Mark 1:35-39 (NIV): Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Jesus was very popular in Capernaum, and very much in demand by all of those in the area who had friends or family members who were sick or demon possessed. And there were lots of them! If He had wanted to, He could easily have set up shop right there and rode the wave of popularity for years.
But Jesus had not been sent merely to heal the sick and cast out demons, no matter how much the people clamored for more of that kind of thing. He had a message to bring and a job to do. Even though the miracles were an important part of both the message and the job, opening the door for people to pay attention to His words, as soon as the miracles became the main thing to the people, Jesus chose to go elsewhere. The people in Capernaum no longer wanted to listen to what He was telling them; they just wanted to see more amazing healings. That was why they were looking for Him. It was time to go.
Jesus faced this problem frequently throughout His ministry. That was why He sometimes told people whom He had healed, especially those whom He had healed from “incurable conditions,” not to tell anybody. He knew that the news would just spawn a whole new frenzy in people who cared nothing about His teachings about God’s kingdom, but were only drawn by the prospect of experiencing a mighty miracle.
Some wonder why Jesus even bothered with miracles since they led to this kind of problem. But the very nature of the kingdom of God brings healing, wholeness, and freedom to everyone it comes into contact with in our broken world. It can’t do otherwise. And at that time, Jesus was the focal point, the literal embodiment, of the kingdom of God. Where there was sickness and brokenness, He brought healing with His touch. Where there was bondage to demonic power, He set the people free. But when those things became the focus of the people, He left until things cooled down a bit. The message was the vital thing.
Father, it is easy to see how signs and wonders and miracles can easily become a double-edged sword – opening the door to our testimony, but also having the potential to blind eyes to anything except the miracles. In this, as in every area, give us wisdom and discernment, and help us to never choose the easy road of popularity (even when that popularity is gained by Your mighty miracles) over the more vital path of clearly preaching Your message of salvation. Amen.