Miracles, Signs, and Wonders.......Oh My

Contained in the pages of the Old Testament of the Bible there exists a story that is among the favorites of those who draw faith from the ancient writings.  In Chapter 18 of First Kings, Elijah, the prophet of God, finds himself squaring off against 450 pagan priests who worship the god Baal.  In the course of the story, a challenge is established between the 450 priests and Elijah. Two sacrifices are prepared, one for the priests and one for Elijah.  Each will in turn cry out to their god and whichever answers by setting the sacrifice ablaze will be established as the one true God.  

In the story, the 450 priests go first.  After preparing their sacrifice, they began crying out to Baal to light the slain bull atop the altar and prove himself to be the one true God.  All day they cry out in vain, even to the point of cutting their bodies in desperation for him to reply.  During this ordeal, the prophet Elijah begins to taunt and mock them, suggesting perhaps he’s on vacation, using the restroom, or taking a nap.  

At the end of the day, dejected from their lack of answers, the priests finally give up and it is Elijah’s turn to cry out to his God.  But prior to making his plea, Elijah takes things a step further.  He first orders that his sacrifice be soaked in water, to the point of making a trench around the altar to hold all the water that is being used to saturate his sacrifice.  Then, on his first attempt, Elijah cries out to God, who responds with fire so intense, the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks that made up the altar were consumed in the inferno........leaving absolutely no doubt as to who was the one true and real God.  

It’s a colorful story with a great flair for the dramatic, which I’m sure is one of the reasons it is such a favorite among Bible believers.  But another reason I suspect it is a favorite comes down to the final result of the encounter.  No, not the burnt offering, or evaporated water, or stones burnt to the point of dust.....those are fun details, but they aren’t the final result of being a firsthand witness to such an event.  

For most people who are governed by faith, an experience like this is coveted because it would not just confirm their faith.......it would actually remove all need for it.  After all, for “faith” to exist, one cannot be completely certain of something...thus the need for faith.  But if God (any god,really) was to reveal Himself in such an undeniable way, then man’s search for God would be made simple. There would no longer be any room or need for doubt.  

One of the things that the non-religious find odd about the religious is their ability to believe in things like fires from heaven, parting oceans, miraculous healings, men walking on water and rising from the dead.  It is in clinging to the possibility such events occurred that millions place their bets of faith in hopes to secure a place in the next life. 

Strangely, it is Jesus himself who creates the ultimate paradox when He bristles at the requests of others to perform signs to validate He has the authority to teach the things he taught.  Things like love.  Love God, Love Your Neighbor, Love yourself.....they seem like great teachings at face value.  But as simple and clear as they seem, they clearly weren’t that obvious to many of His hearers, as they often asked for some sort of a miracle to validate these teachings.  

It was Jesus himself that pointed out in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man that if people couldn’t be convinced of truth based on the teachings that already existed in this world, then even a man returning from the dead wouldn’t be enough to convince them.....an ironic point if there ever was one.  

The Gospels contain an interesting progression as Jesus teaches love and is asked for a “sign.”   He is irritated at the request but eventually heals a man with a withered hand.  Impressive but not enough that his detractors are convinced, he then heals a blind man.  Nice try, but still not enough. He raises Lazarus from the dead, only to have his enemies seek to re-kill Lazarus.  Lastly, Jesus himself returns from the dead only to return to a world that still contained people that simply could not accept...and still do not accept….his teaching of love.  

In fact, when given the choice, many today would rather focus on His miraculous resurrection than all of the lifechanging teachings that proceeded it.  We’d rather base our “salvation” on believing He rose from the dead instead of striving to embrace and fulfill his greatest calling....the calling to love.  

And lets face it....when given the choice of believing a man rose from the dead or having to love my enemies.....the easier choice of the two is faith in the miracle. 

In the end, was the resurrection of Christ really to prove he was God?  Or was it to prove the fact that it was actually His great and profound love for all that displayed His true divine power...and if one can’t see how clearly special that was........even a man returning from the dead won’t be enough to convince someone otherwise.  


  1. I have come to learn that we are to take the teachings of the Word as a whole, and not be afraid to be like Christ in every way. He was love, He was wise, as He taught us to listen to the Father because He only did what He saw the Father do. Asking for signs as 'proof' of who He was needed to be corrected, because of the lack of faith and heart issue. On the other hand, He taught us that miracles and signs were a very normal part of Him, and available for us to do, as we take the Kingdom out into the world. When we living perfectly in His love, those signs and wonders become normal.


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