Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 150, Jeremiah 14:1-9 (10-16) 17-22, Galatians 4:21-5:1, Mark 8:11-21
For Jesus, signs were a double-edged sword. They demonstrated his authenticity, his power, and his priorities. However, for some people, the signs themselves became more important than his message. When the Pharisees asked him for a sign to test him, “he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’”
Just a little while later, when he tried to make a point about the influence of the Pharisees and Herod by comparing it to the contaminating properties of yeast, the disciples fixated on literal bread. Jesus asked why they were still talking about bread – had they forgotten all about how he fed not one but two multitudes with few resources but plenty of faith?
Aggravating circumstances often accompany his miracles: before he wants to reveal himself his mother goads him into changing water into wine at a wedding; the disciples are shocked he can feed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes … the second time; his closest friends doubt him even as he raises Lazarus from the dead; Peter begins to sink beneath the waves when he doubts the Christ who helps him walk across the water. Christ hopes for faith that doesn’t depend on miracles, yet sometimes he resigns himself to the “necessary evil” of providing a sign.
Many of us have hoped for signs. Who couldn’t use a little reassurance now and then? For some of us they provide a kick start to spiritual experience. But the real measure of faith is what we do in the absence of signs. How pleasing must it have been for Christ when peopled followed him not because of what he could do for them, but because of who he was and what he taught? The second time the disciples presented him with loaves and fishes, he commanded them to feed the crowd themselves, and they were successful. Faith is not just believing in what Christ can do for us, but in trusting that he will accomplish miraculous things through us.
Comfort: God is with us regardless of whether we see signs.
Challenge: The next time you want to ask for a sign, try instead to pray for faithful discernment.
Prayer: Lord of all things, I will trust you always. Amen.
Discussion: How do you feel about signs?
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