Recently, I re-read the gospels and marveled at the wonderful miracles Jesus performed in His ministry on the earth. I also marveled at the blindness of the scribes and Pharisees, who took no notice of His great miracles but chose to focus on His indifference to their laws and tried to trap Him into what we would call a “gotcha” question.
They often condemned Him for healing on the Sabbath, eating with unwashed hands and spending time with sinners. They asked Him to show them a sign or give them proof of His divine Son-ship.
His answer was always the same. He called them out and identified them for who they were: hypocrites. Notice in Matthew 12:38-41 how Jesus deals with sign seekers.
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from Thee.
In other words, “Prove to us that you are who you say you are.”
39 But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
Jesus was saying that only wicked people ask for faithless proof, and He would not “cast his pearls before swine,” so to speak. He would only give the sign that was given to Jonah: a three-day vacation in the belly of a whale.
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth ...
Jesus said He would give them a sign, but it would be in His own time. His death and resurrection would be a sign to all mankind. The Pharisees missed the point, as they always did.
Jesus healed leprosy, blindness, speech impediments, deafness, cast out devils and raised the dead. Jesus changed water into wine, hushed the raging tempest and walked on water.
There was ample proof that He was the son of God, and His followers believed and witnessed more miracles, while the scribes and the Pharisees were blind and tried to attribute His magnificent power to the devil.
Even at the foot of the cross, these spiritually blind religious leaders mocked Him and demanded a sign. You can almost hear the sinister sarcasm and mockery in their words.
39 And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God.
44 The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.
Of course, all the thieves were not against Jesus. Luke tells of one thief who defended Jesus.
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
It is evident that this thief was of a different caliber than the others. He was the kind of man who looked inside his own soul and recognized he was accountable for his own choices. He deserved his punishment, but he was also compassionate. I am sure he had a habit of defending the less fortunate.
Jumping in the middle of the mocking crowd is not easy. It would have been easier to remain silent. He could have said, “I am in enough trouble already. I’ll keep my mouth shut.” But he chose to speak up. Mockery was not his style.
I imagine that he could feel the spirit of Jesus Christ and just being in His presence was enough to give him a testimony of Christ’s divinity, but this man would have defended anyone who was being mocked.
That’s who he was. I am convinced that this unnamed thief earned his welcome into paradise by his compassion and love for his fellow beings and ultimately his defense and love of the Savior.
Now what does this have to do with our modern enlightened society? After these many centuries, aren’t we educated enough to know the difference between signs and miracles? Do we not have the good sense to accept others’ testimonies of faith and see the evidences that are already written in the holy scriptures?
Or are we “a wicked and adulterous generation who seeks for signs?” Do we seek for scientific proof for every phenomenon? Do we wag our heads and mock people of faith? Do we ignore the miracles and fill our minds with “gotcha” questions?
Miracles are everywhere. Signs and wonders abound in the scriptures. We don’t have to look further than our own bodies to see the miracles of God. We have eyes that work millions of times better than computers. Our ears can hear and process the information in split nanoseconds. If we are wounded, our bodies heal.
These are miracles that cannot be replicated by men. The earth, the oceans and the wonders of far-flung galaxies are evidences that there is a God. Yet man, in his puny wisdom, fabricates theories to deface and mock the truth of the creation.
Long before Christ was born, the sign of His birth was announced:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14
His entire mortal ministry was a miracle. He walked the earth devoting His entire life to blessing others. He opened the eyes of the blind – not just physically but spiritually. He helped others see a new way of life and gave them hope for the future. The sign of Jonas He predicted came to pass.
He was crucified and laid in a borrowed tomb. On the third day He was resurrected. His disciples saw Him, touched His hands and feet and, subsequently, willingly gave their lives as a testimony of that truth. Martyrs down through the ages still give their lives defending that truth.
People today find it easy to mock and scoff about Christian faith. Yet Christians daily go about witnessing unexplained miracles. Diseases are healed through the power of prayer. People walk in newness of life. Addictions are turned into strengths. Depression is taken away and replaced with overwhelming joy of hope.
Blind people still receive their sight and the deaf still hear both physically and spiritually. Jesus literally walks with His followers through the perils of life. He still calms the raging storms and fills hearts with peace. Mighty miracles still happen because of faith. Miracles do not occur because someone demands to see a sign.
When Jesus departed into heaven, He promised those who believe will have signs follow them. In other words, faithful believers would be the torchbearers of His signs and wonders.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
As I read the gospels, I still marvel at the wondrous miracles of Jesus. I can’t help but wonder how some can believe so profoundly and witness miracles every day, while others seem to carelessly sleep through life mocking things they don’t understand and scoffing because they do not receive the signs they seek.
I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in life: those who seek to possess faith and those who seek to destroy it. Faithless mockers have not learned that life was designed to be a walk-by-faith experience directed by God, not a walk-by-sight experience controlled by man. PD