Why Miracles?

Today’s Devotion comes from Ricky.  

Mark 6:30-45

30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36 send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Why does Jesus tell his disciples, "You give them something to eat," knowing there was no way they could ever come up with enough food to give that many people? Was he just trying to remind the disciples how powerless or dependent they were when faced with the most basic material needs? Was He, alternatively, intending them to work a miracle by his power like they did when He sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7-13), or was He testing their faith?

Let's look at the overall direction of Mark's story: Since we already know how the story ends, where is this miracle pointing? Repeatedly throughout the gospel, Jesus confronts His own disciples as people who see the evil in the world around them but are less ready to recognize the evil in their own hearts. The problem that Jesus came to battle against was not just an external arrangement that needed to be changed; the problem of sin was, and is, something that had infiltrated and mis-shaped everything, even our own selves. Recognizing that we are part of the problem every bit as much as the world out there, we can begin to be healed by receiving life from the One who has power over life and death.

What is the point of a miracle in the first place? Is it simply to show who's really in charge of the created world? That may be part of it. But then why the dramatic pauses in the story? Why the dialogue and the process of multiplication, rather than an instant, magical fix? Let's remember that Jesus' miracles are not just ends in themselves. They also reflect a greater reality; they're there to show us something about the way of Jesus. Namely, they show us how His power, rooted in love, has begun infiltrating the world, eliminating the false power of spiritual darkness as it spreads.

The disciples spent a lot of time scratching their head over Jesus because they were looking for a savior who would fix a lot of their external situations but not a savior who would change what caused those situations in the first place. So many of our prayers run along the lines of asking for full stomachs. And that's a good thing to pray for -- Jesus told us to ask for our "daily bread." But what we need to remember here is that full stomachs happen in the context of Jesus being recognized as the world's true king. In the Lord's Prayer, "give us today our daily bread" comes after "may your kingdom come on earth."