I have no idea how he does it

Published 10:16 am Friday, June 22, 2018

by Charles Qualls

I have two friends who make their livings as magicians. One does primarily church and Christian events, with a sprinkling of business and special shows mixed in. The other is mostly a corporate entertainer. They both travel the country and amaze people for a living. I have watched them both socially, and I have hired them both. You can know that there’s a perfectly logical explanation for the illusions they do. But, you’ll leave every time saying “I don’t know how he does it.” 

I knew this one person who had a knack for making money. Possessed of a high school education, her first positive habit was to simply work hard. She was never without a job. But, then later in her life when she owned her own business, she kept spinning off little side gigs from that main business.  Some of them would be the craziest ideas. Except that they worked. Everything she touched seemed to go well. We would just laugh and say, “She never loses. We just don’t know how she does it.” 

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus would walk along and do things, and the people who followed Him would just marvel. He would heal someone, and the onlookers would say, “I don’t know how He does it.” I would have, too.

He would have a teachable moment present itself, and he would know exactly how to connect with the crowd. He would have exactly the insight that would change someone’s life. People listening in would walk away shaking their heads. How does he do that?

Jesus would keep his patience when the Pharisees and Scribes would test Him. He knew that at their best, they had a job to do and were trying to find out just what this new movement was all about. At their worst, they were trying to paint him into a corner. But, he always had just the right response. Fact is, so often He answered their question with just the right question. 

Folks would turn on him. The pressure would boil over. Someone would be ugly to him. They grabbed at Jesus, threatened to arrest Him, made accusations and interfered with his ministry. But, what did Jesus do? He took it in stride, often with some aside about it “…not yet being His time.” How he did that, I just don’t know.

In Mark 4: 26-34, we have two parables. Mark lines up Jesus’ teaching here masterfully. You know, on the surface of it all, Mark’s gospel is the oldest of the four. It’s the shortest of the four. He was getting it all down. In his brief style, he really keeps it moving. Someone has called Mark’s account the “Dragnet gospel” because it felt as if he were saying, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

We also get the impression that the people Jesus taught didn’t always get the full impact of what he was saying. They just didn’t understand. He took his disciples aside to explain things to them in private, Mark tells us. Then, in breathtaking fashion the story right after these parables in Mark will show us that they didn’t understand yet either.   

If you’re like me, sometimes you can still get around the Bible and feel like I did when I was little.  Like I was the only one who didn’t quite understand things.

Here’s the thing. In the mystery of our faith, God is at work. Just like the Gardener who sleeps and does not toil, there are things we simply cannot do. We can’t work hard enough to earn God’s grace. We must receive it. We can’t orchestrate things smartly enough to make life’s larger picture come out well.  Only God can transcend time and space with providence. 

It’s called “mystery,” this divine uncertainty. It’s also a part of our faith. Which is why our belief is “faith” in the first place. 

But, thanks be to God — the Divine is at work even when we don’t understand how God does it. And, yes, even when we’re sleeping.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.