“You are following me because your bellies are full.” (John 6:26 paraphrased)
Often in the Gospels we see Jesus healing people or doing other miraculous things, and more often than not he tells the people who were there to keep it to themselves.
One would think that an itinerant preacher with an astounding message would want to perform signs and miracles and would use them to attract an audience. But not so for Jesus, and for a good reason. It’s maybe the same reason that we don’t see many public displays of such things today.
One time early in his ministry Jesus healed a man with leprosy. He then tells the man, “Don’t tell anyone.” Mark tells us, “Instead, he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.” (Mark 1:40-45 NIV)
In this case instead of helping his ministry, a healing hindered it. Performing signs and wonders might be a sign from God, but it can easily turn into a circus sideshow and thereby distract from the real message, which in Jesus’ case was to preach the Good News.
We see this theme in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Two of the three temptations the devil threw at him (turn stones to bread, jump from the pinnacle of the temple) would have been miracles. Jesus on principle refused to perform. We see him again refusing to perform when he appeared before Herod in spite of the pleas and mocking of Herod, whose motive appeared to be free dinner entertainment.
And we see it in a more quiet way in Mark when things had calmed down a bit from the leper’s healing. Jesus quietly comes back to town, but someone discovers that he’s at home. The crowds gather, and they gather in sizable numbers. We could with reason say they wanted to see more healings and miracles. But instead of miracles, he preaches the word (verse 2).
A few minutes later Jesus seems to use an unusual event to make the subtle point that the words he is preaching are more important than some other things. Four men remove the house’s roof tiles and lower a paralyzed man on a stretcher into the room. But Jesus doesn’t heal the man, at least not right away. Instead he says, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (verse 3-5).
It’s true that Jesus does heal him eventually, but only after making the point that he has the power to forgive sins. No sideshow here, rather a teachable moment about faith, sin, and what’s really important at the end of the day – and backed up by one whopping miracle that no one could deny.
People are people, and we haven’t really changed much in two thousand years. People still get drawn to politicians who are more interested in showmanship than statesmanship. Many prefer religious types who provide entertainment and questionable psychological hooks instead of words that transform lives. Signs, wonders, miracles, glitz, charisma, and stage presence can fool you. Listen to your instincts, but think with your head. Certain things are more important than signs and wonders.
Lenny Cacchio is a resident of Lee’s Summit. He blogs at http://morningcompanio nblogspot.com/.