Illustration: A mathematician with binoculars intently watches the house across the street, the comings and goings. Two people walk up the sidewalk, open the door, and go in. Two hours later it opens up, and three people come walking out. They get into a car and drive away. “What do you deduce from that?” asks a friend who is watching the mathematician do his watching. “Well, it’s obvious,” said the professor. “That house now has negative one people in it.”
From a math number line point of view, that would be right. Positive two minus three would be negative one. Unless there were already some people inside the house before we came along to do our watching and surmising.
In God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis addresses the question of miracles. Can the Bible’s supernatural things actually happen?
3. The sun standing still
4. The Red Sea parting
5. Virgins giving birth
An Imaginary Conversation: Lewis writes, imagining a casual debate with a skeptical friend, “’I think the laws of Nature are really like two and two making four. The idea of their being altered is as absurd as the idea of altering the laws of arithmetic.’ ‘Half a moment,’ said I. ‘Suppose you put sixpence into a drawer today, and sixpence into the same drawer tomorrow. Do the laws of arithmetic make it certain you’ll find a shilling’s worth there the day after?’ ‘Of course,’ said he, ‘providing no one’s been tampering with your drawer.’ ‘Ah, but that’s the whole point,’ said I. ‘The laws of arithmetic can tell you what you’ll find, with absolute certainty, provided that there’s no interference. If a thief has been at the drawer of course you’ll get a different result. But the thief won’t have broken the laws of arithmetic—only the laws of England. Now, aren’t the laws of Nature much in the same boat? Don’t they all tell you what will happen provided there’s no interference?’”
Paralytic in Mark 2: As this sick man comes through the roof, everyone can see that he’s beyond help. By the medical math of the world, he’s maybe got six months. One word defines his medical file: terminal. And unless someone reaches into that file with a supernatural fix, that’s all it’s going to say.
Transformation: “Reach in” is exactly what Jesus does. He reaches into the man’s heart with forgiveness and into his body with divine healing power. He tampers with the normal time line, which was hurtling this man toward the cemetery. And this sick person doesn’t just get a little bit better, he is completely well! The transformation is complete.
Tyndale New Testament Commentary: [after the masses marveled: “We have seen remarkable things today] “The crowd at least realized that an entirely new factor had now entered the situation, the ‘finger of God.’ That which was impossible by nature took place, and a paralyzed man walked home, carrying his mattress.”
Doubts? When the finger of God enters the equation, the old math is swept away.
1. “can’t be done”
2. “fixed laws of nature”
3. “doomed to die”
4. “cannot be forgiven”
It’s true that without something from heaven invading the story, we’re all going to be claimed eventually by the dirt and the grass at Forest Lawn. “A time to be born, and a time to die” is the unalterable equation, unless God does something on our behalf. And the good news is that He has moved in to change the rules.
The “Finger of God”: In the early plagues of Exodus, Pharaoh’s magicians managed to duplicate God’s workings. But as the curses continued, they were unable to match heaven’s power. The magicians lamented to their leader: “This is the finger of God.” And the omnipotent finger of divine power was felt seven more times before Pharaoh finally gave in and admitted that God was God, and that He was a higher power than the genetic laws governing the normal multiplying ability of frogs.
1. The evolutionist points to carbon dating and levels of strata at the Grand Canyon and says: our world evolved in such-and-such way. The Christian responds: “How do you know the finger of God didn’t come in at some point and change the time line? That a flood didn’t throw your scientific numbers off?”
2. A philosopher suggests that all the Gospel stories of healings, of demons being cast out, of the dead being raised are just fables. That you can’t trust either the stories of Jesus or the teachings of Jesus. The person of God rejoinders: “How do you know that the finger of God didn’t move upon these people, and create new bodies and new hearts and new spirits and an entirely new world religion based on the possibility that one Man did indeed go through the tunnel marked Death and come out on the other side?”
3. The secular psychologist might point to how your spouse cheated on you, and say, “Divorce is inevitable.”
4. The counselor looks at your son’s drug habit and says, “It’s pretty hard to lick that problem. There’s not much we can do.”
5. Things are hard at work, and you don’t know if you can continue to deal with a co-worker who cuts you down behind your back and gossips about you. And the HR director says: “It’s not going to get much better. Better brush up your resumé.” We live in a hard world where fixed bad things loom on all fronts.
Conclusion: To all these challenges, the person of faith can say: “But what about the finger of God moving in my marriage? Allowing me to forgive and seek reconciliation? What about God’s power to see my kid through a drug rehab program, and giving me the strength to still love him? What about God’s mighty arm around me, helping me to stay on this hard job, helping me to realize that I’m actually working for Him, and that these personnel problems and petty distractions are nothing compared to what Jesus went through with His enemies?”
Let’s never lose sight of the fact that two and two being four is only true until the great Mathematician of the universe steps to the blackboard and begins to write with power and determination a new law, a new hope, a new beginning.
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2008. Click here for usage guidelines.