But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.[1]

Luke 1:7 MSG

 

When questioned, regardless my Christian tradition, if I believe in miracles without a doubt my answer is: yes, I do. I do believe in miracles because I believe in an all-powerful God who has proven to be the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. He never changes nor does his attributes. To say that God does not perform miracles is limiting his power and reach. Who am I to say what He can and cannot do? I am nothing God, on the other hand, is everything. He is the Creator, and I am His creation. That’s the theological answer if you want. Not a robust explanation, if you want, but it is a 5-minute version that works to explain my scriptural view. There is yet another reason why I believe God is the business of working miracles. My whole life is one. He brought me into a loving Christian family who thought me to love him. In 2002 I was diagnosed with epilepsy. For more that 10 years I lived with this condition until 2013 when undergoing my routine examinations, the doctor called me to his office and said: “There is no evidence whatsoever of the condition that I’ve been treating you all these years. You are miraculously healed.” God in his wisdom and in his perfect time decided to step into my health and transformed it completely.

If you read the Gospels and the book of Acts you’ll find a lot of miracles there. A closer examination of the signs and wonders recorded in those books will lead you to realize that they had a very particular and unique purpose. The purpose was to validate the message. In the case of Jesus, the miracles he performed had the purpose of confirming the fact that he was the incarnate word of God. The miracles he performed also served as a beautiful testimony of the anointing that rested upon his life. He was the Son of God, and all authority had been given to him to perform signs and wonders (Matthew. 28:18). When we move on to the book of Acts, we discover that the signs and wonders recorded in its pages served as a validation of the message the apostles were preaching. It was through the miracles they did that people were reassured that they had been commissioned by Jesus himself to go to the ends of world proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, their Master.

Right there in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, we are presented with a very particular miracle. The author of the Gospel presents us with an honorable elderly couple who were immersed in ministry. Zechariah and Elizabeth were a one of a kind couple. Both descended from the priestly bloodline. He was a priest in office, and she descended from the daughters of Aaron. According to Scripture, they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God.[2] In spite of this, there was a problem. The author of the Gospel is intentional in letting us know that they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.[3] In biblical times, and especially within the Jewish culture being barren was considered to be a punishment from God (Genesis. 20:18).

One day while Zechariah was ministering at the temple something supernatural occurred. He was burning incense the angel Gabriel appeared in front of him. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. The dialogue between the priest and the angel is kind of interesting. There is something Gabriel said that triggers my imagination: “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard.[4] According to Scripture, he was an old man at the time he was visited by the angel Gabriel. I wonder for how long did he pray asking God to give him a son? Surely it had been for decades. Can you imagine asking God for years for one thing? Would you feel abandoned? Ignored by God? Many times, I’ve asked myself if God is actually listening to my plea. He knows everything, right? Therefore, how come He’s been silent for so long? The truth is that God knows. He is aware of your situation and that circumstance that hurts you. I do believe that deep down in the bottom of his heart Zechariah held steady to the fact that somehow God will show up and change the fact that they were childless. He had faith. There is no other explanation for the fact that he’d been praying the same prayer year after year for so long now.

Gabriel was the bearer of good news. God had finally listened to the priest’s prayer. God hears. He always does. Whether his response is quick and active or if he decides not to grant us what we selfishly ask, the fact is that he knows our requests. Jesus once told the disciples: for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.[5] So be assured that He does know what your needs are and remember that he is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.[6] Yet somehow Zechariah found it hard to believe that after all those years he’d been praying and asking for a son, finally at the sunset of his life God was granting him his request. The priest’s initial reaction was of disbelief. His response was: “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”[7] So often I find myself in the shoes of Zechariah. Not believing when God somehow decides to bring a miraculous breakthrough to my life. So often I find myself screaming back to God “How could it be?” Then God, as always, silence my arguments by gently whispering to my heart, “Because I love you and finally the time has come.”

Elizabeth’s reaction, on the other hand, was entirely different than the one her husband had. When she learned that she was expecting the Bible tells us what her words were “The Lord has done this for me,” and “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” [8] We would do wrong if we just do a quick reading of Elizabeth’s words. In her times being barren was more than a tragedy for a woman it meant she must have done something wrong that God was punishing her by not allowing her womb to conceive. When the miracle of pregnancy occurred, she realized that it was due to divine intervention. She had nothing to do with it. So often when God performs something in our favor, we tend to believe that it was because of our ability instead of recognizing his divine intervention. I love her last words. Not only did she believed God was the one behind her pregnancy, but she acknowledged that it was due to God’s favor that she will conceive a baby boy. I wonder if we recognize God when a miracle occurs instead of driving our attention as well as the spotlight to the signs and wonders itself.

It seems to me that whenever we find ourselves working and serving the Lord, somehow miracles occur even though we don’t ask for them. I think it is so because when you engage in ministry, your own personal needs and desires go to the second place in our list of priorities. Serving becomes our “thing.” God finds a lot of ways to reward our faithfulness and one of those ways is by performing miracles and bringing back joy into our lives.

The story recorded in Luke 1:5-25 makes me think in a broad range of things. One of those things is the fact that God’s plan was not limited to making a barren woman pregnant. God was investing into the future. Not only did Zechariah and Elizabeth was being blessed to have what they had longed for decades. They were given a son, but also all the people of Israel would be blessed because baby John would become John the Baptist. He was the one who paved the way for the Messiah. God’s blessings are not limited only to us as individuals but are designed to minister and bless others alike. I believe in a God who does miracles. The greatest miracle God did was to forgive my sins and make me his child. This is precisely the great miracle humankind would ever get to experience. Salvation is the miracle. I believe God continues to perform miracles as well as signs and wonders today. I believe in a God who does not change, which is the same yesterday, today and will undeniably be the same tomorrow. Who am I to limit the supernatural power of God? However, I believe that too often we focus on the miracles themselves instead of driving our whole attention to the one who performed them. We have forgotten what miracles were designed to teach. That God is all-powerful and that he shows favor to his children. The great lesson in the miracle of John the Baptist’s conception is showing us a kind and compassionate God who is faithful to his essence, that he loves his children, he has a plan for them, and who is willing to change the current situation of those he loves. And he does all of this because He loves you and me.


Footnotes:

[1] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 1:7.

[2] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 1:6.

[3] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 1:7.

[4] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 1:13.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 6:8.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Eph 3:20.

[7] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Lk 1:18.

[8] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Lk 1:25.