Surreal?


“When Miracles Happen” Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21
Delivered to Church for the Highlands Sunday, July 25, 2021, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Dr. John Henson

I heard it again recently. You know, that word, “surreal.” A person who was watching one of the recent billionaires launched into space said it as he described what it was like to watch the founder of Amazon rocket off into space and then return. The word is usually heard after someone sees a tornado, experiences a hurricane, or catches a glimpse of Sasquatch running through the woods. It seems to be the only word we can find in our language for something we see or experience that defies our common descriptions.

I’m not sure that there is a word for “surreal” in Aramaic or Greek, but the disciples and people around Jesus would have used it a lot, especially in what we have just heard in John’s gospel this morning. “Surreal” might have been an understatement. John tells us large crowds are following Jesus because they “saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.” Everywhere he went, people gathered with their sick. It must have been the most amazing experience for the people who watched Jesus at work with his healing touch. And it would have been even more so for the people whom Jesus healed. The blind being able to see, the deaf able to hear, the mentally ill experiencing peace, the crippled becoming mobile, and others all becoming recipients of God’s healing touch through Jesus.

If that wasn’t enough to wow the crowds, multiplying five loaves and two fish surely would. Can you imagine how big the eyes were of the boy who had the loaves and fish? His life would be changed forever after what Jesus did. And the giant crowd of hungry people must have been blown away by Jesus’ catering skills as they were able to eat until fully satisfied. Even the dinner crowd at Golden Corral would have been amazed. As John noted, they were saying, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Then there were the disciples. They had a front row seat to what happened that day but also all the other times Jesus did miraculous things. Just in the few verses we heard for today, the disciples saw Jesus healing the sick, multiplying bread and fish, and then something else that would blow their minds. As they shipped out that evening onto the Sea of Galilee, no doubt talking non-stop about what Jesus just did, they looked out and saw through the storm the sea Jesus walking on the water toward them in the boat. Their conversation must have gone completely quiet as their brains were trying to catch up with their eyes. Once they saw and heard that it was Jesus, they “wanted to take him into the boat.”

Paul is caught up in that kind of wonder as he writes to the Ephesian church. He wants them to see and comprehend what God had done for them in Jesus. He prays that they might have the “power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” so that they would be “filled with all the fullness of God.” In his prayer, he gives glory to God “who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Paul is caught up in awe of what God has done in and through Jesus and wants the same for the church at Ephesus.

As we hear how the things Jesus did had such an impact on the crowds, the disciples, and Paul, we must know this morning that Jesus is still amazing; that God continues to do powerful things through him. But do we see them? Are we getting close enough to Jesus to watch what happens when he interacts with people who are sick? Do we see what happens when Jesus takes the little we give him and increases it beyond our wildest imagination? Are we able to see through the storms of our lives a Jesus who comes toward us, to calm our fears and be with us?

Looking back at what Jesus did while in our world is an ongoing need for us to remember how God worked through him. Our time together in Sunday School or study groups is one of the best ways we do this. Looking at the gospels together, discussing our thoughts and questions with each other, and learning about Jesus help us get a broader view of what Jesus said and did. That’s why it’s so important for each of us to be in a group. You and I will be wowed by what we see and comprehend together.

Looking at what Jesus did is important, but we also can see and comprehend amazing things about Jesus in what he is doing now, right here where we live. It happens when we, the body of Christ in the world today, live as his hands and feet in this world. Through us, he can go wherever his healing touch is needed, share good news with the poor and oppressed, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, confront evil, give comfort to the healing, provide refuge to the alien, encourage the discouraged, and even love the unlovable. Our Missional Ministry teams give us the opportunity for us to do all of these. The list can go on, but just in doing those actions we will not only show Jesus to the world; we will be wowed and amazed by seeing Jesus up close and personal in our service and in the people we serve.

And when that happens and we see what Jesus can do, like the disciples on the sea that day, we too will want Jesus to come in the boat with us as we sail on.

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