Miracles are magnetic in attracting people’s attention. The big catch miracle, experienced by Peter and Andrew, after having spent the whole night without fish, convinced the two brothers that, indeed, Jesus was not ordinary (Luke 5:4–10). Failure to catch fish on that night had been inexplicable in their ordinary ways of handling issues. It had to be the miracle of Jesus––needed to convince them to leave their nets and follow Christ.
People desire survival, yet failing to achieve it without challenges. Simon and Andrew had been fishermen. The two brothers abandoned that business, when Jesus had called them, intending to make them fishers of men. Let us consider what caused the two brothers to abandon fishing to follow Christ, by first looking at methods commonly used in fishing (Luke 5:4–11).
The universally exploited methods of fishing include throwing bait, to attract fish. A skillful fisherman knows that without bait there is no hope of ever catching fish. Miracles, specifically handling people’s physical challenges, are bait; attracting people into accepting Christ, who holds principles, generally unattractive to ordinary humans, though carrying everything necessary for survival.
The two brothers were fished out of their fishing business in order for them to become fishers of men! They had became convinced of Jesus’ supremacy over all intimidating challenges of survival, as also conscious of the Messiah’s possible arrival, due to their proximity to Jewish devotion.
While miracles made Jesus super-heroic, the majority could not go further than that. Miracles of crucifixion and resurrection could not be comprehended. Healing their sick and raising the dead back to life was not an end in Jesus’ mission to save humanity. The lame, the sick, the dumb and the blind, experienced joy after healing, as witnessed by many. But that did not necessarily qualify the healed into God’s Kingdom.
There was something more important, if salvation was to be attained in its totality. God’s Kingdom is not obsessed with physical survival. Miracles cease to be fascinating when a person gets convinced of Jesus being the Christ. With God, nothing is impossible (Mark 9:23). One’s own existence becomes a greater miracle, instead.
“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See I have told you ahead of time” (Matt. 24:24-25 NIV).
Jesus’ miraculous deeds drew multitudes. But to His disciples He delivered His inaugural lecture without miraculous performances (Matt. 5, 6 & 7). Miracles were not necessarily an end in fulfilling Jesus’ mission. The Wise and Foolish Builders’ parable would guide those pursuing God’s Kingdom, (Matt. 7:24-27). There is a difference between being fascinated by miracles and adopting what Jesus advocated.
Jesus’ mission––using miraculous exploits––maintained the agenda of God’s Kingdom. Many were healed of infirmities, with demons being cast out. Others attempted volunteering to be His followers after having been mesmerized by miracles. But Christ categorically stated that there was no immediate advantage in following Him, insisting on counting the costs (Luke 14:28-33).
This discouraged many, even though fashionable to associate with a man of such popularity. The bait, in miraculous exploits, attracts various kinds into the net. Later, the fisherman will skilfully select what is needed; throwing the undesirables away (Matt. 13:47-50).
People gather in greater numbers, where miracles are included in preaching, but such numbers are not necessarily always reflective of true conversion. It is encouraging to see multitudes confirming subscription to Christ. But the selection depends on the sifting at the end of the age.
God’s Kingdom is achieved through what one gives to benefit others, not what one receives as a benefit to self––an assertion often misunderstood by many. The relevance of miracles is stuck only on the need to appreciate the Lordship of Jesus, holding the crux of God’s Kingdom. [See here]
The parable of the Sower reveals the sifting process (Matt. 13:3-9). The Word, being seed, falling onto some good soil produces abundant yields. The good soil represents an individual with the mind-set similar to Jesus’, showing concern for other people’s deliverance (altruism).
A true convert becomes passionate in facilitating the spread of the gospel (vs. 8). That is contrary to self-centred behavior––revealing seeds falling on highway, rocky places and thorny grounds (vs. 5-7).
The term; “He who has ears, let him hear” (vs. 9), suggests the possibility of listening that would be compounded by self-centredness. True heroism confers benefits to other people more than self. A person who serves behaves like a public benefactor who gets obsessed with the interests of other people, seemingly neglecting his/her own welfare.
“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them’” (Matthew. 13:13-15) (ESV).
While the disciples understood; among His listeners were those hearing but not understanding. How could there have been two categories among His listeners? Yet they all needed salvation. Self-centered people concentrate more on what benefits them, than other people. This is unlike the disciples who had left everything to follow Jesus, including their profitable fishing businesses.
While enjoying the benefits of free gifts, the proud ones, being self-centred, concentrate on bringing down the bringers of good news. They get obsessed in jealousy, desiring that accolades be directed to them, instead of them giving accolades to others, especially those that they despise. Christ’s teachings revealed the truth to the converted ones, not the self-centred ones.
Even the simplicity with which parables convey the message, the meaning is hardly understood by the proud. The heavenly message, expected to come from high echelons of religious informants is irrelevant to the proud. The humble analyze without prejudice (Matt. 5:3).
A person failing to see gold covered in sludge focuses on sludge, concluding that authentic gold cannot come from sludgy conditions. Yet someone experienced in gold panning is not bothered by sludge, focusing on vestiges of gold rather than sludge. This expresses another reason why some people failed to appreciate Jesus’ messages, containing the value of eternal life.
They could not appreciate that Jesus––coming from a lowly considered city of Nazareth––could credibly be the prophesied Messiah. This may have also been compounded by rumours of Jesus’ questionable genealogical legitimacy (Matt 1:18), and His unapproved educational background (John 7:15).
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, others asked questions, not for learning purposes, but for proving how wrong Jesus was. They sought to trap Him to give answers that would equip them with reasons to denounce or confirm indictment against Jesus. They were focusing on negative things only; advancing Satan’s responsibility to accuse the brethren day-and-night (Rev. 12:10).
A court of law comprises a magistrate and two important legal officers, both focusing on the fate of the accused person. One is a prosecutor, seeking to convince the magistrate with wrongs committed. Another officer is an advocate, defending the accused, leading to possible acquittal or that the accused should at least, be awarded less punishment. The advocate appeals for leniency without necessarily belittling the severity of the crime.
Figuratively, Satan stands as prosecutor/accuser on sins committed; Jesus being the advocate. Those people pointing at wrongs committed are the agents of the Chief Prosecutor, the devil. They will ever be hearing but never understanding. The work of prosecution causes failure to construe possible value with the accused person.
Naturally, an accused person hates the prosecutor. However, the prosecutor should be understood in that he/she would be only after justice, according to the crime committed.
The advocate is likeable to the accused, facilitating release from consequences of the crime committed. The sins of humanity invite death penalty, annulled by Christ’s advocacy, making Christ likeable. However, the more disdain is displayed against the accuser/Satan, disregarding the seriousness of one’s crimes, the more the person trivializes Christ’s advocacy.
The prosecutor may hold valid reasons to convince the magistrate. The hateful attitude against Satan’s business of prosecution leaves Christians with condemnatory guilt, though piously appreciating the availability of Christ’s advocacy.
Acknowledging what is positive with the accused people, enables sympathetic consideration of their standpoints, facilitating their possible acquittal, thereby appreciating mysteries of God’s Kingdom. By focusing on gold, only gold is seen, the significance of which is either desirable information from the accused, or the human soul as viewed by Christ.
The Scribes and Pharisees, when bringing a woman caught in adultery (John 8:4-11), were right in that such people ought to die (Lev. 20:10). They stood on behalf of Satan while Jesus advocated for the woman’s deliverance.
Also, instead of admiring, the legalists attributed Jesus’ miracles to Beelzebub (Matt. 12:23-24). In Jesus they saw a sinner, constantly violating standing traditions, including strict Sabbath laws, not the one alleviating people’s conditions of physical deformity.
They could not discern being on the side of Beelzebub. Hence, seeing they were seeing, but not perceiving, even the beauty of delivering the paraplegic out of misery.
Self-centered people cannot focus on altruism, ahead of self. True Christianity is exercising empathy towards others, regardless of how sinful those may be. In that behavior, one risks being categorized with sinful characters. Most Christians, desiring to maintain their integrity, avoid being ‘tarnished’ by sinful characters. Yet Christ actually came to identify with sinful characters, seeking to help them out of their sinful conditions.
Such Christians seek to protect their integrity, associating with good people only, yet that is exactly what disqualifies them. Comparing oneself favorably with other people leads to failure to appreciate the secrets of God’s Kingdom (Matt. 13:11 and Matt. 7:21-23).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99