I never tire of watching “Fiddler on the Roof” and listening to Tevye sing this song to his wife, Golde:
When David slew Goliath (yes!), that was a miracle.
When God gave us manna in the wilderness, that was a miracle, too.
But of all God’s miracles large and small,
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.
There are two kinds miracles: outside and inside. Tevye knew this was an inside job; inside him and his wife. But what about those outside miracles? If you had lived in Jerusalem from the years 66-70 (before our gospels were written) you were asking for an outside miracle. During those four years, the Roman Emperor systematically wiped out all the Jewish communities he could find, (All Jerusalem-Christians were Jews in those days) and finally in 70 he sent his son, Titus, to finish the job. Titus burned down all of Jerusalem and toppled the Temple.
If you had found a burned-out synagogue somewhere that year, and stayed after the service to hear the rabbi reminisce about this man called Jesus, you would have listened intently. You were looking for some reason to believe in Yahweh with all this madness around you. The rabbi began reading from a new scroll that was just being written; he said it would be called Mark’s.
“Immediately after Jesus was baptized,” the scroll read, “the heavens opened, and God the Father boomed out: You are my beloved son, I take great delight in you.” Now, that’s a powerful miracle! But then Mark has Jesus driving out demons and healing sick people and curing leprosy and walking on water and feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Page after page; outside miracles; one after another. But did they work? No!
They didn’t work enough to save Jesus from a horrible death on the cross; they weren’t enough 40 years later to save those first Christians from the Roman slaughter, and when we read about them today, they don’t seem to lessen our current nightmares, do they? Why not? The reason is simple: we’ve all missed the point.
Mark’s gospel hints at this in 8:12 when the Pharisees, who have seen all these outside miracles, begin to argue with Jesus and demand a “sign from heaven.” Jesus sighs deeply and says in Aramaic, “Nothing doing; get lost!” Jesus knows the difference between the outside and the inside.
You do, too, when you see the inside miracle of love and concern every time we have a tragedy. You saw it last year in the first responders after our hurricanes; you saw it when the whole community of a small Baptist church in the small town of Southerland, Texas, came together around the relatives of those who were murdered. You see it now every time we have a school shooting. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Inside miracles take place inside of us and they last for a long, long time.
I saw plenty of outside miracles. The cave-walls of the grotto in Lourdes, France, were covered with crutches and canes and the stories of cures were endless. But I never knew which one was true, which was exaggerated, and which was just a pious figment of someone’s imagination.
But there’s no doubt when we see or feel or participate in our own life-changing moments; we don’t need walls of crutches; we just know we have changed from the inside. Tevye might have said: “God has given himself to me – in you. That’s the most miraculous of all!” And I agree.
Bill Cummings’ latest book “Oh My God” can be purchased on amazon.com.