Things that appear to be supernatural are fascinating, aren’t they? When I was about 16, I paid fifty cents to see “Marvel the Magician” at our local county fair and was thoroughly intrigued and mystified by his power to magically produce some things out of nothing and to make other things disappear. It sure looked like magic and was definitely exciting but believing that such power actually existed was challenging and confusing. After all, if “Marvel” could really pull a rabbit out of a totally empty top hat, couldn’t he just as easily pull out a handful of $100 bills? You’d think that that would be a lot easier than magically concocting something all hairy and wiggly like a rabbit. If he could have pulled some hard cash out of that hat, he wouldn’t have been stuck with working at the county fair.
My buddies and I couldn’t quite buy into the idea that any actual magic was going on, so we spent the rest of the evening proposing theories about how the tricks might have really worked. Since the supernatural isn’t, well …, “natural”, our tendency is to reject it. That’s a lot easier than dealing with the implications that come with granting it authenticity. If things aren’t reasonably explicable within the framework of our comfortably familiar “cause-effect” process, it’s disturbing. That can get problematic in dealing with Jesus Christ because things happened around Him and His followers that had no natural explanation.
Unanticipated, Unusual, and Unnatural ~
Consider, for instance, an event Peter and John experienced in the early days of the Church. They encountered a physically disabled beggar near one of the entrances to the Temple area, and as they approached, he asked them for money. Peter responded, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6 NKJV). Well, the man did more than that. He leaped up and down on his formerly immobile legs and ran around praising God. Needless to say, the episode went as “viral” as things could go in those days, and a furor erupted.
Peter assured the astonished crowd that the power to restore strength to the disabled man did not originate with them. Then he gave the only explanation that existed—it was Jesus. He explained it this way: Faith in His name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all (Acts 3:16 NKJV).
Explanations Needed ~
The tumult following the event resulted in both men being thrown into jail for the night. The next day, some of the same religious leaders guilty of promoting Jesus’ crucifixion assembled looking for a human cause behind the supernatural occurrence. Peter’s courageous response prompted this unusual reaction:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. (Acts 4:13-14 NKJV).
Looking for a “Natural” Answer ~
The religious magistrates were stymied by Peter and John and “marveled” because they couldn’t find anything in them that should have empowered them or accounted for either what they did or the unintimidated assertiveness they displayed.
- It wasn’t academic prowess; these men were uneducated and considered ignorant.
- They had not been subjected to the rigorous training associated with religious leadership.
- They applied no physical tools or scripted healing incantations.
- They had no personal connection to the man and no way to have staged the event.
The supernatural effects were undeniable, but a supernatural cause could not be found in the men themselves. The only conclusion left for the interrogators was that these men had been in contact with the only human they had ever seen with such power. Maybe we should learn from them.
In spite of the fact that we’re surrounded by problems with no human solution, we continually look for some natural way to solve them. We’re prone to look at reports of God’s supernatural activity and try to reduce them to something human beings can replicate, or convince ourselves they are mere illusions, or we search for ways to tap into their power in order to fulfill our own purposes.
Beggars Still Waiting ~
Like Peter and John, the followers of Jesus are confronted every day by people begging for things that, ultimately, can only prolong their hopelessness and never solve their real problems. And like them, we don’t have what the beggars are asking for and are helpless in ourselves to provide what they really need. Maybe it’s time we stopped looking for natural ways to get results that demand supernatural involvement.
The material abundance so many are begging for is as impotent to lift us from our moral brokenness as the lame man’s legs were to hold him up. Our nation is desperate for something more, something undeniably supernatural, and this much is certain. It won’t unfold because of our academic superiority or our extensive ministerial training. Mimicking the gurus of corporate leadership or applying political leverage won’t help, and clever antics in cyberspace can’t make it happen. Supernatural effects demand a supernatural cause.
Peter and John had only one explanation—Jesus did it. Maybe if we spent more time “with” the only supernatural One we know, we’d see more things that can’t be explained beyond their simple declaration: Jesus did it.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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