In the Bible, Jesus performed a lot of miracles. He healed people. He had power over nature. He even overcame death. But what about the miracles He didn't do? Here are three instances in the Bible where Jesus chose not to do the miraculous wonders He was known for:
- A miracle without faith.
In Mark 6 (and Matt. 13), Jesus returns to Nazareth, His hometown. These people knew Jesus before He started his ministry.
When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get this? What is this wisdom that is given Him, that even miracles are done by His hands? Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.
Two verses later: "And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them" (Mark 6:5, ESV). The New Living Translation says, "And because of their unbelief, he couldn't do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them."
While the New International Version says Jesus couldn't do miracles in Nazareth, this isn't suggesting that faith is some sort of fuel for miracles, and Jesus was running on empty. Most likely, the lack of faith meant that people didn't ask Jesus to help them—or else, because of their lack of faith, Jesus chose not to. The bottom line is, there was no faith, so in this instance, he didn't.
- A "sign from heaven."
After Jesus feeds the 4,000 in Decapolis, He and His disciples get into a boat and head to Dalmanutha.
The Pharisees came up and began to debate with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him. He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, "Why does this generation look for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." Then He left them and, entering the boat again, departed to the other side (Mark 8:11-13).
Miracles are not for our entertainment. They are not a prerequisite for faith. If all of creation testifies about its creator (Rom. 1:20, Ps. 19:1), why should he have to give us a personal sign from heaven on top of that? If you ask God for a sign from heaven like the Pharisees, chances are you'll be disappointed like the Pharisees.
- A miracle that contradicted God's plan.
As Jesus hung on the cross, his divinity was mocked. Again, people wanted to see a sign from heaven, and their requests for a miracle emerged from a severe lack of faith—they did not believe Jesus was who He said he was, and they would not believe him unless the God of the universe did what they asked, right then and there. As He hung there dying, Jesus, who was fully God, could have come down from that cross. Fully man, Jesus may have even been tempted by the prospect (Heb. 2:18). But He didn't.
Those who passed by blasphemed Him, shaking their heads and saying, "Ah, You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" Likewise the chief priests mocked Him among themselves with the scribes and said, "He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him (Mark 15:29-32).
Jesus didn't come down because the cross had a purpose. The miracle of his survival would have undermined the greater miracle of his resurrection.
It's easy to think about the miracles Jesus did do. In brief interactions, he radically altered people's lives. But his ways are higher (Isa. 55:8–9), and because of that, the miracles Jesus didn't do are equally important in helping us understand the inexplicable.
Ryan Nelson is a volunteer leader for Young Life and a blogger for Faithlife, where this article first appeared. Faithlife uses technology to equip the church to grow in the light of the Bible, offering 14 products and services for churches, including Faithlife Proclaim and Logos Bible Software.
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