A miracle occurred for my family this week. On Tuesday morning my dad was the beneficiary of amazing medical skill and knowledge, as well as someone's generosity, and after 13 or so hours of surgery he now has a new liver.
I've prayed for the family of the donor this week, and though there is no contact allowed and no way to personally comfort them, I pray the Lord visits them daily. I pray they know their loved one's life made a difference and that his or her death was not a waste - not because my father's life was extended, but because on this earth, their loved one knew the Lord. I pray that's true.
I also pray that my dad will come to praise the Lord for His goodness, and not just praise the wonder of modern science or the miracle of medicine. I know that his life was extended for the purpose of God's glory.
The good thing about living and about the Living Word is that the two really do intersect. Life gives lessons that lend themselves to Scripture, and vice versa.
John 6 is teaching me a number of things, about bread crumbs and everyday wonder and true belief while we wait for a sign. I read it this week after dad's surgery and the Living Word certainly intersected my life, sharp and double-edged.
Then a great many followed Him, because they saw His signs...
Because they had a need and don't we all? Don't we all end up following the trail behind some promise of provision, of health, of protection? The trouble is, that trail of blessing becomes our path to doggedly follow for the crumbs we pick up on the way, head down, backs bent.
We follow a path and forget the Person. But the bread was tasty. Zealous and committed, we follow Him for the signs of a better life...
...he who hears My word
and believes in Him who sent Me
has everlasting life...
Everlasting lasts forever, but our hearing and believing often only ever last until we have our desired end. Following bread crumbs never completely satisfies anyone, so we keep looking for more.
Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
The test comes with a sidewise turn of the head - maybe there is somewhere else we ought to look? Some other plan for a multitude of needs and emptiness?
He questions all our conventions and all our boot-strap ways of doing our own impossible. How are you going to solve this little fiasco? What means do you have to buck-up, to get 'er done, to just do it and punch today in the face and the handful of cliches we throw at obstacles? Whatcha gonna do 'bout it?
We have to answer the question. We have to come to the things in our way and look up from our crumb-gathering to really consider: where is our bread coming from?
Whether we are one, or a multitude, where does the daily stuff of life originate?
...but what are they among so many?
Practically speaking, how are we going to continue on this path of miracles? We have our few fishes and loaves, but our hands are mostly empty to our need. Empty to the multitude. Empty to the gaping hole growling in our bellies and our minds and that impossible thing is just so hard to grasp.
What are they among so many?
We are forever trying to grasp the impossible and understand a miracle, so we can reproduce it ourselves. Oxymorons, all of us.
I read an article at The Rabbit Room last night by Rebecca Reynolds. She had read an essay by C.S. Lewis on miracles, on how we explain them away if they confront our presuppositions.
About our lame explanations, she says:
What this interpretation misses, though, is that the miracle of the fishes and the loaves condensed an everyday wonder into a single moment. Every time a tiny seed of wheat is grown, a harvest is multiplied from nearly nothing. Feeding 5000 did not just happen once by the presence of Christ, it has happened for thousands of years, ever since God made the earth to flourish from planting through processing and baking. It happens so often we don’t even notice it. We are so numb to the miraculous that the only way we can understand the divine gift of our daily bread is by finding the wonder suddenly compressed. It is then that we are forced to see that God is the one who fills us all along." (emphasis mine)
The miracle of five loaves and two small fish that would feed 5000 people is simply (and I say that sarcastically) the compression of the everyday miracles of a seed producing much wheat and one fish giving birth to many. God is doing the miraculous, daily.
So when they were filled...
They called Him the Prophet and they prepared His earthen crown and He fled. They missed the point, and missed the opportunity for wonder.
They just wanted bread.
A miracle occurred, the wonder suddenly compressed, and they only wanted something more for their empty bellies.
Unbelieving hearts are already filled with their explanations and sure, this was a great thing that occurred, but our stomachs are empty again.
What shall we do?
In truth, what can we do to get this "food which endures to everlasting life"? Free food for life? For life!
We push off eternity for the bread crumbs of a good existence in this place. We work out. We eat right. We manage our finances and work our tails off for a guarantee of maybe 80 pain-free years, 90 if we're lucky. My father did his best to keep himself strong and healthy but disease won out, and were it not for the miracle of a transplant, he would have no chance.
But Jesus answers them: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
And wonder of wonders, they ask for a sign. Do tricks for us, Jesus. Prove yourself to us again.
I don't phrase it so boldly as they did, but really, those breadcrumbs keep me moving along and when they stop, I stop. I look around. I wonder what happened to the goodness of the Provider instead of wondering at the glorious provision of the God of every day.
Was Jesus exasperated? Is that why He took such drastic measures - Eat my body - and why He offended some - Drink my blood? Weed them out, thin them down. Let's separate those with hungry bellies from those with hungry souls.
But He is the bread of life.
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
We are all thinned down by our beliefs in the end. We see the miracles, all of us. We believe or we don't. But all of us are recipients of unbelievable grace and called only to believe, only to take the freely offered loaves and fish of everyday miracles and give thanks to the One whom God sent. That's our work.
A miracle simply condenses the miraculous so that we notice it is wonderful. It jolts us out of this lavish, sustaining grace that carries us from birth to death." Reynolds, Miracle on Demand