Once our hero, Paul, and the other castaways washed up on the shore of Malta, we read what happened next:
As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. When the local people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man is probably a murderer, and though he has escaped the sea, Justice does not allow him to live!” However, he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They expected that he would swell up or suddenly drop dead. But after they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6, HCSB)
To me, this passage really seems to highlight the human condition.
- First, there are the Maltese. They see Paul bit by the snake and assume automatically that he had done something to deserve the snakebite. They even suggest that though Paul cheated death once, he was out of his nine lives.
- Second, once they saw his miraculous survival, they assumed that HE was a god. This wasn’t the first time this happened to Paul (see Acts 14:11).
- Finally, modern scholars who tend to disbelieve anything miraculous suggest that it wasn’t a poisonous snake that bit Paul. (But why did the Maltese judge, wait, watch, then deify Paul? And why would Luke – a physician – even record it?).
Why do we humans tend to be works-oriented, superstitious, or anti-miraculous?
I believe in miracles. In fact, Jesus said: …“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:15-18, HCSB)
Ours is a universe with natural law, but a God who is supernatural. He can circumvent that law at any time he chooses because he created it. I don’t believe he uses that supernatural power to cause snakes to bite people or lightning to strike people when they mess up in life. And I don’t believe he uses the miraculous to bring glory to the miracle worker. Instead, God performs miracles to bring glory to himself.
This miracle at Malta opened to door for Paul. The Apostle didn’t take credit for the power or claim to be a god, he pointed the Maltese to Jesus. Luke tells us he held a healing crusade at an official’s house where God healed the sick throughout the island (see 28:7-10). Maybe, when our hearts desire only the glory of God, we’ll see more miracles in our own lives.