Expectant faith plus crumbs heals a woman's daughter.
Holy Mothers (and One Unholy Grandmother) –
Women Who Expected Miracles
The Shunammite woman
The Syro-Phoenician woman
The woman with a hemorrhage
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1 Samuel 1, Hannah (7/16/2008)
Miracles are a bit of a theological sticking point. Unbelievers won't acknowledge a miracle when they see one with their own eyes. The modern Catholic Church is strongly inclined to accept only a certain kind of miracles, miracles of healing, as evidence in the canonization of saints. Many Christians believe in the "miracle on demand" system, whereby any prayer for a difficult or even impossible result should be granted, and they are disappointed or angry when a miracle does not happen.
I think I mentioned before in these emails that, having been the recipient of a miracle, I'm obliged to believe in them. I don't understand them, though. Neither did John Wesley, who said,
- "Sir, I understand you well. The drift of the argument is easily seen. It points at the Master, as well as his servants; and tends to prove that, after all this talk about miraculous cures, we are not sure there were ever any in the world. But it will do no harm. For although we grant, 1. That some recover, even in seemingly desperate cases; and, 2. That we do not know, in any case, the precise bounds between nature and miracle; yet it does not follow, therefore, I cannot be assured there ever was a miracle of healing in the world. To explain this by instance: I do not precisely know how far nature may go in healing, that is restoring sight of the blind; yet this I assuredly know, that if a man born blind is restored to sight by a word, this is not nature, but miracle" (Works, 10:22). [emphasis added]
God isn't a hired man; we can't just say, "Do this, do that," and expect this or that to happen. Often when we have no control over a situation and no human means of bringing about a desired result, we are disgruntled when God doesn't step in to do our will. But sometimes, unpredictably, God's grace bursts upon us and gives us more than we could ever have hoped for. I believe this is why we call them "miracles."
Note that Hannah stops being sad before
she becomes pregnant. After Eli blesses her, she expects that her petition - difficult as it may seem - will be granted.
2 Kings 4:8-37, The Shunammite Woman (7/17/2008)
Yesterday I cautioned against the "miracle on demand" mindset, and we must always remember that God is not our errand boy. The flip side of the same coin is that our expectant faith appears in some inexplicable way to be crucial in God's ability to do a miracle for us. Jesus referred to this expectant faith several times. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matthew 9:28). "Everyone who believes in me ... shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:26). "Your faith has made you well." (Matthew 9:2, 9:22; 9:29).
Without faith, miracles are extremely difficult, even for Jesus, who couldn't do many miracles in his own hometown (Mark 6:5-6). Why is this? One of my repeated prayers is this: "God, please don't show me a sign, because I probably wouldn't believe it." John Wesley's explanation of Jesus' lack of miracles in his hometown is much the same. He explains the words of Mark 6:5, "He could do no miracle there," in this way,
- "Not consistently with his wisdom and goodness. It being inconsistent with his wisdom to work them there, where it could not promote his great end; and with his goodness, seeing he well knew his countrymen would reject whatever evidence could be given them. And therefore to have given them more evidence, would only have increased their damnation."
The Shunammite woman knew
that through Elisha God could
work a miracle. She had no child until he promised her that she would bear a son. Then the child died. She told no one, because she fully expected that through Elisha, God could and would work another miracle.
Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28, The Syro-Phoenician woman (7/18/2008)
The Syro-Phoenician woman should be an example to us all. She wasn't Jewish, but she had heard
of Jesus. (Everybody
had heard of Jesus. He was followed around by the paparazzi so much
that he couldn't get a moment's rest.) She knew that he had healed many, many people. Her
daughter was very ill, and Jesus was passing through her area. She went to him to ask for his
help. He didn't even answer, but she kept pestering him until the disciples said, "Give her what
she wants and send her away!" They just wanted to be rid of her. Jesus told them, "I was sent
to the Jews, not the Gentiles." She begged for his help. Then he made what sounds to us like a
remarkably harsh statement: "It's not right to give the children's bread to the dogs." Actually,
he used a word that means "little dogs," like lapdogs or puppies. But she was so quick-witted and so full of faith that she immediately responded, "True! But I'm only asking for crumbs! Crumbs
from you will heal my daughter!"
Do we believe that even crumbs from Jesus will heal us? Do we understand how much more than crumbs he wants to give us?
I'm referring you to both Mark's and Matthew's versions. Matthew normally uses Mark's exact words, but in this particular case he may be writing out of his own memory.
Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48, The woman with a hemorrhage (7/21/2008)
These days we hear a lot about "inappropriate touching," and certainly there's touching, and then again there's "touching." The crowd was pressing around Jesus. Everybody
wanted to get close to him. We think of Jesus as this holy person who was admired by everyone at a respectful distance. Wrong. Well, he was
holy, but forget the "at a distance" part. Think of the Pope without security staff.
Anyway, one woman in the crowd was determined to get near him. She kept saying to herself, "If I can get close enough to touch even the hem of his coat, I'll be cured." She certainly didn't want him to know she was touching his coat, because she was unclean (having the hemorrhage), and if she touched him, he
would be unclean, which would be a real nuisance for a holy man. (Jesus didn't care, but she didn't know that.) She was about to do some inappropriate touching.
Aack! She got caught! How? In the pressing crowd, Jesus felt her touch on the hem of his garment. You know how the lights dim when some big piece of equipment turns on in your house? There's this instant when the power from the main line hasn't quite caught up with the overall demand. Miracles take a lot of power as well as a lot of faith. He had the power, and she had the faith. Zap!
Rachel and Leah
The Four Most Important Women Who Never Lived
Mary and Elizabeth
UMW in Bible Times
Copyright 2008, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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