The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
I’ll be honest: I kind of sympathize with the Pharisees at this point. I mean, who doesn’t want a sign? The stuff Jesus is proclaiming is pretty radical. And they’ve got jobs and families to worry about. More than that, they’ve been entrusted with running their synagogues. They’ve got responsibilities and people who are counting on them. And, besides, they’re good at what they’re doing. So why change? Or, at least, if they’re going to change, they want to have a pretty good idea it’s the right thing to do.
And who, quite honestly, hasn’t felt that way? When we are invited into significant change – whether regarding our work, or our relationships, or our congregational life – don’t we also look for a sign, for clues that this is the right thing to do, for reassurance we’re not being rash or impetuous. After all, we’ve got responsibilities and people who are counting on us, too.
The thing is, of course, what kind of sign could they possibly want beyond the ones they’ve already been given? Healings, driving out unclean spirits, feeding those who are hungry – these are pretty amazing signs.
But that’s not really the issue, is it? They want signs, Mark says, to test him. Sure, they’ve seen a lot and heard even more. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe they don’t just want a sign, they want a sign on their terms. Perhaps they’ve already decided they don’t believe, won’t change, unless he’s willing to play by the rules they’ve set. Which is, of course, just another way of saying they don’t want to change at all. Because it’s the very rules of the game that Jesus is challenging.
Which brings me back to my sympathy with the Pharisees. Because, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m kind of like this, too. Truth be told, as much as I like the idea of change, I resist the actual thing. Absent some significant incentive – and I mean seriously significant – I have a hard time letting go of what I know for a possibility better but definitely unknown future. And so I look for signs, everything lining up the way I believe it should before I’ll budge. But no sign – beyond the manifold already right in front of me – will be given.
Yeah, I can sympathize with those Pharisees.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to hear and listen to your voice, that we might recognize the invitation to a better and more abundant life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.