Sunday, July 13, 2014

miracle stories

"When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Matthew, Chapters 8-9:8

What bothers me about the miracle stories is that they seem to teach us nothing helpful about how to endure illness, suffering and death. Only if God Himself made a house call could things be set right. Buddhism seems to offer an alternative way to be free of suffering,  except miracle stories surround Buddha as well, including walking on water. "The crowds"  want miracles. Now we put our hope in medicine, but we're all going to die, and we're all going to suffer catastrophes over which we have no control. If you are caught in a boat in a storm there is nothing to do but ride it out and not panic and keep everyone calm.
The miracle stories show Jesus interacting with people of all kinds, including  a synagogue leader, a Roman centurion, a leper, some demoniacs, and a mother-in-law. The laws regarding "leprosy" are in Levitcus 13. The person with the skin ailment wanted to return to society and needed ritual purification, as well as healing of his skin condition. The centurion's faith in the power and authority of Jesus'  voice was greater than that of any son of Abraham Jesus had encountered and Jesus utters the prophecy that many Jews will be excluded from the heavenly country club, if you will, where the patriarchs have their banquet. The disciples witness his power to command the storm and even the entities who possess the Gadarene Demoniacs (great name for a Christian goth band) recognize Jesus. "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" This is a very strange story, but the phrase "before the time" is interesting. Is that the time of the banquet with the fathers? And why did the whole town want Jesus to leave? When he heals the paralytic he also claims to have the authority to forgive sins, but the crowds are in awe to see that God "had given such authority to human beings."

Let's assume that "Matthew" (or "the Matthew community") believed the miracle stories and that they contribute to the overall story Matthew is telling by  dramatizing certain teachings. In the gospels miracle stories, or even ordinary non-miraculous stories, are meaningful because they "fulfill" scriptures. and Matthew says the miracles fulfill Isaiah's words, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases,'" but Matthew doesn't tell us the rest of Isaiah's statement, which suggests that the price for all this healing, and the punishment for the sins, would be paid by the healer himself,

"Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all."

Isisah 53:4-6


Blogger Unknown said...

Poor Christ, to carry the burden of humanity's sin(s), he seems to have gotten the short end of the grid's core.

5:31 PM  

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