Loose that man
Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, Richard Chenevix Trench, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd. (1908)
What do you love about Jesus? His boldness in overthrowing religious authority? His humility in giving all the glory to his Father? His loving-kindness in teaching his often-dull disciples? His healings and miracles?
It’s the healings and miracles that Richard Chenevix Trench covers with beautiful scholarly depth in Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord. Masterfully weaving together academic and spiritual interpretation, Trench highlights one essential rule for all disciples: If we’re to love Jesus, we must leave behind a material world.
Though it was written in 1846, this book is still refreshing today because of the openness with which Trench connects Jesus’ life with the spiritual nature of God and man. In fact, Jesus’ own declaration that “God is a Spirit,” 1 becomes the basis for understanding his works and life.
As a result, this book won high praise from Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science church. 2 In particular, she must have loved Trench’s view that miracles are not miraculous, but divinely natural:
The healing of the sick can in no way be termed against nature, seeing that the sickness which was healed was against the true nature of man, that it is sickness which is abnormal, and not health. 3
Similarly, in describing Jesus’ turning water into wine, Trench explains that this was no more wondrous than the fact that grapes themselves, made by God, come out of the earth, made by God, on a daily basis. All Jesus did was concentrate these slower processes into a single moment.
But why? Trench says it was to remind the uptight, self-absorbed human race that a loving God controls every aspect of our existence. To Trench, Jesus’ life was one long reminder that we need not be afraid. That if we trust God with all our worries and doubts, we’ll find complete comfort and satisfaction.
Trench further highlights Jesus’ expression of God’s love in his explication of the healing of the lunatic child. The words and actions of the Master to the father, not the boy, are scrutinized to help explain the science behind Christian healing: the transformation of fear into trust brings healing.
The raising of Lazarus is the miracle that Trench most thoroughly examines. What stands out most is how beautifully everything is orchestrated: the time spent waiting, his disciple’s fears, Jesus’ conversations with Mary and Martha, his conversation with his Father. Trench’s scholarship reveals everything happening naturally — divinely — for the purpose of glorifying God’s Christ and a deathless, spiritual reality.
This book, too, is a sort of miracle. Like Lazarus from his cave, it raises Jesus from a stagnant Sunday School subject into a place of spiritual power and accessible light. It forces us to recognize the monumental significance of his every word and work. It brings to life the Word made flesh. Out of our dark and dismal complacency — dull eyes scrawling down a page — Jesus steps forth as a living, palpable testimony of God’s Allness: Immanuel, God with us, right now.
Check out the related Radical Act:
HEAL the sick, cast out evil, raise the dead
Topics: Christ Jesus, Healing