Monday, December 17, 2018
Is it possible to classify or rank the miracles of the Bible? Perhaps we could classify them by their perceived greatness, or the effort that it took to perform a particular miracle, or by the number of people affected by the miracle. Is the parting of the Red Sea a greater miracle than Elisha parting the Jordan River, since the sea was bigger than the river? Is Jesus' greatest miracle the feeding of the 5,000 because it affected so many people at one time?
If we define a miracle as a supernatural action or indecent that is unexplainable by natural processes, then it seems to me that one of, if not the greatest miracles of the Bible must be when the sun stood still in the sky, recorded in Joshua 10. Joshua and the Israelites are in pursuit of their enemies, but once darkness falls they will be significantly inhibited from routing them entirely. So Joshua prays that the sun would stand still in the sky, creating continuous daylight so that Israel can hunt down and destroy her enemies completely. And it does. The sun stands still in the sky! Of course, we know that the sun did not stand still in the sky, but rather that the earth ceased its spinning for a period of time. Imagine that: the earth stood still.
When we think about miracles as enlighten human beings, we want answers. We want to be able to explain these unexplainable phenomena. For instance, one scientist has attempted to show how the 10 plagues of Egypt could have been caused by global warming. Many have attempted to do something similar in the case of the sun standing still by showing how, scientifically speaking, the earth could not possibly have stopped spinning without devastating and catastrophic consequences. After all, the earth weighs 1000 trillion tons. How can that much rock and water simply stop or slow down without falling apart? What about life on earth? How could it survive if the earth stoped spinning? What about gravitational forces? The moon? There are serious scientific objections to the assertion that the earth miraculously stopped spinning.
In response to these objections, an 18th century Anglican minister named Bishop Watson said, "The machine of the universe is in the hand of God; he can stop the motion of any part, or of the whole, with less trouble than any of us can stop a watch." In other words, of God is the Creator of the universe, and if he is sovereign over the universe, the notion that God either stopped or slowed the spinning of the earth in order to aid in Joshua's military actions is not only reasonable, but very believable. Regardless, the halting of the earth's rotation at the request of Joshua must certainly be one of the greatest miracles of the Bible.
But it is not the greatest miracle, not by any measure. There is one greater, although we don't usually think of it as a miracle. The greatest miracle of the Bible must be the incarnation: God becoming man. The incarnation is not just a miracle, but the miracle of miracles. Because unlike the sun standing still in the sky, or the sick being healed, or even the dead being raised, there is no scientific theory or assertion that we can use to begin to explain how it happened.
Is it possible to make a square circle? Of course not. The question poses a logical impossibility, so the very notion of a square circle is nonsensical. Yet that is similar to the incarnation. Not that the incarnation is nonsense, but that it is beyond the ability of our minds to comprehend. We cannot conceive of the infinite, let alone the infinite becoming finite. How does the one who holds the stars in the palm of his hand, and who uses the earth as his footstool fit in the crook of his mother's arm? How does the eternal God become bound by time in a human body that ages? How does the one who created all plants and animals for food need to be fed? How does spirit become flesh? How do the invisible hands that created all life and matter become the flesh and blood hands nailed to the cross - the very wood and metal he himself created, nailed there by the very life he created?
These are questions that we can't even begin to answer. They remain mysterious to us, so far above our capacity to understand that we can but wonder at the glory and power at work in the birth of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Just try to think about it for a few minutes, and then take a rest when your brain starts to hurt!
As you contemplate this greatest miracle of history this Christmas, allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the glory and power that God that was at work when God the Son became a human being. And allow yourself to be overcome by the reality that God worked this miracle for you.