Magic or Miracles?
As a little kid, I was fascinated with magic. A magician by the name of David Copperfield was really popular. His acts included the traditional escape tricks but he was also able to pull off some illusionary tricks that convinced masses of people that he truly was operating out of some sort of supernatural phenomena.
In a culture fascinated with superpowers, we have blurred the lines between magic and the miracles of God. I had some friends who started studying simple magic, like card tricks and those seemed to fascinate me and still do today. While that may have once been considered magic we have enough common sense today to know it is all slight of hand and often simple math. One of my favorite shows in recent times Penn & Teller: Fool US. The show is a genius idea from the famous magician duo Penn and Teller. On the show, Penn and Teller invite magicians from all over the world to perform one unique trick. At the end of every magic trick Penn and Teller try to discover the secret of the trick. If they are successful they will unravel the mystery of the trick, but if they are not the performing magician will have successfully tricked not only the audience but also the magic minds of Penn and Teller. The truth is though, whether Penn and Teller find it or not, there is always a reasonable explanation of how the illusion actually worked. Penn in recent years has been very public about his unbelief that a God exists. I have been intrigued by his discussions and find his thinking to be brilliant. What intrigues me though is despite his ability to grasp concepts of magic that are out of this world brilliant, He has yet to grasp the concept of faith. Magic is rooted in thinking that a magician can outsmart the individual or audience in front of them, by doing something hidden in plain sight. Miracles on the other hand are rooted in faith that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!
My family was deeply touched by the miracles of God early on. One of my brother’s was born with club feet and was told by doctors that he may never walk right. With club, the feet are turned inward and in some drastic cases almost to the point of pointing directly at each other. My parents were desperate so they turned to God. They brought my brother to a Christian Church and as they gathered around my brother they prayed for healing. It was in that huddle that my brothers feet were turned forward! My parents were totally freaked out! There was no individual who you would be able to point to that prayed the perfect prayer, there was no single person who laid hands on him for healing, it was a group effort and God answered with a miracle. My brother went on to be the most athletic of all my brothers and sisters. He went on to skate in pro hockey’s minor leagues for many years and was able to skate with NHL pro’s in certain leagues.
Miracles are God’s signature. He put’s his name on display every time He does a miracle and each and every one of what He does is a personal touch.
The difference between magic and a miracle is the heart connection. I might be wowed by magic, but I am always moved my a miracle. Magic seems at times almost miraculous, but it will never lead to a true heart change. The wonders and miracles of God touch our heart in a very deep way and lead to an opportunity for a heart change.
The miracles of Jesus
The ministry of Jesus was a miracle ministry. People from all over searched for him so that they could receive a touch. Some pestered him to see a sign and it seemed strange but He did not perform a sign for the type that were simply seeking him for a sign. Jesus healed the broken and performed signs for his disciples when in private moments with His followers. To name a couple, He walks on water to His disciples during the fourth watch of the night which was around 3-6 in the a.m. (Mathew 14:25) He told Peter to go catch a fish and there would be a coin in the mouth of the fish and use that to pay the taxes owed. (Matthew 17:27) There are others. In Luke 8, He even dismissed some friends and family mourning over the death of their daughter in order to raise her from the dead. He privately allowed a few of His disciples and the father and mother. He did not perform this incredible miracle publicly which is wild to me. Why not publicly? Why not invite everyone in? Why not show off a little? He did not need to. Jesus wants heart change, not a magic show.
A public official named Herod wanted to see Jesus. It says, Herod had wanted to meet him because “he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.” (Luke 23:8)
What miracle would Jesus do for Herod? None! Strange right? The thing is Jesus warned against the mindset of Herod. What was wrong with Herod? Surely God loved Him right? Yes, of course, yet the main concern here is that Herod wanted to see Jesus, “perform a cure.” Herod was in it to be entertained. Remember, he gave John the Baptist’ head up just to watch a seductive dance from the woman’s daughter he was immorally engaged with. Herod wanted to be entertained at any cost except his own.
What is the difference between magic and miracles? Magic has the power to entertain. Miracles have the power to transform the heart. The question is, when God acts and shows a miracle are we ourselves diminishing it to entertainment or are we allowing this deep work to transform the culture of our heart?