As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 8:1-21
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
During a recent trip to the Hill Country, my family visited a ranch not far from Utopia, Texas. The ranch was not visible from the main road. We were told to look for a cast iron sign shaped like a Christmas tree, visible just past a specific mile marker. Everyone in the car kept an eye out for the sign. Without it, we couldn’t find our way.
All of us rely on signs now and again. They keep us on track, orient us, and carry us to our intended destination. They tell us when to slow down and when it is acceptable to speed up, when to exit and where to merge. They let us know when the store is open and when it is closed. They tell us not to trespass and when there is danger. They tell us who’s welcome, what to wear, and who’s hiring. Signs convey all kinds of information.
In the days of Jesus, certain people were on the lookout for a sign. They wanted to know that God was on the move, that it was really God, and not some figment of their imagination. When the Pharisees come to Jesus to question him, they test him by asking for a sign. “If God is really with you, if the kingdom really has come near, show us.”
Little has changed. We do the same thing. We ask God to show us signs and wonders. We seek confirmation of God’s existence or ask God to clearly reveal to us our path. We then take all kinds of things as signs, finding affirmation and denial of God’s will, God’s approval, or God’s directive in either tragic events or in everyday fortune. If a parking spot opens on the front row of the grocery store we say it is a sign of God’s favor. If we do not receive a job we were hoping for or if we become ill we take it as a sign of God’s displeasure. Signs. Everywhere.
In his book What God Wants for Your Life, Frederick W. Schmidt observes that we often look to signs and wonders for reassurance, certainty, or a sense of God’s presence. We want to make right choices and have guaranteed success, which then allows us to move forward with confidence. Signs and wonders remove the mystery from life. But as Schmidt points out, constantly seeking signs and wonders diminishes our experience of the spiritual life, limiting our capacity for self-giving, adventure, reflection, and a learned reliance on God.
The Pharisees came to Jesus seeking a sign. Jesus said that no sign would be given, at least not the kind the Pharisees were seeking. The signs were, in fact, all around. In Matthew 11:2-6, John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is really the Messiah, or if they should look for another. Jesus replies, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” Jesus adds, “Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of me.”
The signs are all around us, too. The greatest sign, the empty tomb, continues to declare that Jesus is risen. The empty cross continues to tell us that Jesus’ work is finished. The church continues to be filled with those who have been healed, restored, and redeemed by the power of God. The good news continues to be proclaimed and all kinds of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, status, and class respond. God has acted, and is acting.
But will we perceive it? Will we see? And will we respond in faith? Will we learn to trust God, not in order to receive a sign, but because we want to walk with God as a friend?
Jesus is the sign. He is also the way. Live in him, and follow his lead.
God, help me to seek you today, to trust in you, and to live faithfully in your sight. Rather than asking for a sign, help me to receive Jesus and to follow him as he leads. Teach me to recognize his voice, to obey him, and to live a life of love, self-giving, and fellowship with the Father and the Spirit, just as he demonstrated for us. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.