The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
(Mark 8:11-13 ESV)
Let’s review for just a moment. Between Mark 1:14 and now, Jesus has:
- Healed a man with an unclean spirit
- Healed Peter’s mother-in-law
- Healed “all who were sick” and cast out demons
- Preached throughout Galilee
- Cleansed a leper
- Healed a paralyzed man
- Restored a withered hand
- Commanded the wind and waves to be still
- Cast out multiple demons from a man
- Healed a woman with a chronic flow of blood
- Raised Jairas’ daughter from the dead
- Fed 5000 people without any supplies
- Walked on water
- Healed a bunch of people who weren’t even Jews
- Fed 4000 more people without any supplies
No wonder Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit” when the Pharisees came to him asking him for a sign from heaven. What more could they possibly have wanted?
We know for a fact there were Pharisees present for most of the experiences listed above, so they can’t argue that they haven’t seen any miracles. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? They hadn’t seen any miracles, even though they were there.
In C.S. Lewis’ great climax to the Chronicles of Narnia, as the world of Narnia has finally come to an end, there is a pathetic scene in a barn:
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.”
They all said: “Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”
As one of the key prophecies of Isaiah says, ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ (Isaiah 6:9)
The problem with the heart of a Pharisee, using the term here to describe anyone who takes this stance, is that it refuses to see what is right in front of it. God offers us so much more than we are willing to take in, for fear we will be taken in by God:
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
But he would feed him [Israel] with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
(Psalm 81:13-16 ESV)
What sign are you looking for?