Where a divine mystery exists no single explanation will satisfy all of our questions. In the previous post I cited the tension that arises when a Christian believes the biblical accounts of miracles even as he stares into the miracle vacuum of his personal experience. In response, I consider Jesus’ interaction with miracle seekers in John 6. I won’t rehearse the story but would encourage you to (re-)read for yourself. The observations that follow aren’t intended as a definitive solution for the tension but I find them helpful:
1) Seeking Jesus is more important than seeing a miracle (Jn 6:2, 26). A miracle is never an end in itself but a sign that points to something bigger: God’s glory. Interestingly, John frames his entire gospel by Jesus’ miracles precisely so that in seeing a miracle the reader will turn in faith to seek Jesus (Jn 20:30-31). But on this point we should also note that Jesus seems to teach that miracle-driven faith should give way to word-driven faith (Jn 6:63; 14:11). That is, Jesus would have us understand that our faith is to stand on the authority of his word.
2) Asking for a miracle may not arise from our faith but from our flesh (Jn 6:26-27). Oh, the deceitfulness of the human heart. Not everything is as it appears. John narrates that “a great multitude was following [Jesus] because they were seeing the signs which he was performing…” (6:2); but Jesus asserts “you seek me not because you saw signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (6:26). On the face of it John and Jesus appear to be at odds in their assessment of the situation. But I think the context shows that John narrates the events (6:2) while Jesus explains the events (6:26). That is, people followed Jesus because they saw miracles but not because they wanted what those miracles pointed to. They saw five thousand fed and sought the miracle of satiation rather than the miracle of salvation (6:27, 35-36, 58).
3) The miracle has already been granted (Jn 6:36-37). Jesus is not guilty of a non sequitur when he transitions from his bread lecture to the assertion that “…you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” In light of the surrounding discourse the point is that the better miracle isn’t giving material food to the physically hungry but in granting spiritual sight to the spiritually blind. Which is the bigger miracle and the greater blessing: looking at bread or looking at Jesus through the eyes of faith (6:40)? That we would ever come to Jesus simply for Jesus is itself a miracle–a sign that the Father has already blessed us beyond comprehension (Eph 1:3ff).
Does this mean that we shouldn’t ask for a miracle? Not at all. Knock, ask, seek. But consider that sometimes our prayers are refused because the request is too small. A greater blessing may just be the reward that follows the disciple who walks by faith and not sight (Jn 20:25-29; 1Pet 1:8-9); who clings to the promise in the absence of fulfillment (Heb 11:6, 13); who sees Jesus by the miracle of new birth and claims that, while wanting to see more, he has seen enough (2Cor 4:6).