There has always been a tendency for people to put miracles before doctrine. The demand of the person who “refuses-to-believe-unless-I-see-it” is the expectation of a miracle to prove the existence and validity of Jesus Christ and his claim to be our God. But it is clear from the New Testament record that doctrine was Jesus primary concern, even when performing miracles.
Look at the final verse of chapter 7 in Mark’s Gospel account and then the account of the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 in chapter 8. Miracles certainly happened. But we know from Jesus words in chapter 8 and verses 14 to 21 that Jesus was making a very real point of doctrine.
The final verse of chapter 7 included the words:
HE MAKETH BOTH THE DEAF TO HEAR AND THE DUMB TO SPEAK
Now, Jesus did that for the sake of those people. And he also did it to attest his ministry as coming from God. But there is a very clear message too. Jesus must open a person’s spiritual ears to hear, understand, and respond to the message about him. And Jesus must enable a person to confess him before others. That enabling is provided by the Holy Spirit. People often fail to realise that the power and the strength to confess Christ in word and deed come supernaturally from God; it is not by our own human resources that we can serve God.
And in chapter 8, from verse 14 we find Jesus quizzing the disciples about the difference between the miraculous feeding of 5,000 and the more recent feeding of the 4,000. He doesn’t speak here about helping people in their hour of need [which he had done, and did so because he had “compassion” on them]. No, here he talks about the spiritual teaching which he wants the disciples to understand and grasp.
That point was, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod”. Beware of the re-interpretation of God’s teaching and of the events which they were witnessing by the treacherous Pharisees and Herod.
The Pharisees represent the religious establishment. Herod stands for the political establishment, and the abuse of government power.
Leaven speaks of the raising agent in bread which turns it from one state – the raw original unadulterated material – into another state, that is the state of being raised and cooked – which is NOT how it started out.
It remains true today that the religious and the political powers will add to Christ’s teaching and message to make it acceptable to them and their interests. But their version detracts from the original and makes Christianity something other than it is – something different but now acceptable and consumable by the populace, i.e. that the message is:
Be nice to others !
But Christ’s teaching says that we are incapable of being truly good to others. That we are sinners who need God’s forgiveness; sinners who need God’s very presence and power in our lives to live as Christ teaches. That WITHOUT HIM WE CAN DO NOTHING OF LASTING SPIRITUAL VALUE !