FROM THE BIBLE: Faith in the Miracles and Miracles of Faith

Por: diácono Orlando Fernández Guerra

Evangelical accounts illustrate the full range of attitudes that can be assumed in the face of Jesus’ miracles. Some of his contemporaries were only looking for the prodigy and were insensitive to the sign, so they tell him: “When one wants to make himself known, he does not act in secret; for you do these things, manifest yourself to the world” (Jn 7:4). But Jesus replies, “My time has not yet come, where known to you any time is good” (Jn 7:6). And they did not follow him because they had seen his signs but “[…] for eating bread until it is satiated” (Jn 6:26).
Others, though they saw their wonders, refused to understand their true meaning and attributed the miracle to other sources: “[…] they were saying that he had Belcebub inside and that he expelled the demons with the power of the chief of demons” (Mk 3:22). There were also those who benefited from God’s action, but he was unable to reach a personal encounter with Jesus: “Have the ten not been clean? The other nine, where are they? Hasn’t there been anyone who comes back to thank God except this foreigner?” (Lk 17:17-18). Finally, some discover the profound meaning of the miraculous fact and recognize Jesus as God’s Envoy: “Who is he, Lord, to believe in him? Jesus said to him, you have seen him, he is the one who is talking to you. He said, I believe, Lord. And he fell before him” (Jn 9:35-38). By profession of faith, they place the miracle in their true saving context. Certainly, faith always precedes the miracle in the Bible.
This truth can be illustrated with many examples. In the account of the healing of the son of the royal official, the evangelist tells us: “The man trusts the words which Jesus told him and set out on his way” (Jn 4:50). And before Lazarus’ resuscitation, the Son of God says to his sister, “He who believes in me, even if he dies will live … do you believe?” And she said, “[…] Yes, Lord, I believe” (Jn 11:25-26). Jesus heals the paralytic after having verified his faith: “Seeing Jesus the faith he had, he says to the paralyzed: Son, your sins are forgiven thee” (Mk 2:5). In the cases of Jericho’s hemorrhice and blind man, Jesus uses the same words: “Your faith has healed thee” (Mk 5:34; 10:52).
The Master refuses to attract the attention of people with spectacular portentos (Mt 4:5-7; Lk 4: 9-12). Therefore, when the Pharisees claim, as a condition of believing him, a sign from heaven, Jesus answers them with a resounding refusal: “Why does this generation ask for a sign? I assure you: no sign will be given to this generation” (Mk 8:11). He does not expect faith to arise as a result of the miracle, he requires it as a condition of performing the miracle: “Do you have faith that I can do that?” (Mt 9:28-30), he asked the two blind men who followed him; and to his affirmative answer he says, “Let it happen as you have believed” (Mt 9:29). The miracle, in its pure materiality in extraordinary fact, is often ambiguous and incapacitates it to arouse faith. The wonders of pagan wizards and sorcerers provoked admiration, wonder, or fear, but not faith.
Miracles, as signs of the Kingdom, fulfill a revelatory function of the glory of the Son of God (Jn 2:11; 4, 54; 12, 18). “Seeing the sign that Jesus had just made, the people said, This is truly the Prophet who must come into the world” (Jn 6:14). However, as works, miracles constitute the father’s testimony for the Son who is his envoy: “Nothing can I do for myself. What I seek is not to do my will, but that of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30). “The works which I do on behalf of my Father bear witness to me” (Jn 10:25). The book of Acts also highlights this demonstrative function, when the Apostle Peter tells us: “the man whom God credited through the miracles, wonders, and signs that all know. God resurrected him by freeing him from the anxieties of death, for it was not possible for her to have dominion over him” (Acts 2:22-24).
Healings, meals with sinners, forgiveness of sins, and other signs of mercy testified that the Kingdom of God came as sanctifying grace; and should be welcomed at the same time, as a free gift and personal commitment. The commitment referred to here is that of faith as a condition of realization. Understanding miracles as portentous wonders or as extraordinary phenomena that claimed faith would separate them from the true human and saving context in which they acquire their full meaning. The miracles of Jesus suppose faith, do not believe it. For this reason, the faith that He could perform miracles was the condition for the miracles of faith that the evangelists bear witness to us. Ω

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