Within every path of faith there are principles and practices that support healing physical, emotional and mental wounds by faith. As a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to acknowledge that his path of faith did not stop at the principle “first do no harm” but moved beyond merely “ceasing to do harm” to heal harm already done. This, I submit, is Jesus’ ultimate weapon of mass reconstruction to be applied at any time before we use our ultimate weapons of mass destruction any further. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that we are not already using weapons of mass destruction and spreading them worldwide into hands of many angry people bent on revenge for past harm done to them and to the group of people with whom they identify. What will be the most persuasive antidote to such revenge-motivated actions that spread harm further and more massively? The antidote that will persuade the pain-angered weapon holders to lay down their weapons and join hands in peace will be healing of the harm they witnessed and release from the pain they have endured.
The sacred teachings by which Jesus’ life is surrounded and supported include miraculous concepts that point to miraculous actions that result in miraculous outcomes. Do we not sense our need for miracles in this modern era? It is time to activate miracles and set them free to achieve their goals. We who follow Jesus are empowered to activate miracles, as, I believe, are others who follow other faith-based practices. Since I am a follower of Jesus, let me address the path of faith along which Jesus walked while on earth to activate miracles and leave it to others more knowledgeable than I to address other miracle-activating paths of faith. We are all in this together and need not compete with each other over who performs miracles. There is enough harm already done for as many healers to address as may devote themselves to doing so.
We who follow Jesus are not challenged merely to be “good” people as if conforming to the best of current social norms is enough to satisfy our high calling. We, like Jesus, are challenged to be “God’s” people, God’s children who activate miracles as Jesus did while walking the earth. “These and greater things shall you do,” Jesus declared to his followers. We must now believe him and activate “these and greater things.” Will we do it by our own power as “good” people who take care of each other? No, that’s not enough. Is it enough to take care of strangers and be “good Samaritans?” As helpful as that is, it does not yet carry us into the realm of “these and greater things.” Being God’s people who do good towards others is helpful because those actions call into question the doubts others may have about God’s willingness to be helpful to them. Our helpfulness may open the minds of those we help to the reality of God’s willingness to perform miracles for them, miracles beyond their minds’ understanding but within their hearts’ hopes and desires.
Yet, to be fully faithful followers of Jesus, we must now learn to activate those miracles, those “greater things” of which Jesus spoke. We will not activate them by continuing to conduct the religious business of Christianity as usual. We must move radically beyond business as usual to be fully followers of Jesus. The ultimate social justice is to undo the harm others have already suffered and demonstrate that such harm was never intended by God. We reveal God’s true intentions by releasing God’s power to heal every form of harm completely. To declare that we cannot do this “ultimate” form of justice is to declare that Jesus misinformed us about our capacity to follow him. This capacity of which he spoke remains largely unexplored by his modern followers. Some of his first followers explored and exemplified it. For example, the Bible describes this incident in which two of Jesus’ first followers participated: “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” Acts 3:6 ESV.
From this example, it’s important to note that it does not take money to activate miracles. That fact is of interest to most of us followers of Jesus because we’re not wealthy. Silver and gold we may not have “none” but we have little. It may even be true that being wealthy would interfere with the conditions under which “greater things” or “ultimate justice” is best activated. We who are not wealthy need to concern ourselves less with issues related to income and wealth inequality and focus more upon the disparity between the capacity in which Peter walked and our capacity to activate miracles. What’s in the way of our activating miracles as Peter did?
In the centuries since Peter activated miracles as a follower of Jesus, many influences have come along to dilute the power of his followers to do likewise. It’s time to cut through all layers of dilution and boldly step out as Peter stepped out. Peter’s a great example of the boldness we must acquire because he, like us, at first made a lot of excuses for not following Jesus boldly. But in time he found the courage to do so and to quit explaining away his lack of capacity.
Since Peter stopped explaining away his lack of capacity, Christianity has been taken over by hosts of teachers and preachers who explain eloquently and otherwise why we’re powerless to activate miracles. We are overwhelmed with explainers who want us to believe that they are the exemplars of the maximum possible faith in Jesus. Jesus has a term for such explainers. It’s not a favorable or flattering term. About such teachers and preachers he spoke when he mentioned “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” Matthew 23:24 (NAS) In accompanying passages of the New Testament he had harsh things to say about them as he warned against following them. Over the centuries, such teachers and preachers have carefully avoided using such passages except when it served their purpose to perpetuate their favorite prejudices and/or preserve their positions of power. Rarely if ever have they cited those passages when confessing their own blindness and repenting as openly before their congregations as they had earlier misled them. Those who strain to focus on trivial matters so as to distract us from the camel in the room — that they don’t want to talk about and prefer that we’d all swallow together — occupy roles of leadership throughout the human institution that has replaced Jesus as God’s representative on Earth. We need to ditch such blind leaders before they ditch us more than they already have.
We common folk who follow Jesus do not lack the capacity to activate “greater things” by which harm already done may be healed, unless we resist surrendering our lives in service to God. That resistance to surrender is inherently intertwined within our egos, which are devoted to “edging God out” as much as possible from our lives, as 12-step programs reveal. The convenience-oriented, complacent, competitive ego active in all of us due to our social training within an ego-oriented society must be de-activated if we are to activate “greater things.” The ego is interested in activating only petty things, not greater things. In fact, based on ego, we become activated at the slightest irritation. Will we follow Jesus beyond our ego’s arguments and explanations for why following him is “impossible?” Will we cease to allow our ego’s petty irritations to distract us from answering the Spirit’s call to heal?
The ego is expert at formulating excuses and justifications for not following Jesus “that far” and at distracting us from such pursuits. One of the ego’s main excuses is “No one else is doing that. Let’s not look foolish in trying it ourselves.” Our fear of failing and appearing foolish in the eyes of others prevents us from taking the risk of serving God in this amazing capacity that Jesus exemplified and promised was ours as much as his. Peter hid from others for fear of looking foolishly associated with Jesus before men, women and children. Then he found the courage within him to dare to look foolish so that he might demonstrate why Jesus placed such faith in him as to call him to step from the safety of the boat to walk on water.
Jesus is calling us now to do the same. How do we do it? 2 Chronicles 7:14 states the “how” this way:
“. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)
This is the way Peter did it too. He humbled himself, prayed, sought God’s intimate presence within his heart and turned from all excuses he’d been making for not surrendering himself in service according to Jesus’ model of service. In this manner he prepared his capacity to activate “greater things” without taking upon himself the arrogant notion that the power to do so would be his alone. He set aside his ego to turn from all the ways, values and attitudes of the ego (for such is the meaning of “wicked ways”). With his ego set aside, he was able to look past his fears and converse with God heart to heart. God hears within our hearts, where we hear Him/Her as well. Thus God heard Peter and fulfilled the Divine Promise to heal according to God’s will and way, not the ego’s will and way. And thus also Peter heard God within his heart and dared to utter his powerfully healing statement of faith.
It’s important to note the context in which Peter’s ego-dissipating faithfulness allowed God to perform “greater things” on account of Peter’s presence. Peter followed Jesus admonitions and practiced what he’d been taught while walking with Jesus. For me, four points stand out in the following expanded description of healing that took place:
“Peter looked directly at him, as did John. ‘Look at us!’ said Peter. So the man gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!’” Acts 3:4-6 (Berean Study Bible)
Point 1: Peter was not alone in his reaching out to others. John was with him. Peter acknowledged that fact when he told the man “Look at us” not “Look at me.” Peter and John were acting in concert. Thus Peter and John activated “greater things” by “gathering two or more in the name of Jesus.” Both Peter and John were devoted followers of Jesus. They were complying with Jesus’ model of sending out disciples two by two and taking few worldly goods with them. Peter may have been the one who was more ready to speak up as the more socially aggressive member of the team, but John’s presence in wholehearted agreement was essential to the activation of “greater things.” John was not merely being passive. As an active listener and keen observer, he was a full participant.
(Let’s stop over-admiring those who are socially aggressive in leadership positions and stop assuming that their outspoken nature makes them somehow more important than those of us who remain observantly quieter. We too have value in activating “greater things.” By our presence and ability to listen heart to heart and make eye contact, we set the stage for activation of miracles as much as any more verbose person does. Activation of “greater things” is a collaborative process best set in motion by whole people who collaborate according to their diverse contributions. When we walk together as followers of Jesus, we discover, reveal and engage in our capacity to activate “greater things” because Jesus keeps his promise to be there with us. It’s by Jesus power and presence offered by and through us together that miracles take place.)
Point 2: Peter and John traveled in ways that allowed them to cross paths with those who needed “greater things” to happen for them. These were the common folks who were likely more receptive to miracles on account of having spent so much of their lives despairing of any truly effective help ever coming their way. (In modern society, these would be the folks who lack access to universal healthcare, bank accounts, credit cards and smart phones.) The man whom Peter and John met had already experienced the futility of expecting “silver and gold” to heal him. When he looked at Jesus’ followers he looked with “expectation.” He was not as disappointed by Peter’s disavowal of financial wealth as we might believe. When he heard Peter’s “but,” he knew something better than another trivial coin was about to come forth. What he received exceeded his mental expectation of alms and addressed his heartfelt prayer for healing. By reason of his own life experiences, he had been prepared to be receptive to the healing offered.
What a miracle! God heard the man’s prayers in part because the healed man had also set aside his ego and become humble before God. His life hardly provided him the means for “wicked ways.” Thus in this context, three humble children of God failed to pursue socially “normal” definitions of success and instead encountered God’s healing. Peter and John would have missed this opportunity had they traveled as members of the privileged class upon a camel, cart or other convenient conveyance. So, too, modern followers of Jesus fail to encounter opportunities to activate “greater things” when we move about in cars and take advantage of our financial means to serve ourselves with conveniences that are not enjoyed by more humble members of society. In our cars (or on public transportation with our ears and eyes filled with piped in sounds and images from our smart phones) we may travel alone or together, perhaps even singing songs of praise to Jesus, but always we must be on the lookout for opportunities to step away from the conveniences by which we insulate ourselves from the storms of life and instead walk on troubled waters as Jesus calls us to walk.
Point 3: Both Peter and John looked directly at the man on his mat, noticed him and made eye contact. Only one of them spoke but both locked eyes with the man who requested help from them. Neither Peter nor John turned away from witnessing the distressing circumstances of this man’s life. They both acknowledged the man’s presence – and his humanity as well as his divinity. They both looked upon him with compassion, not disdain or judgment. In short, they looked as they had witnessed Jesus look upon so many people whose life experiences had humbled them. When Jesus looked, he was moved by compassion to work miracles. Likewise, Peter and John exposed themselves to being moved and thus allowed the power of miracles to move through them in their open-heartedness. They allowed themselves to serve as channels of healing blessings rather than to maintain their egos’ resistance to that role.
Point 4: Peter and John took the risk of allowing others to notice their power to activate miracles. They had witnessed how Jesus had been treated when the crowds noticed the miracles that poured forth from his life. They had seen the fickle nature of the masses who crowded in close around him, then welcomed Jesus as a popular conquering hero and next turned upon him only a few days later to cry out, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Peter and John had every reason to know that they were at risk if they revealed themselves as operatives of Jesus. Yet, such mental awareness did not prevent them from setting “greater things” in motion by acting as their heart called them to act. Compassion is an affair of the heart, not an attribute of reason. We do not argue ourselves into feelings of compassion, empathy or other emotions that link us to others as members of one race. We feel those links happening inside of us. We feel them where Jesus said that the kingdom of God abides. We feel them where our emerging wholeness beyond the ego allows us once again to feel.
As we “trust, feel and talk about things that matter,” we emerge together beyond ego by sharing and thereby overcome our sense of separation from each other that ego produces. Sharing our internal kingdom’s energies heart to heart reminds us that we are not alone nor lacking in inherent self-worth no matter what our social status may be from time to time. We set aside past lessons in distrust and dare to experience renewing lessons of trust. We set aside our ego’s habits of denying our emotions (and our heart’s wisdom) and instead encounter new habits of realizing, acknowledging and expressing our emotions helpfully (and listening to our inner wisdom heedfully). And we not only talk about things that matter but also do what’s necessary to activate what matters.
Our capacity to activate “greater things than these” matters to the destiny of humanity. May we each follow Jesus as our role model, friend and empowering presence by joining with other followers to serve the Living God — whom Jesus called Abba Father — who desires to comfort, heal and bless us all. For such a God is Abba Father to us all as no man has ever been or ever could be alone. (And Holy Mother to us all as no woman has ever been or ever could be alone.) Followers of Jesus, as was Jesus, are nothing but expressions of trivial futility unless we activate Divine Power to flow through us as we remain connected with our Source.
© Art Nicol 2016