Today I went for an MRI at Karmanos Cancer Center and a biopsy at Harper Hospital. Up to this point, we have had nothing but morbid outcomes given to us by all the doctors we have seen. Today, however, Dr. Lin at Wayne State found the tumor to be superficial and easily resected with a reasonable hope for a cure, possibly without radiation, and a return to the status quo.
Were all these doctors (including him) wrong in their initial assessments? Were they just being conservative in their prognoses? Or did something, in fact, happen to that tumor?
Phenomena like this are not uncommon in God’s plan. He reveals Himself in degrees, and often in such a way as to make faith an essential aspect of the experience. Most everyone is familiar with the phrase “doubting Thomas,” but few non-Christians understand the spiritual significance of the story.
Thomas was not present when the risen Lord appeared to the Apostles, and when told of it, he chose to be skeptical, not an unreasonable attitude given the incredible claim made by the others. Jesus again appeared to them and this time Thomas was present. When the Lord invited Thomas to place his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in His side, Thomas did so and proclaimed “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus’ response is telling.
Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
What do we make of this? Is blind faith better than faith based in observed phenomena, “signs and wonders?” I don’t think so. God honors our faith however it comes to us. But often it comes to us in the context of what we already believe. Faith in the redemptive work of Christ requires first a faith in the plan of God, a faith that is itself a grace that can only come from God. Paul spoke of this in 1 Corinthians 1:21-23
For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…
The Pharisees demanded signs from Jesus. He was proclaiming himself Messiah, either an utter blasphemy or the very fulfillment of the ultimate aspirations of the Jewish faith. He did not fit into their concept of how Messiah would appear so they sought to ensnare him by demanding something that only a true Messiah could produce. Jesus’ response was harsh and to the point:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Jesus would soon, in fact, show them the sign of Jonah, but even that would not satisfy them. He had been going throughout Galilee performing unmistakable miracles, and those who had eyes to see, saw them. The case can be made that, if God were to appear in His unveiled Glory, we would have no choice but to worship Him. But that was not the plan. We were given free will because only a free creature can love, and to fully reveal Himself would ironically make it impossible to love Him. So He reveals Himself to those who choose to see Him revealed in part.
What, then, is the point of all this? Simply put, what happened to me happened ambiguously, so that those with faith would see and those without faith might choose to see without compulsion. Even I won’t say that this was a verifiable miraculous healing. The evidence is imperfect, the outcome questionable. But I accept it as such by faith, as some of you might. And it may even be that this little “miracle” may make one of you less of a Thomas.