No atheist has impugned New Testament miracles, and no theist has redeemed them, with deeper insight than Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechetical instructions: “At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so. A man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this only affected Lazarus. What of those countless number who have died in their sins?” (Liturgia Horarum, p. 130). There is, for Cyril, one universal miracle, which he calls the Church’s supreme glory. “For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory! It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed all humanity.”
Miracles stand subordinate to and function as signs of the one paschal mystery of dying and rising with Christ. Such signs may be extraordinary or thoroughly natural (a grain of wheat), but their trajectory is inevitable toward Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. The one everlasting miracle story is the redemption of humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Behold and be careful in the presence of scriptural wonders. Read, mark, and inwardly digest, but do not hurt, do not harm, do not violate the mercy and love of God. Do not say or suggest that God raised a dead girl named Tabitha, but routinely fails to do so or refuses to do so in the case of children dying near and far. This is a story about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a story in which we are all implicated for the simple and profound reason that he assumed our humanity. Let’s begin our godly, righteous, and sober search.
“At that time she became ill and died” (Acts 9:37). Although her end came early, her end was human. There are things to do. They wash her body in love. The widows stand near, they weep, they hold, as dear, things she has made. How death can make a tunic, a cloth, a coin, an image, the treasured token of she who once was. The resurrection of Jesus Christ now breaks against the shore of this human story.
Tabitha, in illness and death, is enveloped in the great ordeal (Rev. 7:14). Peter, using resurrection language, says, “Get up” (Acts 9:40). She opens her eyes and sits up. Peter takes her hand and helps her. Is he done? No. This is not one story about one girl. As if to say, “Behold the human being” (John 19:5), he led her to the saints and widows and “he showed her to be alive” (Acts 9:41). And, because one story imparts knowledge to another, imagine her robed in white with a palm branch in her hand (Rev. 7:9).
This is the work Jesus does in the Father’s name (John 10:25). Tabitha hears the voice. She looks, and sits, and is presented as alive. Living, she follows the one who called her to life in full confidence that no one will snatch her from the hand of the Son, which is no less the hand of the Father (John 10:28-30).
What will this girl do? — which is to ask: What will we do when Jesus makes us alive? We will throw down a blanket on the green grass, drink water from the bubbling brook, rest, take faithful steps, feel God at every turn, sit at the table, drip with oil, spill overflowing cups of goodness and mercy (Ps. 23).
Of course we notice “in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5). That’s a fact of being mortal in a fallen world. But Christ lives forevermore.
Look It Up: Revisit Psalm 23 with attention.
Think About It: Just off stage, Jesus is about to present you alive.