Jesus was at a wedding in which the host family had run out of wine.
In that culture, any breach of hospitality involved a serious loss of honor.
His mother approached him, not daring to make a request of him but simply stating the need: “They have no more wine.”
Noticing some jars nearby, Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”
The servants filled them to the brim.
Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”
The servants did so, and when the master of the feast tasted it, he called it the best wine of all.
This was the first of Jesus’ miracles, but who knew a miracle had happened?
Not the master of the feast, nor the others who were celebrating.
The Gospel of John calls this the first manifestation of Christ’s glory, but it involved no spectacular display of power, no visible evidence of divine intervention.
This glory was manifested in a quiet, behind-the-scenes manner that remained unnoticed by all, except the servants involved and the disciples who witnessed the sequence of events.
But even they did not sense a miracle had occurred until the master tasted the wine and praised it.
What does that suggest about miracles?
They are not always obvious to us.
The Virgin Mary conceived our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit — certainly a miracle — but her pregnancy would have appeared no different than any other.
God, whom the heavens could not contain, enclosed himself in the womb of the Virgin and became flesh and blood for our salvation, but who knew?
At the crucifixion, God himself hung on the cross in the second person of the Trinity, arguably the greatest miracle of all.
God cannot die, but God- in-the-flesh can die and did, the just one bearing the guilt of the unjust.
Again, who knew?
Jesus looked no different than any other crucified man.
In some circles, it has become popular to deny the miraculous.
Skeptics ask, “Why should we be open to the possibility of miracles?”
But that raises another question.
What justification do we have to being closed to the possibility of miracles?
William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, argues that as long as God’s existence is even possible, we have to be open to the possibility that he acts in history.
According to Craig, “The real burden of proof lies with those who deny the possibility of miracles. What justification do they have for demanding that before we sit down at the table and look at the evidence we must first discard all supernatural hypotheses? That’s the real question.”
Given that God’s interventions in history are not always apparent to us, we still have more reason to remain open to the miraculous.
If the Bible is to be believed, then conversion to Jesus Christ is a miracle, for “no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3), but who could discern this by observation?
If Scripture is taken seriously, then baptism itself is also God’s intervention in the life of an individual, a means by which he bestows salvation (1 Peter 3:21).
Reading the Bible literally, the Lord’s Supper is a miracle as well.
According to Christ himself, the same body and blood which were to be given and shed on the cross are, by the power of his word and promise, given to his disciples in the bread and wine of the holy communion (Luke 22:19-20).
To the unaided eye, these sacraments seem nothing more than actions of our own which we perform.
But to the eyes of faith, they are Christ’s own actions, his interventions in our lives to forgive, comfort and assure us of his love and presence.
If miracles are not always obvious to us, perhaps they occur more than we know.
The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Columbus’ Grace Lutheran Church and may be reached at grace columbus.org.
The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Columbus’ Grace Lutheran Church and may be reached at gracecolumbus.org.