Jesus of Nazareth is often referred to as a miracle worker; and indeed he did perform miracles. Yet unlike modern day self-proclaimed miracle workers, Jesus did not want his miracles publicized. He often told those whom he healed to keep the matter private:
“See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
– Matthew 8:4
“Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”
– Matthew 9:30
“He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
– Mark 5:43
Had they all abided by his wishes and direct requests, we might not even know about those matters today. But they could not keep quiet. In fact,
“ . . . the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.”
– Mark 7:36
So, we ask, why would Jesus not want his miraculous works made public, especially since the publicizing of them served to draw people to Jesus? We see today those who claim to be able to perform miracles garner huge crowds by publicizing their activities. People throng to miracle workers today just as fervently as they did in the first century. So what benefit is accomplished by keeping such matters private?
As the Creator of our world (Colossians 1:15-16), Jesus naturally has affection for us. His natural affection moved him to heal and perform other miracles. However, he knew that miracles would not make true disciples. Jesus wanted them to seek the ‘food of life everlasting’ – the word of truth. That is the reason he came – ‘to testify to the truth’ – and that is the work that has the Father’s approval. (John 18:37)
When men are attracted to Jesus because of extraordinary manifestations, many times they are not seeking truth and salvation, but they are seeking physical satisfactions and deliverance from their material difficulties. They become occupied with the ministry of things physical to the exclusion of the spiritual. They become what is commonly known as “Rice Christians” – those who declared themselves Christians for material benefits rather than for religious reasons.
Miraculous works can have the effect of shortchanging the development of our faith as it did the 5,000 who were miraculously fed. They came to Jesus to hear his message and after they were fed, they were so impressed that they wanted to make Jesus a king:
“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
– John 6:14-15
The next day, the people went looking for Jesus. When they found him, he said:
“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
– John 6:25-27
And thereafter ensued a discussion about the true bread of life that the people stumbled over greatly, causing many of them to no longer walk with him. (John 6:28-66) But those who were following Jesus because of his teachings, rather than his miracles, were not stumbled.
“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
– John 6:68-69
Today, sons of the kingdom are like Simon Peter and the twelve apostles who follow Jesus because of his sayings of everlasting life. We are not seeking material advantage; we are seeking spiritual advantage – everlasting life in the heavens. We know that whatever trials we must undergo, whatever handicaps we must suffer will develop faithful endurance. (James 1:2-4)
As we grow spiritually, we may become the recipients of extraordinary events that one would call a miracle. Such events are not done to draw us into the kingdom; they are done because we are already in the kingdom. Let us never make the mistake of approaching Jesus through the miracle. Rather, let us approach the miracle through our already existing faith in Jesus.
And like Jesus requested in the first century, when blessings of a miraculous nature occur in your life, do not become fanatical or use it as a means of boasting or proving spiritual superiority. Rejoice in your blessing, praise the Father and ‘do not tell anyone.’