The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
If this sounds familiar, it should. The religious leaders have already, on an earlier occasion, come to Jesus asking for a sign and he had replied with the very same response: “None will be given … except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 12:38-39).
Adding further irony to the scene is the fact that we, as readers of Matthew’s Gospel, have been watching as sign after sign has been delivered from Jesus’ own hands. Most recently, the daughter of the Canaanite women has been healed, followed by multitudes of healings in the region of the Decapolis. Granted, perhaps these miracles, occurring in Gentile areas, had evaded the notice of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but there were many others that had taken place in Galilee. These leaders, although based in Jerusalem, had now expended energy to pursue Jesus into the area of Galilee itself – surely, if they were as interested in signs as they profess, they could have simply asked the locals.
But they are unwilling and unable. The “signs of the times” are occurring all around them, but they are not able to open their eyes wide enough to take them in. They are eager and able to read the evening and morning skies to determine the weather forecast for the day, but they are blind to the more consequential in-breaking signs of the kingdom, the very signs of Jesus’ own ministry.
So, they ask for more. But it’s clear that without a change of heart they would be unable to see any better with further rounds. Indeed, when the sign of Jonah is later given – the resurrection itself – there is little immediate response from the religious leaders, except to co-opt the soldiers who had guarded Jesus’ tomb, bribing them to deny the resurrection and say that the disciples had stolen the body. So much for truly wanting a sign.
Yet I am reminded again that after Pentecost even “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). True miracles are still possible. But it always requires the wooing work of the Father, drawing people to the Son (John 6:44), and the eye-opening work of the Spirit, guiding into all truth (John 16:13).
So, when we encounter similar skepticism today, with people demanding signs, while ignoring the life and death and ministry and resurrection of Jesus himself, we shouldn’t be surprised, nor should we lose heart. It simply brings us to the further realization that the intervening work of the Triune God is always required.
So pray, asking the Lord to once again open blind eyes.
Holy Father and Holy Spirit, please open blind eyes once again to the saving reality of Jesus. I bring before you, now, those in my own life who so desperately need to see. Set aside skepticism. Dispel blindness. Bring your healing life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pray: Once again, name those who need a divine touch to see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Pray that their eyes might see. Pray for their salvation.