Life on earth follows a cycle. It begins at a moment and proceeds until death. Though there are varied opinions on where that moment is, there are no disagreements, at least among Christians that every life belongs to God and every life is important.
In this reflection, my goal is to look at the miracles of Jesus and what it teaches us about humanity and the very moment when one becomes human. Is it at conception as can be challenged by the seeming dormancy of the fetus or afterwards as can be affirmed by evident activity? When does one become human and what can we learn about this by looking at the miracles of Jesus?
Before I go to Jesus, I would like to give a brief preamble;
Observing the human life cycle, it seems to me that the way we start is very close to the way we end. We start in our mother’s womb, not knowing much, not hearing much and not saying much and we end as old adults, not seeing much, not knowing much, and not saying much. In between, our abilities to know, to speak and to do, continues to increase from the time we are babies to a certain time that varies from person to person and then begins to decrease, sometimes unknowingly to us until a point where the kids we carried as babies and nurtured as babies will now carry and nurture us as “baby” old men and women. It is a weird cycle but it is what it is.
Predictable most times but at other times laced with uncertainties. But a few realities can be undoubtedly certain at all times. One is that what we can do at different stages of our development vary. Another is that what we can or cannot do at one stage does not make us less or more human than we were during the previous stage. Thus, our humanity is not defined by our ability but by the reality that we exist as part of the creative order, uniquely made in the image of God. Jesus made this clear in the miracles.
Just like a crippled man, a day old fetus cannot do much but Jesus showed that the crippled is as human as the whole and that both need salvation and can be saved. He healed the crippled or the Paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8) and the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12: 9 -13). Like the blind, the eyes of the one day fetus may not see but Jesus showed that the blind is as human as the one with sight and that both need salvation and can be saved. So, Jesus healed the blind. Jesus showed that the deaf is as human as the hearing and that both needs salvation and can actually be saved. So, Jesus healed the deaf in Mark 7:31 - 37.
In a sense the unborn or day old fetus is like the dumb and hence cannot speak. The Lord Jesus showed that the dumb is as human as everyone else and can be saved (Matthew 9: 32 – 34.) The Lord Jesus showed that even death does not remove our humanity and that the dead and the living need salvation and that both will be saved on the last day. So, Jesus raised the dead Lazarus in John 11.
At the time of Jesus as we see in Matthew 19:13 -14, children were looked down upon as less important than adults but Jesus said that it should not be that way. He said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” No doubt there are things that we can do as adults which Kindergartners cannot do but that does not make us more human than they are. The fact that babies cannot do what Kindergartners can do, does not make babies less human than Kindergartners. Similarly, a day old fetus cannot be less human than a baby just because at that stage, the fetus cannot do the things that a baby can do.
The day old fetus may be blind, crippled and cannot move, unable to hear and even as motionless as dead Lazarus in the tomb, Jesus in the miracles showed that none of these conditions defines our identity as human and hence not the humanity of the fetus. The day old fetus is human because it has all that God purposes for his or her humanity at that stage of development. The miracles of Jesus point us to the reality that at the very moment of conception, the human life cycle begins. It is the work of God!
What God does with his work from that moment is up to Him. Our part is to be worthy partners in the process, promoting that which supports life.