Signs and Wonders

Acts 2:14–41

You have a paradigm.

Not by choice or of your own will, you just have one. It’s natural, like having a nose.

Your paradigm is wrong. It’s broken.

But it’s not your fault.

Having a broken paradigm is not your fault any more than it’s your fault that you have a small nose. Or a big nose.

What is a paradigm?

Well, paradigm is one of those words most people can go through their entire life without ever hearing, and never needing to know what it means. What it means is simply this, you are wearing glasses with coloured lenses. Everything you see is coloured by the lenses you are wearing. You may have heard the expression, she is wearing rose-tinted glasses. It means, she sees everything as being wonderful even when it isn’t.

We are all wearing lenses all of the time, and most of the time we don’t even know it. We read about this in 1 Corinthians 13:12 – “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely.”

That’s why another expression for paradigm is world view, or how you view the world. Your view is clouded and coloured. You don’t see things as they really are. Your paradigm is broken, and you probably don’t care.
Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mental process that you are hardly aware of its existence, until you try to communicate with someone with a different paradigm.

This becomes a big problem when you try to communicate with Jesus. It becomes a huge barrier to understanding Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus did not have the same paradigm you do. Jesus does not have the same paradigm you do. Nobody at the time Jesus lived had the paradigm you do today. We are from very different nations and very different cultures.

Although our paradigms differ they are mostly rooted in a Western world view that developed in the 17th century. Even those of us with an Oriental paradigm still don’t have the same world view as the people of 1st century Palestine. What this means for most of us is that we have a mechanistic view of the universe.

If we believe in God, we believe he created the universe like a large clock. He wound it up and it’s been running ever since. Or maybe we think of God as a figure who stood over a snooker table full of balls and slammed his cue into the white ball, setting in motion a series of endless collisions and motions that have never stopped.

A miracle is what happens when God leans in and nudges a ball off course, or prods a pendulum, or taps a cog. It is God interfering with the natural order. The outsider who stands by and watches.

Other people believe God does not exist. He never leans in and tweaks, and he didn’t make this machine. These people are called naturalists.

Jesus lived long before clocks and snooker balls. The paradigm of his day was simpler and grander, more organic and less mechanistic. God was not trapped outside the universe. God was not trapped inside the universe. God was connected to his creation, present with it, intimately involved in it.

The universe is more like a family. More like a community. Jesus used to talk of the kingdom. The kingdom of God. The kingdom of Heaven. Kingdoms have kings. Or queens. The ruler is relationally involved with the kingdom. The ruler is present, active, participatory, engaged. The ruler is more than just a part, but isn’t apart.

Consider for a moment, a king is not an engineer who made a machine and stepped back. A king is not in complete control, like the driver of a car. The relationship between a king and a kingdom is interactive. A king may give an order, and the people may ignore it. Or they may fulfil it in ways the king never anticipated. The king can make laws, the citizens can flout them, the king can respond, and the citizens can react. You have an organic, complex, multifaceted relationship.

The ancient Jews had a complex paradigm that allowed space for God and humanity to have freedom. There were limits as well. There is order and there are possibilities. There is room for choices. We have freedom but it doesn’t eliminate God’s freedom.

So when Jesus invites us into the kingdom, it is this type of kingdom. It is the one true original kingdom as God made it. We need to try and adopt this paradigm in order to understand the signs and wonders that Jesus performed.
Jesus audience knew the world was sick. It was in crisis because we humans abused our freedom. We hoard, steal, lie, cheat, covet, kill, oppress, victimise and do many other evil things.

Every man, woman, boy and girl is terribly affected by the ugly, painful sickness. In this world, Jesus performed signs and wonders. He healed blind people, he healed cripples, he healed the deaf, he raised the dead. And more.
These events are often called miracles, or they are called signs and wonders.
When we call them miracles, we are in danger of being trapped in the wrong paradigm.

They are signs and wonders that point to the kingdom.

We can say that one thing they all have in common is that they are healing rather than destructive. Jesus got angry with his disciples for even suggesting he call down fire and thunder on his enemies. They are related to faith. It isn’t a simple mechanical relationship. Sometimes the signs are a response to faith, and sometimes to increase faith. And Jesus often minimizes his role, saying ‘your faith has made you well’. Though he also said he healed a man ‘so that you may know I have power on earth to forgive sins’.

Signs and wonders are symbolic. He is healing people as a sign of healing a sick world. He is giving sight as a sign of giving inner sight. Whether he is feeding or calming storms, he is signalling the healing of the world, the return of peace, a new start.

Jesus usually told people not to shout about his signs and wonders. They were not important. Jesus wanted people to see what they signified. He didn’t want huge crowds demanding healing. He wanted to point people to the new kingdom that had arrived in their midst. He wasn’t a healer or a showman.
Jesus was giving the people signs that pointed to a new kingdom, and he was giving them a sense of awe and wonder. They were but another aspect of his message, delivered not through parables and stories but through signs and wonders.

They showed the impossible now become possible. Peace and freedom available now for all. The insane made sane. The dead made alive. We can see that God is here, part of our lives, involved and caring. He is ever present. He is near, and he is ready to clean up our mess and heal us. We need to reach out and welcome this new paradigm, and welcome the king and his kingdom.

Let’s start today by asking him to change our way of thinking.

<– AMEN –>

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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