A great crowd followed Jesus because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick (John 6:2).
Did genuine needs make them seek Him or were they just curious about supernatural acts? Whatever the case may be, we see a dramatic shift towards the end of the same chapter.
When the crowds were challenged to believe in Jesus, they said, “This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?” (John 6: 60). Thereafter many of them no longer followed Jesus (John 6: 66).
Jesus condemns seeking signs: “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).
He had already performed enough miracles * to demonstrate both his divine mission and divinity. One more sign was needed to fulfill scripture and indisputably prove His divinity – His resurrection from the dead, which is akin to the experience of the prophet Jonah.
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
Why was God so gracious to Gideon when the latter asked for signs? I believe God honours Gideon’s request because He knew Gideon needed both the signs of the wet fleece/dry ground and the dry fleece/ wet ground to bolster his weak faith (Judges 6: 36-40).
If we are mesmerised by signs and lack the discernment to know the difference between the works of God and the works of satan, we may fall prey to deception.
Since time immemorial, the forces of darkness have been able to imitate the supernatural acts of God. When Moses cast a rod on the ground, it became a serpent; the magicians of Pharaoh’s court too were able to perform the same miracle.
That said, we should not swing to the other extreme – be so fearful of all things supernatural that we close our minds to signs and wonders.
Our primary aim in seeking God is to worship Him – because He is a loving, merciful and faithful God. Other considerations such as getting our needsmet, seeking signs, and material rewards should be secondary.
Let us strive to be numbered among those “who have not seen and yet have believed” for Jesus counts us more blessed than those who believe on account of signs or physical evidence (John 20:29).
If God is gracious enough to grant us signs, then it is an added bonus. But we should not run after signs or demand that God reveals Himself to us in signs and wonders.
* Jesus told John's disciples who had doubts whether He (Jesus) was the Messiah: "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life …” (Luke 7:22).
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