I was watching TV the other night. One of the characters, in justifying his lack of respect for local religious customs, said, “I only believe what I see, and even some of that I don’t believe.” What a sad statement about the times in which we live. But was it any different in Jesus’ day?
The religious leaders were constantly challenging Jesus about His disciples not following the religious traditions. The religion, which began with God’s miraculous rescue from Egypt, had become just rules, regulations and traditions. I’m reminded of the movie “The Fiddler on the Roof” in which Tevye explains that their traditions govern what they eat, how they work and even what clothes they wear.
In this instance in Mark 8, the religious leaders come to Jesus and ask Him for a sign from heaven. I would have rolled my eyes, heaved a sigh and given a sarcastic, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” But verse 18 gives Jesus response, “He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.’” (NIV) In Matthew’s account of this encounter, he quotes Jesus as saying, “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be fair weather for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today 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.” (Matthew 16:2-4 NIV) And in Matthew 12:40 He says, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (NIV)
They had all of Scripture, the law, the Psalms, the prophets, and yet were blind to God’s Miracle standing right in front of them. And even after His resurrection, they refused to believe.
Are we any different in the 21st century? “I only believe what I see, and even some of that I don’t believe.” This is not uncommon in our day. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1 NIV) He is showing miraculous signs every day throughout creation if we just stop for a moment and look around us. Open your eyes and see!