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Clear Words

Clear Word – The problem with miracles (Matthew 12:38-39)

Today’s Reading: Matthew 12

Today’s Reflection: Matthew 12:38-39

38) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39) But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 12 chronicles a series of conflicts between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees.  Here they ask Jesus to prove the truth of His words with a sign—a miracle.  Now in ways subtle and not so subtle, Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God.  In this chapter alone, He claims to be ‘lord of the Sabbath’ (vs 8), the one who brings the Kingdom of God (vs 28), and the Son of Man—a messianic title (vs 32).  These are bold, almost unbelievable claims.  Asking for some evidence isn’t unreasonable, is it?

But would a sign, or a miracle, have made a difference even if Jesus had given it?  Consider the following:

–        Israel was liberated from slavery in Egypt when God performed incredible miracles, plagues that devastated the nation and forced Pharoah to let God’s people go (Exodus 12:29-32).  Then God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-29).  God led Israel with a cloud by day and a flame by night (Exodus 13:17-22).  And just over a month later Israel was having an orgy in front of a golden calf (Exodus 32).

–        Gehazi, servant to the prophet Elisha witnessed a great number of miracles: raising people from the dead (2 Kings 4:18-37), and witnessed the miraculous healing of the leprous Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-14).  And shortly after Gehazi tried to gain from this miracle by accepting payment for it.  As a result God cursed him with the leprosy Naaman had been healed of (2 Kings 5:15-27)..

–        Jesus spoke of all of the cities where He has performed miracles among the Jews but no one had repented, then went on to say that had the same miracles been performed in idol worshiping cities like Tyre and Sidon, and even in hedonistic immoral places like Sodom and Gomorrah, the people would have repented and been spared destruction (Matthew 11:20-24)

I often hear Christians say, if we lived in the age of miracles people would be so much more faithful, but the Bible account doesn’t support this at all.  Miracles alone won’t create faith in God where none exists.  In fact, all miracles create in the faithless is a desire to see more miracles.  The scribes and Pharisees who asked Jesus for a sign had seen Him heal the man with the withered hand (vs 9-13) and the demon-oppressed man (vs 22).  Their request for more miracles in order to be convinced of Jesus identity was proof they never would believe.

At the same time, there were many who already believed on the basis of what they had seen.  When Jesus healed the demoniac vs 22, some who witnessed it asked ‘can this be the Son of David?’—yet another messianic reference.  So many who were seeking the Messiah chose to believe in Jesus, and had their belief strengthened by witnessing or hearing of His miracles.

Real belief is a choice.  The facts of Jesus life, including the miracles He performed were evidence enough for those who chose to believe, and would never be enough for those who chose not to believe.  What do you choose to believe?

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