Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:17-44
In Matthew 9, we encounter one of the strangest miracles recorded in the Gospels.
A religious leader sought Jesus for help. His daughter was near death, and he knew Jesus could heal her. “Come and lay your hand on her, and she will live,” he begged (v.18). Jesus immediately got up and went to the girl, healing a woman along the way. “Have courage, daughter,” He told the woman, then He continued on (v.22).
When Jesus arrived at the religious leader’s house, He made a startling pronouncement to the crowd that had gathered there: “The girl is not dead but asleep” (v.24). And do you know how that lamenting crowd responded? They laughed. We may chastise them in our heads, but can we blame them? The girl was dead, and this man arrived and proclaimed that, no, she wasn’t dead—just napping.
Then Jesus did what only He can do. He brought life from death. He went into the room, took the girl’s hand, and she got up. The one whose death the crowd was grieving stood up and walked out to greet them, alive as can be.
Miracles do not fit a formula. There is no incantation, no guarantee for the super faithful. The nature of miracles can be hard to understand on this side of eternity. But that’s okay, because the miracles themselves are not the point.
In John 11 we see Jesus raise His friend Lazarus from the dead. But before He does, He pauses for this brief exchange with Martha, Lazarus’ sister:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life” (vv.23-25).
When I imagine Jesus speaking these words, I suspect He put an emphasis on the “I am” in verse 25. “I am the resurrection”—as if to pose a direct challenge to the notion that He was merely the means of resurrection, rather than the resurrection in the flesh. Jesus knew the temptation we face with miracles is to desire the gift more than the Giver (John 6:26-27). He was quick to make the distinction.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus conquering death seem like the ultimate of all miracles. But really, they were only a short-term (and yes, miraculous) solution to a long-term problem. The only source of real and lasting hope is not a miracle, but the Messiah.
“I am the resurrection,” Jesus said to Martha.
As glorious and dazzling as a miracle can be, it has only an ounce of the power and glory of the Savior.
This is the message behind all these earthly miracles we’ve studied: Jesus is better. Christ didn’t simply delay death a little while; He overcame it once and for all. Death has ultimately died. This we know to be true.
“Have courage, daughter.” In Christ, our hope remains.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.