I Believe in Miracles!

Do you believe in miracles? If you’d been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, and you heard that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus had found the tomb empty, would you believe them? Would you go to see for yourself? What would you expect to find?

Read Mark 16:1-8

Have you heard about the Ever Given? . . . That’s the ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal for six days.  The story was top of the news for a few days, and all over late-night comedy.  Facebook was all atwitter! The ship now even has its own Twitter account.[1]  I’m not so sure that the ship’s popularity will float much longer, even though it flooded the internet, because “The container ship is freed!  The ship is freed indeed!”[2] (My favorite tweet about this!)

The Ever Given is massive, longer than the Empire State Building is high, carrying 18,000 containers, and weighing 220,000 tons.[3]  The ship got blown sideways in the narrow Suez channel by a sandstorm, which also made it so those who were steering couldn’t see that they were needing to correct for the wind.

For six days, there were tractors digging away at the bank of the canal to try to free it, and dredgers digging sand out from underneath it.[4] (In this picture you can see how it’s like an ant eating an elephant.) A fleet of tugboats were also there ready to join in the fun. But what made it float sooner than it might have otherwise was an unusually high tide.  The full moon last Sunday was one of those super moons. It caused a tide that was 18 inches higher than normal high tide. That plus the digging and dredging and tugging got the ship freed. 

So let us all say, The ship is free!  The ship is free indeed!

Was it a miracle?  Since it’s scientifically explainable, some might say it’s not.  But an unusually high tide, we might say, is an act of God.  And if the ship had run aground during a high tide, the super moon tide might not have changed sea level enough to make a difference.[5]

As Psalm 31 says, our times are in God’s hands. (Ps. 31:15)

Whether or not you think that the container ship getting free was a miracle, the best reason to believe in miracles is the event we are celebrating today, the event Gordon read today in Mark 16, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  That’s the main event, the reason we have this special holiday every year called Easter.

We come expecting a celebration, expecting to be joyful and thankful, as Psalm 118 says:

21  I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22  The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23  This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

But, instead, the women at the tomb are dumbstruck.  Mark tells us:

“The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” (v8)

After awhile there was surely joy as they began to understand what had happened, and they must have eventually started telling people, because otherwise how would we know.  But at first, not surprisingly, they are dumbstruck.

There’s a lot to be dumbstruck about in what happens. Nothing is as they expected.

First, they see that the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb is rolled away. It was quite large and Mark tells us the women knew they wouldn’t be able to move it.  Matthew’s account of this story tells us the stone had been sealed and there were guards there keeping an eye on it, so that no one could steal the body (Matt 27:62-66). But the stone has been moved.

Then there’s the angel.  Mark calls him a young man, but the other gospel writers call him an angel.  We know he’s an angel because angels always say, “Don’t be afraid.” That’s what this young man says, too. Then he says something they definitely didn’t expect: He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

We hear these words with joy and we say: Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

But that’s the most unexpected part.  How is it that Jesus is gone?  This is the big mystery, but especially for these women. They had stayed with Jesus until the very end. They watched him suffer and die on the cross. (15:40)

In the midst of their bewilderment, the angel tells them to “Go and tell the disciples, including Peter.”  These women might have been surprised at that, since most of the disciples had fled the night Jesus was arrested.  The angel specifically names Peter, which is especially surprising since Peter had vehemently denied even knowing Jesus on the night he was arrested.  But it’s not payback time, and that may be the biggest miracle of all.  The angel’s words are a sign of the forgiveness[6] that Jesus had demonstrated throughout his ministry, and now accomplished once and for all through his death and resurrection.  Maybe this has the women bewildered, too.

When they discovered that Jesus had been resurrected, the women at the tomb were . . . well, our translation says “bewildered” and some others say “amazed” or “astonished,” but the word in Greek can literally mean they were “out of their minds.”[7] They were in the midst of an existential crisis like no other.  Jesus was dead but now he’s been resurrected.  It’s a miracle to beat all miracles.  As commentator Mary Luti says, “No matter how much glorious light it sheds, at its core is the darkness of unknowing.”[8] We don’t know how.  We just know God did something amazing.

Because of the resurrection, we can believe in miracles.

Do you believe in miracles?

The reformer John Calvin said, “There are as many miracles of divine power, as many tokens of goodness, and as many proofs of wisdom, as there are kinds of things in the universe, indeed, as there are things either great or small.”[9]  In other words, the more we believe the risen Christ is at work in our everyday lives, the more we will see miracles in big and small ways.  Maybe the biggest miracle of all is that, because of Jesus, in life and in death, we are with the Lord forever and always.  And we are reminded of that through so many little miracles, which show us God’s tremendous love and care for us.

And so I sent out an email on Friday asking you all to tell me about your miracles. I got some amazing stories!  Each one shows us how God is at work with resurrection power in our daily lives.

My awesome parents are both on our church email list, and not surprisingly they were some of the first to reply.  My dad, Jack Marzano, said that my brother and I are miracles because we were born alive and well, and we “grow more spectacular…all the time.”  He might be a little biased.

My mom, Marilyn Harvey, said, “To me, small miracles happen more than we realize.  People who cross your path at the exact time you need them.  A sudden urge or revelation regarding what you need to do.  In some ways, meeting Roger was a miracle.” (He was her second husband.) She says, “The timing was just right and our lives were in a season of change.  His wife had passed away four months before we met.  I was ready to retire.”

God’s timing is a beautiful miracle.

My mom also told me about a boy in Simi Valley who had a brain tumor years ago.  She said, “I was part of a group that did a laying on of hands.  I think he was 11 or 12.  The last I heard about him he had moved to AZ and was headed for college.”

A healing miracle. Another way we see that Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Dennis Dutton told me about another healing miracle.  Sterling College professor Stephen English, who lives next door to our church, “found out [Thursday] that he does not have cancer. That’s huge. He has had 7 family members die of cancer at younger ages – including both parents.”

Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Mona Ball told me about her healing miracle.  Many of you already know that several years ago Mona had hip replacement surgery and was recovering and walking on it for 5 days. But then she started having a lot of pain, and had to go to the ER, where they took x-rays and couldn’t find anything.  But it didn’t get better, so 4 days later they took a CAT scan which showed that hip had dislocated and her hip was shattered. 

Mona said it took some doing for Dr. Dashiell to find a specialist who could take this case, but she did and soon an ambulance took Mona to Wichita.  The doctor there examined the CAT scans and said, “Maybe we can help you walk again, but I need to wait until Monday so we can have my A team here.”

On Monday, Mona was in surgery for five hours.  But afterwards she was in even more excruciating pain.  Mona said, the CNA’s came in to check on her and realized that something wasn’t right.  Soon they were racing her bed down the halls of the hospital to the cardiac ICU because Mona had had a heart attack.

Mona remembers waking up in a painful daze and telling God, “If you’re not ready for me, I’d really like to see my grandchildren graduate from high school.” The next time she woke up, she saw her children Tami and Monte, and a friend from high school, smiling at her, and she said, “I’m alive!”

She says, “If God hadn’t walked me through it, I wouldn’t be here.  He was in control.”

They weren’t sure she would be able to walk, but she does.  Today Mona has 11 screws in her hip.  And her youngest grandchild will graduate from high school in May.

Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Those of you who know Carol Bingle might not be surprised that she sent me a miracle story that involves her falling out of her wheelchair. Carol said, “We had a hanging plant on our small cement front porch . . .  I always tried to water it, as I could get the wheelchair turned just right on that tight maneuvering space, but Paul got after me, afraid I’d fall off.

“One day I turned around and the wheelchair went backward and fell down the steps. Just as I was about to hit the sidewalk, a man came out of nowhere and caught me! I caught a glimpse of a big gold car as I was falling backward.  The kindly-faced man lifted me into the wheelchair and put me back on porch. 

“Then he was gone – no one at the gas station next door saw the car then, or ever again. I don’t know who he was, or where he went, but I know who sent him……”

What an amazing story!  Thanks be to God.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

The miracle story I received from Georgia Vogt involves her journey to becoming a teacher. She said it was long and tiring because she had to work full-time and go to school part time. She said:

“I began to feel that I would never get finished. I started to think that I would just be stuck working at Prairie Dunes [the country club in Hutchinson, Kansas] for the rest of my life. I was getting pretty depressed. On my way to work one day I took a side road. It was just a dirt/gravel road.  But at the final bend in the road I heard a voice. It said, ‘I have a fourth grade class for you.’ It was a vocal impression. It was very distinct, but I was confused. And being me, I said, ‘What?’ And God knowing me repeated himself.

“At just the right moment at just the right place he gave me the most wonderful encouragement that gave me the strength to keep going. And I’ve been [teaching] for over 25 years now.”

Many of us know first hand what a wonderful and gifted teacher Georgia is.  I’m so glad she heard God’s voice and didn’t give up on her journey to become a teacher.  “At just the right moment, at just the right place” our amazing, resurrecting God resurrected her spirit and gave her the strength to keep going.

But at the right time, God sent His Son. (Galatians 4:4)

Today we are celebrating that Jesus took the difficult journey to the cross, he didn’t give up on us, and instead he suffered and died for us. 

And God raised him from the dead. 

That’s what God did.  That’s what God does in all of our everyday lives.

Every day God does miracles.  Let us see them and rejoice!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

[1] https://twitter.com/ever_given

[2] https://twitter.com/aprilfiet/status/1376382653780398080?s=20

[3] https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-the-suez-canal-race-to-free-the-ever-given-11617372257

[4] https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a35925244/suez-canal-blocked-ever-given-ship-stuck/

[5] https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a35968841/moon-tides-helped-free-ever-given-ship-stuck-suez-canal/

[6] “That it is not payback time may be more the Easter miracle than the resurrection itself. Mark’s young man is explicit about it. The women are to tell the disciples and Peter (or as other translations have it, even Peter) that Jesus is waiting in Galilee (v. 7). The deliberate inclusion of Peter should take our pastoral breath away. In this and other Easter accounts, there is not a single recriminating word about the past, no demands for an explanation, nothing that would settle the score.” – Mary Luti, Feasting on the Gospels–Mark: A Feasting on the Word Commentary . Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

[7] https://biblehub.com/greek/1611.htm

[8] Feasting on the Gospels–Mark: A Feasting on the Word Commentary . Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

[9] https://www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-believe/miracles/

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