by Tim Hall
A remarkable story has come out of New York City. On December 7, Alcides Moreno and his brother were washing windows on a Manhattan skyscraper when their scaffolding collapsed. They plunged 47 stories to the ground below, a fall of about 500 feet. The brother was killed, but Alcides survived and was placed on life support. On Christmas Day he spoke for the first time since the accident. Doctors now expect him to walk again.
Dr. Philip Barie, chief of surgery, spoke what many are thinking: “If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.” Mrs. Moreno certainly believes; “Thank God for the miracle that we had,” she said in the Associated Press story released on January 3.
We do not hesitate to give glory to God for amazing recoveries like Alcides’. James instructed Christians to pray in times of sickness (James 5:13), pointing to help that is greater than any medicine. Man’s best efforts often fall short, but God’s surpassing power and wisdom can do what man’s abilities cannot.
But was the survival and recovery of Alcides Moreno a miracle?
A true miracle occurred on the island of Malta long ago. The apostle Paul had picked up an armload of sticks to place on the fire, and “a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand” (Acts 28:3, NKJV). Bystanders were convinced Paul was receiving divine punishment, knowing he could not survive the bite of such a poisonous creature. After seeing no ill effects develop, however, they changed their minds and decided Paul must be a god!
What was this incident all about? Jesus had foretold such things would happen with those early ambassadors of Christianity: “And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them …” (Mark 16:17,18). All of those feats mentioned by Jesus are true miracles. They don’t happen unless divine power supersedes natural law.
It’s extremely rare that a person can fall 500 feet and live to tell about it. But Alcides suffered great physical harm in the process. What if he had suffered no ill effects? What if his brother had not been killed? Those would be true miracles of Biblical proportions. Paul, as we saw, spent no time in ICU; the natives saw that “no harm came to him” (Acts 28:6). He was miraculously spared the harm that normally comes from snake venom.
Amazing things sometimes happen in our world. Let’s be careful to realize the difference between “amazing” and “miraculous.” Miracles were a temporary phenomenon for the first years of a new message from God (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, for example). We see nothing today that resembles the miracles of New Testament times.
by Tim Hall