Scripture Reading: Matthew 8:1-34, 2 Samuel 22:16, Isaiah 53:4-5
Reading Matthew 8 reminds me of Sunday School. Every story—six of them in just 34 verses—is familiar, conjuring up memories of flannel boards and coloring pages from my elementary school days. Jesus heals a leper, He calms a storm, He casts out the demons into pigs … it’s like a WOW! That’s What We Call Miracles Greatest Hits compilation. If you grew up in the Church, you know these stories.
When we know Bible stories like the back of our hand, we risk missing the miraculous. Perhaps more importantly though, we read them as just that—stories. But these stories are true. And more than true, they are promises. Each story is not just a historical event, something that Jesus did. Rather, they are glimpses of everything that Jesus will do.
In his book The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes:
We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.
The miracles of Matthew 8 are about people in a specific place and time. They are about a leper, a centurion and his servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, the disciples on an angry sea, and two men with demons. But each miracle is also about the Israelites who wandered and trusted the God who promised them that one day their King would come. Each miracle is about the Jews, torn away from Jerusalem, listening to Isaiah prophesy that a Messiah would come to take on their illnesses and bear their diseases. And each miracle is about us, with our mix of ancient faith and modern doubt. Each miracle proved to the Jewish people then and teaches us now that Jesus is who He says He is, that He fulfilled God’s promises, and that He will fulfill them again.
I risk reading this passage purely at face value: people needed help, they asked Jesus, and He helped them, healing the dying and rescuing the scared disciples. In my own life, I am tempted to pray with the same expectation for earthly healing and immediate help. Every prayer is my own version of “calm the storm, Jesus!” But my own experience has taught me that Jesus doesn’t always work that way. Matthew is telling us that while Jesus can do all we could ever ask or imagine, He may not always answer our earthly needs in the way we think He should. Is it enough for me to know that the One who makes even the winds and sea obey Him will also makes everything new one day? (Matthew 8:27; Revelation 21:5).
So I continue to pray for miracles, yes. I pray with faithful expectation, and sometimes, with honest doubt. I live in the tension of the already and the not yet.
God has already fulfilled His promises, and we know that we can trust Him. But He has not yet fully restored His kingdom—what Keller called “the world we all want.” So we wait and pray, hope and trust. And we read these stories about Jesus, and take heart because we know they were true then, and they are just as true for us today.
Melanie Rainer is the director of content for JellyTelly, where she writes and edits family spiritual formation resources. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, a passionate home baker, and makes her always-messy home with her husband, Price, and their delightful daughter, Ellie, near historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee.