When Jesus’ Listeners Demanded a Sign, He Told Them No More Signs from God Would be Given
Once upon a time God was in the business of providing signs and wonders to His people in an ongoing effort to lead them through life’s struggle. Ten plagues struck Egypt and the Red Sea parted at the command of Moses, the Sun stood still in the sky at the behest of Joshua, and a widow’s son was raised from the dead at the order of Elijah. An iron axe-head floated for Elisha, a donkey talked to Balaam, and three Hebrew children survived after having been thrown into a fiery furnace.
From beginning to end, in fact, The Bible is nothing if not a litany of signs and wonders.
Yet one day, God decided to stop providing these marvelous indicators of His divine guidance, choosing instead to leave humanity to fend for itself ever after. Even more mind-boggling than the miracles themselves: It’s said that God ceased these divine intrusions into history with the arrival of the greatest miracle worker of all time, Jesus Christ.
As it so happened, Jesus had been in the habit of going about healing everyone He met, when He’d come upon a man who was possessed by a demon. Although the man was blind and mute because of this demon, he suddenly found himself completely healthy again in the presence of Jesus.
Amazed, someone in the crowd asked: “How can this be? Isn’t this Jesus just a son of David?”
And when the Pharisees heard about it, they said Jesus was casting out demons with the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons.1
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To this, Jesus responded:
But don’t you realize that every kingdom divided will be destroyed, and every house divided can never stand. If Satan casts out Satan, then he’s divided against himself. How will a kingdom like that ever hope to remain strong? And if I cast out demons with the help of Beelzebub, then by what power do your children cast them out? Therefore, they’ll be your judges. But on the other hand, if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.2
Then, some of the scribes and Pharisees responded to this display of power by insisting: “Teacher, we want you to give us a sign.”3
But Jesus answered:
Only an evil and adulterous generation goes about craving signs. But I’m telling you: No sign will be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah, because as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and nights, so also the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the Earth.
Then the men of Nineveh will rise in judgment against this generation to condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. But see how someone even greater than Jonah is here.4
Add to that, the Apostle Mark’s take, and it pretty much seals the deal:
When the Pharisees came forward, they began to tempt Jesus, demanding a sign from Heaven.
Sighing deeply, Jesus said, “Why is this generation so eager for signs? But I’m telling you: There will be no signs given to it.”
And He left them, getting into a ship and departing to the other side of the lake.5
So there you have it: Jesus seemed quite emphatic, didn’t He? Once and for all, He denied humanity the hope of ever receiving any more signs and wonders from His Father in Heaven. Isn’t that how the text reads to you? It is, after all, how centuries of church tradition have interpreted it; and who’s going to argue with that?
But wait; not so fast. Are you really so sure this is the last word on the subject? Yes, tradition may tell us it is, but as we’ve seen throughout this list, just because it insists Scripture says something doesn’t always mean tradition is right. Unless further analysis of the rest of the book supports a particular view, we as believers need not and should not feel obligated to accept it, regardless of the weight of tradition.
So what does the rest of The Bible have to say about God’s intent to provide signs and wonders to humanity?