The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (John 2:18)
Some of the most superstitious people are athletes. In my late teens, I was playing on a baseball team with guys who were convinced that if they did certain things, the baseball “gods” would give them success. So, if someone got a hit every at bat, they would refuse to wash their uniform for the next game to keep their mojo intact. There were dozens of these little unwritten team rules that guys made up in an effort to remain in good standing with good energy for the sake of the team.
There is one major difference between pagan thinking and biblical thinking.
In pagan thinking, we are in authority and can manipulate the spirit world to do what we want – such as heal someone or provide a miracle. The point of things like spells, amulets, sacred rituals, fasting, prayer, offerings, and so on in pagan thinking is to obligate the spirit world to do what we want.
In biblical thinking, God is in authority over both the spiritual and physical worlds and is free to do whatever He pleases. We are welcome to make requests of God, but we are never in a position to make demands of God or make God do what we want.
This difference is on full display when Jesus Christ comes to the Temple. In a great miracle, God has become a man, but the religious people who meet Jesus miss the miracle of God’s presence and instead demand that Jesus do a miracle to prove Himself to them.
This was a perennial problem. Even though the religious leaders had the Old Testament, they thought like pagans. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that “Jews demand signs.”
To be sure, God can and does do supernatural things in the forms of signs, wonders, and miracles. The important thing to keep in mind is that God does not have to do any such thing to prove Himself to us. Jesus Himself was the testimony.
In considering all of this, it is good for us to check our own hearts. Do I get frustrated with God because He does not do what I tell Him to do? Do I ever try to manipulate God, strike a deal with God, or force God’s hand for an outcome that I want?