The Old and the New Testaments contain many stories of miracles performed both by Moses and Jesus. From a study of these Holy Books, it appears that the majority of the people of that time were illiterate, and little development had taken place in the fields of science and technology. Hence, they were more willing to believe in the spiritual missions of the Prophets after witnessing some miraculous events.
The New Testament contains an account of the miracles said to be performed by Jesus Christ: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."1 "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world."2
Many people considered the miracles performed by Jesus as conclusive proof of the truth of His Mission and so they wanted to personally witness the miraculous events. For instance, Herod " had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him."3
One reason why people seek miracles is that they want God to help them through His invisible power during times of difficulties. God has frequently reassured people of His help.4 In the Bible, we find Gideon saying, "Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where [be] all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." The LORD then looked upon him, and said, "Go and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.?"5
Many who followed Jesus in letter and in spirit are reported to have got the gift of performing miracles in His name. Jesus wanted to avoid any controversy. About one such follower, He said, "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me."6
However, not everyone who saw Jesus or Moses perform miracles believed in them. One such incident is related in the New Testament: People "considered not [the miracle] of the loaves: for their heart was hardened."7 Miracles appeared through Jesus, but many were reluctant to believe in Him. About Jesus some of the Pharisees are reported to have said, "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them."8
At times those who witnessed the miracles in person later denied them for personal reasons and even made attempts to stop reports of these miracles from being circulated. People opposed to the apostles of Christ made efforts to silence them despite seeing them perform miracles. They said, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them [is] manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny [it]. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus."9
The prophets of God were aware that many rejected the truth of Their Missions despite having witnessed many wonderful signs. Moses had this experience even after " his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land."10 He said, " all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice."11 Moses called all Israel, and said to them, " Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day."12
Jesus knew that miracles were not sufficient proofs to those whose spiritual eyes were closed. "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast [day], many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all [men]. And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."13 He taught His followers that they believed in Him because their hearts were pure and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. He thus spoke to them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (with the Holy Spirit)."14
In Jesus time many people believed in miracles, and miracle workers abounded. Jesus did not want to be regarded merely as another miracle worker. When certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign, He said to them " an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas."15
There are many reports of miracle making by sorcerers and priests in the Bible. One of them is reported to have deceived the people by " miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live."16 Of such people the Bible says, "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles "17 Their ultimate destruction is thus depicted: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."18
The Bible reports a number of miracles, but teaches that miracles are not proofs of performers spirituality. Even some false prophets and sorcerers are said to have the power to perform miracles. Jesus taught that the significance of the miracles attributed to Him was spiritual. He never performed miracles either to satisfy the curiosity of the idle or for gaining peoples attention.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. KJB, The Acts of the Apostles 2:22.
2. ibid., John 6:14.
3. ibid., Luke 23:8.
4. J. E. Esslemont, Baháulláh and the New Era, The Baháí Publishing Trust, 27 Rutland Gate, London SW1 1PD, 1974, pp. 178-9.
5. KJB, The Book of Judges 6:13-14.
6. ibid., Mark 9:39.
7. ibid., Mark 6:52.
8. ibid., John 9:16.
9. ibid., The Acts of the Apostles 4:16-18.
10. ibid., Deuteronomy 11:3.
11. ibid., Numbers 14:22.
12. ibid., Deuteronomy 29:2-4.
13. ibid., John 2:23-25.
14. ibid., John 6:26.
15. ibid., Matthew 12:38-39. Jonas (Jonah) was asked by the Lord to warn the people of Nineveh to leave their waywardness and worship the one true God. Out of fear, Jonas disobeyed, was punished, and finally forgiven.
16. ibid., The Revelation of John 13:14.
17. ibid., The Revelation of John 16:14. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baháí Faith explains that "the condition of those people who are described as being possessed of devils; this should be interpreted figuratively; devil or Satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation." [Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated November 2, 1938: Spiritism, Psychic Phenomena and Related Subjects, p. 4]
18. ibid., The Revelation of John 19:20.