Why did they kill Jesus in spite of his miracles?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: If Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children with 2 fish and some loaves of bread after praying and multiplying it, wouldn't that miracle be recorded by thousands and passed down through time and by word of mouth? I mean if thousands of people suddenly saw hundreds of baskets of cooked fish and baked bread appear out of thin air or in a huge heap in front of Jesus to be passed out to groups of fifty, wouldn't that be the miracle of miracles? Wouldn't it create all kinds of craziness among the people just as it would today?

What I'm trying to ask is if that really happened, you would think that Jewish leaders and the Romans would have had enough proof to believe in Jesus. How could they dispute thousands of witnesses? And if those thousand told just 2 people and they told 2 people what they saw, wouldn't it be written in hundreds of history books, be the subject of legends and folklore? And yet the proof of such an act of magical miracle of thousands of fish and bread suddenly appearing out of nowhere is only written in the bible. That makes no sense. It is not and never has been the nature of humans to suppress that kind of information. The whole world would have known and written about it everywhere way before the New Testament

Answer: You have asked a question which is more about human nature than about the Bible. And in the process, you’ve virtually dismissed the Bible as a reputable source — which is problematic: Since this is a Bible-based ministry, and since you are asking me to remove the Bible from consideration (by taking exception that these accounts are only written in the Bible as opposed to your preferred sources of history books and lore), I will probably not satisfy your query in the way that you wanted it satisfied. I will respond, however… but by using the Bible (because anything else would just be me flapping my gums). With this in view, your question has two main problems.

First, you do not seem to realize the rarity of “history books” from the biblical period. You also do not seem to realize that, among ancient documents, the Bible is Mount Everest… and that the other documents are mere molehills. So, you are applying credibility to documents which either do not exist or that live in the shadow of Scripture, and by so doing you are implicitly dismissing Scripture as an inferior source.

Having wrestled with documentary issues for decades now, I can affirm that the Bible is authoritative, inerrant and sufficient. Therefore, it needs no extra-biblical corroboration of any kind to be true. And since it is true, the Bible should be the touchstone for all other information and not the other way around. Sure, corroboration is always welcome, but it is never necessary to support any scriptural accounts.

Second, you are overstating the effect that a miracle might have in the culture — but especially when God himself quiets its effects. Let us use John’s account of the loaves and fishes to explain this.

Jesus was beginning to draw crowds to his teachings because of the miracles he was performing among the sick (John 6:1-2). In my opinion, these, and not the loaves and fishes miracles, would have had more force to propel Jesus according to your scenario. But because the crowd had gathered due to Jesus’ recent signs of healing the sick, his feeding of the multitudes had the impact of a double miracle. According to your scenario, this should have launched Jesus into a frenzied legend. But the Scripture shows that Jesus purposefully muted this response.

“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:14–15, NIV)

Why then did Jesus do such a thing rather than ride the crest wave of popularity? Because he knew the hearts of the people. He knew that they were going to make him the king… but the king of the wrong kingdom! The Jews had no conception that their Messiah would be meek, lowly and about to die on the cross. Theirs was an expectation of national glory. But that was not God’s plan for the Messiah at that moment (and looking for this ill-timed glory was an ongoing problem for the Jews). As such, Jesus frequently instructed the people not to spread his fame — even after raising a girl from the dead!

“Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.” (Luke 8:52–56, NIV)

Furthermore, Jesus instructed his disciples (and these were people who knew better than most that Jesus was the Christ) not to tell anyone about it.

“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” (Matthew 16:16–20, NIV, emphasis mine)

Jesus’ determination not to be a celebrity is best codified in Paul’s statement about his humility, so note this well: Jesus purposed humility — and humility runs counter to celebrity. The nature of Jesus’ work among us is that some of us will see him clearly while others will see him not all. In this, those of us who have tasted of his saving grace will uphold him whether or not he is famous, while those who do not know him as Savior can only represent him wrongly (c.f. Matthew 7:21-23). Philippians 2:5-8 shows us why a legend like the one your question posits could never grow: God would have none of that!

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8, NIV)

As you can see, Jesus worked very hard not to become a celebrity. Your question posits that, under “normal” circumstances, anyone who performs these kinds of signs would of necessity become a legend, but this demonstrates the particular problem of your question. The Bible tells us that Jesus, who has the power to affect such things, prevented his own popularity. So, any growth into legend was divinely stopped. But even if you eschew the divine, there is another factor — because the misreading of miracles extends beyond the Christ. Consider the biggest miracle of all — creation itself!

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:18–23, NIV)

People at large miss the whole point of creation. They take the empirical evidence, the things plainly seen, and fabricate abominable lies out of God’s stuff. This demonstrates the principle that perception is linked to the heart as well as to the eyes and to the brain, and if this is how humanity responds to the obvious, it cannot be trusted to grow any legends according to formula. 

Let us close with a parable from Jesus.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’" (Luke 16:19–31, NIV)  

This parable shows Abraham, the father of faith, weighing-in on disbelief. He told the rich man that the written and oral testimony of Moses and the Prophets was sufficient testimony concerning God — and that people should “listen to them.” Then, he disagreed with the rich man about the effects of sending someone back from the dead: That will not convince anyone who is ill-disposed to hear God through his word.

This proved true, of course. Jesus did just what the rich man wanted: he came back from the dead! So, what are you looking for? Do you want a bigger… a more well-known… a more meaningful miracle than that? I certainly hope not… because none exists! But as long as free will exists — that is, as long as fallen creatures have a real choice in the matter — logic dictates that all can (and therefore some will) reject the risen Christ. And in so doing, they will reject yet another miracle — the miracle of salvation… and all without excuse.

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)