A Course on Miracles: Believing 201
Let me put a frame around this series. Every time I read through the gospels and I can’t help but notice the sheer quantity of miracles that happened. Sure, they were spread out over a three year period during Jesus’ ministry. But I think most of us would be happy if we experienced one miracle in three years. Now take that into account with what Jesus said in John 14:12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” That would be amazing enough if Jesus had stopped right there. But he adds an amendment. Jesus says, “He will do even greater things than these.”
So here is what I realize as I journey through the gospels: there is a gap between our theology and our reality. We believe John 14:12, but we’re not there yet. There is a pretty big gap between what we believe and what we experience. And I’m praying that God would close the gap.
Here is the mistake many of us make: we make our theology conform to our reality. You have probably heard of the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson could not intellectually digest the miracles in the gospels so he extracted them. Everything that was left he compiled into his own version of the Bible called the Jefferson Bible. It’s a miracle-less Bible.
Now here’s the thing. Part of us says, “I can’t believe Thomas Jefferson would have the gall to do what he did.” But most of us do exactly what he did. We don’t physically cut the miracles out of the Bible, but we ignore them or explain away why we aren’t experiencing them in our lives.Can I make an observation? We tend to ignore the things we haven’t experienced. Here’s why: the gap between our theology and our reality causes angst. The bigger the gap the worse we feel. So we tend to ignore the gifts of the Spirit if we haven’t experienced them. We tend to ignore passages about prayer if we aren’t praying. We tend to steer clear of passages that deal with our particular strand of sin. It’s human nature. And very subtlety and subconsciously here is what happens: our theology conforms to our reality instead of our reality conforming to our theology. We water-down or dumb-down the truth. We downgrade our theology when we should upgrade our reality.
Matthew 17 records one of the wildest and wackiest miracles in the gospels. It tops my current list of favorite miracles. Verse 24 says, “After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’ When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think,’ Simon. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own children or from others?’ Peter answered, ‘From others.’ Jesus said, ‘Then the children are exempt, but so that we may not cause an offense, go the bank, withdraw four drachma, and pay the tax’.” That’s not what it says. Jesus said, “Go the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth, take out the hook; sell it at the fish market and pay the tax.” That’s not what it says. Jesus said, “Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
I think we’re so accustomed to Jesus doing amazing things that we can read a story like this and it goes in one ear and out the other. I think Jesus loved doing miracles in different ways. He never seemed to do the same miracle the same way. I don’t think the disciples ever once said, “Been there, done that.” But this one takes the cake, fishing for money! Where did Jesus come up with these ideas? And why did he do it this way?
Here’s a thought. What did Peter do before following Christ? He was a fisherman right? A professional fisherman. This was his vocation. I think he thought he knew more about fishing than Jesus. He could fish with both hands at the same time. He could cast between his legs and around his back. He knew the tricks of the trade. It was his area of greatest proficiency and self-sufficiency.
It was the thing he knew best. And I think Jesus wanted to do a miracle where he least expected it. Let me explain. How many fish do you think Peter caught lifetime? Let me do a little math. In John 21, the disciples have been fishing all night and they don’t catch a thing. Jesus tells them to try the other side of the boat and they catch 153 fish. So let’s assume that 153 fish is a miraculous catch. Maybe an average day on the Sea of Galilee is 25 fish. So let’s say the average catch was 25 fish and Peter fished 300 days a year and let’s say Peter is the same age as Jesus, approximately thirty-three years old. Do the math and you come up with a guesstimate. Peter has caught about a quarter million or 250,000 fish lifetime. Now, out of all of those fish, how many do you think had a four-drachma coin in their mouth? I’m guessing none!
And Jesus essentially says, “I know you’ve caught a quarter million fish in your life. I know none of them have had a four-drachma coin in their mouth. I know that you know a lot about fishing. But I’m going to show you something way beyond your level of proficiency or sufficiency. The next fish you catch is going to have a four-drachma coin in its mouth.”
Now let me ask you a question: where are you most proficient? Where are you most self-sufficient? Maybe that is precisely where God wants you to believe Him to do something wild and wacky that is way beyond your level of proficiency or sufficiency.