Question: "Why do so many people seek after signs and wonders?"
Answer: Our God is a God of wonders (Psalm 136:3-4). As the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, God has the power to suspend natural laws in order to fulfill His purposes. Miracles were a part of the ministries of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and of course Jesus and the apostles, and their miracles primarily served the purpose of confirming their message as being from God (Hebrews 2:3-4). Today, many people still seek to experience the miraculous, and some will go to great lengths to have that experience. There may be many reasons for such a desire, and Scripture gives us at least five:
1. Some people seek after signs and wonders because they want confirmation of the truth of God. There is nothing inherently wrong with this desire. In fact, God willingly gave signs to Moses (Exodus 4:1-9) and Gideon (Judges 6:11-22) to confirm His word. Miracles can aid a person’s coming to faith, as in John 2:23, “Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.”
However, there comes a time when enough miracles have been performed—the truth has been proved—and it is time to exercise faith. When Moses hesitated to obey after a series of miracles at the burning bush, “the LORD’s anger burned” (Exodus 4:14).
Also, it is nobler in God’s sight to believe without needing a miracle. Jesus visited the Samaritans, and “because of his words many more became believers” (John 4:41, emphasis added). Just a few verses later, Jesus rebukes the Galileans: “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders . . . you will never believe” (John 4:48). Unlike the Samaritans, the people of Galilee required signs and wonders.
2. Some people seek after signs and wonders because they do not believe the signs and wonders which have already been performed. The Pharisees of Matthew 12 were just such a lot. Jesus had been performing miracles for quite some time when a group of scribes and Pharisees came to Him with an insolent demand to see another sign. In response, Jesus condemned them as “wicked and adulterous” (Matthew 12:38-39).
They were “wicked” in that they refused to believe the signs and wonders Christ had already performed. “In spite of his wonders, they did not believe” (Psalm 78:32). Their hearts were hardened towards the truth, even after numerous public miracles. Nothing would make them believe; their hearts were as pharaoh’s, hardened after witnessing so many of Moses’ miracles in Egypt (Exodus 9:34-35).
They were “adulterous” in the spiritual sense, having left the true worship of God to follow a man-made set of rules and traditions. Not satisfied with the miracles Jesus was doing, they demanded something even greater. As commentator Matthew Barnes puts it, “They looked for signs of their own devising.” So entrenched was their rejection of Christ that, when later presented with the “sign of the prophet Jonah” (Christ’s resurrection, Matthew 12:39-40), they still would not believe.
3. Some people seek after signs and wonders because they seek an occasion to excuse their unbelief. There were people in Jesus’ day who “tested” Him by seeking a sign (Matthew 16:1; Luke 11:16). Since they specified that the sign be “from heaven,” they most likely wanted something spectacular, similar to Elijah’s calling down fire from the sky (1 Kings 18:38) or Isaiah’s causing the sun to reverse course (Isaiah 38:8). Probably, their “test” was designed to be something “too big” for Jesus to accomplish—they simply hoped He would attempt it and fail in the attempt.
4. Some people seek after signs and wonders because they are curious thrill-seekers. Like the crowds in John 6:2 and King Herod in Luke 23:8, they want to see something sensational, but they have no real desire to know the truth of Christ.
5. Some people seek after signs and wonders because they hope to get something for themselves. After Jesus fed the multitudes, a large crowd followed Him to the other side of Galilee. Jesus saw their true motivation, however, and rebuked it: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (John 6:26). The crowd’s desire was not to know Christ or even to see more miracles; it was simply to fill their stomachs again.
Better than seeking after a new miracle is taking God at His Word. Simple faith is more pleasing to the Lord than a reliance on a dazzling sensory experience. “Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).