]" (2 Peter 3:5a NLT). This is a true statement from the scriptures, but it may be too easy to take it as the only explanation of unbelief. Many modern people have collectively forgotten that God made the universe - so far are we disconnected from the Biblical story.
But I would propose that our world today is not actually so disconnected from the story of the Bible. In many ways, the Biblical story does see a decline in the size and scope of the miracles presented within it, and for a very important reason: God is drawing closer to humanity and acting through humanity.
In the Pentateuch or Torah - the first five books - we see oceans part, plagues raining from the sky, floods that cover the earth, and other staggering miracles of epic proportions. The Image of God in humanity had been broken, and that wound as still fresh. In these times, God's presence acted in grandiose ways, with people often standing at a distance and observing.
But the visible presence of God that once dwelled near the tabernacle and temple as a pillar of cloud or fire would eventually vanish from Israel (Ezekiel 10). That same presence of God would be made manifest again in a slightly more humble form - a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who would come again to his temple, perform healing miracles for sick people, and teach about the Kingdom of God. In coming close to us, Jesus was helping to restore the Image of God in humanity that had been broken.
Then the visible presence of God in Jesus would vanish from the world to be replaced by the presence of God in the Church through the Holy Spirit. God's presence would now fill the world not through cataclysmic miracles, but through a transformed community of people with new hearts, full of God's love. The book of Acts details the significant but intimate miracles that God worked through the followers of Jesus. The people of this world were now experiencing the closeness of God in their hearts, as the Image of God began to be restored more than ever before.
This progression is meant to follow us from the pages of the Bible into our everyday lives. We are meant to see our lives as extensions of the story of the Bible, a next step in God's epic tale. Your life is another step in the grandest miracle of all: the restoration of the Image of God in humanity. God is still revealing himself in the world, but now it is through us. God is creating an Image of himself for the whole world to look at, in the form of redeemed, rescued, forgiven people, day by day learning to look more like Jesus.
If the miracles of the Bible have ever felt like a faraway fairytale, maybe you have been looking too far. The nearest miracle is your own heart, your own life, your own self. The Spirit of God has been working on your heart, to transform you into a reflection of his heart.
How would you define a miracle? What does or does not count as a miracle? What scriptures support your answer?
Have you ever witnessed something that you would consider a miracle? If not, have you ever personally known someone who has witnessed a miracle?
Read Psalm 139:13-16. Based on this passage, is it legitimate to think of a human person as a miracle?
Revelation 16:14 speaks of "evil spirits performing signs." If a supernatural event is caused by an evil power, does it count as a "miracle"?
Read Matthew 11:20-24. What does this passage teach us about human nature? How could whole cities witness miracles and yet not believe?
Is Christianity for or against miracles as evidence to support faith? To answer, read Matthew 12:38-42. What does Jesus say about "signs" here? Why does he say this to the Pharisees, and what might it mean for us? Compare it to a similar situation in Matthew 16:1-4, and compare both to Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 15 (whole chapter).
Read John 20:24-29. What does Jesus' final statement about those who believe without seeing mean? How does this apply to miracles?