When I started seeing people healed through my hands, some people thought my obsession with signs and wonders was really unhealthy. They didn’t realize that my growing obsession wasn’t really with signs and wonders, but with a Jesus who is real, not just a theory, and whose Spirit lives in me. But the more I shared testimonies, naysayers and critics started coming out of the woodwork. Today, I’d like to answer a common criticism and misconception about miraculous signs and evangelism.
Why Was That Generation Wicked And Perverse?
Matthew 16:1-4 (NIV) The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He (Jesus) replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
Some people misuse scripture to say we shouldn’t want signs and wonders. This one one of their favorite verses. “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but none will be given it…”
But context is important. What do we read immediately before Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees?
Matthew 15:29-31 (NIV) Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Matthew 15:35-38 (NIV) He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus had just healed multitudes, done great wonders, and fed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves of bread. The news was spreading everywhere. Great crowds were witnesses to these wonders. Yet the Pharisees continued to ask for a sign from heaven.
This was why they were wicked and perverse. Even after Jesus did all these signs, they still didn’t believe him. (John 12:37) They continued asking for another sign. They were ungrateful, and their hearts were hard.
I’ve met people like this. They are hard-hearted. They have seen the work of the Holy Spirit, seen people healed, yet it’s never enough. They always ask for another sign. Their hearts have become darkened because they refuse to glorify God or give thanks for what He has done. They could see 9 out of 10 in a group of people healed, and they will only talk about the one who wasn’t.
For a person whose attitude is twisted like the Pharisees, my sincere testimony of how Jesus healed me isn’t enough. The testimonies of others who have been healed aren’t enough. The fact that I’ve spent hours and hours praying for people with no pay isn’t enough. (I would never keep at it so long if I wasn’t seeing results that made it worthwhile!) They say they want medical evidence, but there is plenty of medical evidence of God healing and it still isn’t enough. They say they will only believe if they see a missing leg grow back instantly before their eyes. These are the ones with evil and unbelieving hearts. The real issue isn’t that they need a sign. It’s that they are opposed to Jesus. Even if they are Christians, they are opposed to the Jesus that scripture testifies of, who is a healer and who is God with us.
Romans 1:21 (NIV) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
On the other hand, a noble person who sees 1 out of 10 people healed will get excited and say “Now I know that God is with us! I want to know Him, and I want to see how we can get the other 9 healed!” A noble person is quick to recognize God’s work and respond with thanksgiving. A noble person wants to believe, but they want to be truly convinced if they are going to believe.
Noble People Like Nathanael
Do you remember the story of Nathanael in John chapter 1? Nathanael’s initial reaction to hearing about Jesus was a little skeptical.
John 1:45-46 (NIV) Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
In spite of his initial skepticism, Nathanael went and saw. One sign, and he found the One he’d been looking for. One sign, and he became a disciple of Jesus! Just as Jesus declared, Nathanael had a noble heart.
John 1:47-51 (NIV) When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
Yes, Signs And Wonders Make Evangelism A Whole Lot Easier!
Not everyone repents when they see signs and wonders. Jesus rebuked a wicked and perverse generation because they continued to ask for signs in spite of the signs they had seen. Yet we can’t divorce Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees from other passages of scripture in which we see many people repenting after witnessing signs and wonders!
Matthew 11:20-22 (NIV) Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
The wicked cities of Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they’d seen the signs Jesus did. Jesus makes it clear in this passage that signs and wonders are manifestations of God’s grace, intended to bring people to repentance.
And don’t forget the book of Acts! Do you remember how Peter’s evangelistic sermon started in Acts 3? Peter and John made a lame man walk! The religious leaders arrested them but couldn’t do anything because everyone in the city knew that the apostles had performed a notable sign. (Acts 4:16) The result was that they prayed, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke God’s word boldly.
Then we read in chapter 5 that the apostles performed many signs and wonders, and more and more men and women believed and were added to their number. (Acts 5:12-14) In chapter 8 we read of Philip ministering in Samaria. The whole region of Samaria had been under the influence of a sorcerer, but when Philip came preaching the gospel, the people saw the signs he performed, paid close attention to him, and region of Samaria turned to the Lord.
Then chapter nine tells us of the healing of another cripple, Aeneas. Peter said “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” The result of this sign? “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Two regions turning to Christ with one sign!
These are just a few examples, since we see the advancement of the gospel repeatedly going hand in hand with signs and wonders in scripture. Even today, there are many parts of the world where nearly all of the conversions to Christianity involve supernatural signs, especially healing, dreams, and visions. How crazy to take Jesus’ words about a wicked and corrupt generation seeking a sign so out of context, and then ignore these other passages of scripture!
Some who harden their hearts may never have enough signs to believe, but to those who hunger for truth, signs are a gift from God to point them to Jesus!
For a few personal stories about people turning to Jesus after being healed, check out Healing And Salvation In The Middle Of The World.