Jesus’ miracles were ‘signs’, according to John’s Gospel. They were more than just acts of kindness to people in intense need; they were a living demonstration of God’s kingdom.
However, there are different kinds of signs. When Jesus healed people, he wasn’t enacting a Las Vegas style neon sign, flashing, “Here is the Son of God” to everyone around him. Quite the opposite. Jesus went out of his way avoid drawing attention to himself. In Mark 7, he led the deaf man away from the crowd, and strongly urged him not to tell anyone what had happened. When Jesus healed people, he was not advertising himself. He was setting up signposts which pointed to where God was working.
In Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah: “[God] has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind.” (Luke 4:18) These were the people he had come to reach. These people were routinely overlooked by traditional religion because their suffering was understood as a punishment from God. Jesus turned that theory on its head. These were the very people among whom God was working.
When Jesus healed the blind beggar, in Mark 10, he said to him, “your faith has cured you.” The sign was not pointing at Jesus, but away from him, to the wonderful faith of the beggar. The man’s healing demonstrated that God’s kingdom was alive and well among the people that polite society had rejected.
As we follow Jesus, we are not called to erect huge, flashing “Christians are Wonderful” signs. We are called to notice what God is going in the forgotten corners of our society.