The only sign we need

Pencil Preaching for Monday, February 17, 2020

“Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12).

James 1:1-11; Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees must have been in a deep quandary over Jesus, seeing his popularity and the astonishing miracles he was working. But they were troubled by his stretching of the Law and ignoring of rituals, his free association with public sinners, pagans and untouchables. Disregarding the evidence right before their eyes, they attacked his lack of formal training and establishment credentials.  He was, after all, just a hill country preacher from Galilee, and they were educated lawyers and professional models of righteousness.  How could God be with him?

So, they asked for a “sign from heaven,” a nod from God to prove he was orthodox and authentic.  What Jesus gave them instead was a “sigh” from the depths of his spirit and a “no” to their request. “No sign will be given to this generation.” If they were blind to the facts, they would not be convinced by some miracle.  In a gesture like the one he approved for his disciples -- to shake the dust from their feet when people didn’t listen -- Jesus simply got into the boat and went off to the other shore.

We have seen this kind of reaction before. Jesus flashed with anger in the synagogue when the Pharisees refused to answer whether it was lawful to heal the man with the withered hand on the sabbath (Mark 3:16). Their obstinacy distressed him deeply.   They didn’t want to accept him because he had challenged their assumptions about God, their reliance on the letter of the law and their aloofness and lack of empathy for the poor and vulnerable.  They asked for extraordinary proof because they didn’t want to believe in him or change their ways. They were like people who won’t take yes for an answer.

God does not excuse us from taking a leap of faith. Ordinary experience and common sense are enough to show us the presence of God. Do the right thing. Listen to your heart when you are moved with pity.  Never turn away from someone in need whom you can help.  Be a neighbor. We are already well equipped to be decent human beings. What more proof do we need to sow generously in order to reap the same, to be a friend to make a friend, to forgive others to free ourselves from strained relationships and regret?    

Jesus himself is the sign God sent to show us what graciousness and freedom look and feel like. What more do we need to know that God is at work among us and in all things? 

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