The answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ depending on what type of sceptic one is dealing with. There are basically three types of sceptics:
ii) Judicious, and
Part 3: Capricious sceptics:
They are impulsive and unpredictable. Like pendulum they dangle from one end to another. They don’t deny the evidence (miracle), however, the evidence doesn’t leave any permanent mark on them, that is, they don’t commit themselves to the cause for which a miracle is a testimony. They may respond to the dictates that result from the heat of the moment but they soon relapse into their everyday life. They also have the tendency of bowing to the secular authorities when the latter coerce or entice them.
For some of them, miracles are just occasions for ‘entertainment.’ This group is represented by the Israelites behaviour as they left Egypt. God had wrought diverse miracles to have them released from captivity. He also provided for them miraculously, but despite all this, they kept on complaining and sinning against God. They would pledge their allegiance to God immediately after a miracle but soon forget about it and instead find new things to complain about. Compare for example Exodus 19:4-8; 24:3 and 32:1).
Some of the Pharisees also demonstrated this behaviour. They kept on asking Christ to perform miracles, even after they had already seen some. The reason they were asking for miracles was not because they wanted to change, or endorse Christ, they just wanted to be ‘entertained’.
In Matthew 12, we see the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees and the Scribes in relation to miracles and the Sabbath. In verses 9-13, Jesus willingly steps into a trap. The Pharisees had asked Him if it was right to heal on the Sabbath. Though He knew that healing on the Sabbath would annoy the Pharisees, He went ahead and did it. He then took the opportunity to teach them with practical illustrations how they would work on the Sabbath to rescue a sheep but are offended when a human being is rescued. How can it be that a life of an animal is more important to them than the life of a human being? At this point, a judicious sceptic would be won by the soundness of Christ’s reasoning. What followed was an elaborate teaching where Christ justified His actions as He warned His detractors against idle talk and convoluted reasoning. They had maintained that Christ was performing miracles using Beelzebub’s powers. In an interesting turn of events, these people interrupt Jesus’ teaching asking for a miracle. It is like they were saying: We don’t want to listen to Your teachings, we want to see Your miracles.
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas”—Matthew 12:38-39 (KJV).
Is it any wonder that Jesus refused to perform any more miracles on this day? These people had already seen miracles, but it didn’t help them. Instead of listening to the teachings, they wanted to see miracles. Although Jesus declined to perform any miracle for them but that they would only see the sigh of Jonah, they were at it again (see Matthew 16:4).
There are people who may ask for miracles when what they need is to listen to the Word. Well, the sign of Jonah did come to pass, but what was the effect?
Another compelling example of the capricious sceptics is recorded in John 6. In verse 10, Jesus multiplies the five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed the multitude. This miracle impressed them. Consider their response:
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, 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).
The following day, the same people follow Christ to Capernaum on the other side of the sea. He discerns that they have forgotten about the miracles they saw hardly one day ago. The idea of making Him king by force has also faded. What was now important for them was food.
“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill’”—John 6:25-26 (NIV).
When Christ challenged them to believe in Him (v. 29), they turned around and asked for another round of miracles. What about the miracle they had already seen? Will these people be sustained in their belief by ceaseless display of miracles or by constantly lending their ear to the Word and hearkening unto it? What capricious sceptics they were!
Another example is that of the soldiers who allowed themselves to be compromised even after witnessing Jesus’ resurrection.
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day”—Matthew 28:11-15 (KJV).