A Sign from Heaven
(Mark 8.11,12; Luke 11.29-32)
38 Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a sign from heaven.”
39 But Jesus replied:
You want a sign because you are evil and won't believe! But the only sign you will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 He was in the stomach of a big fish for three days and nights, just as the Son of Man will be deep in the earth for three days and nights. 41 On the day of judgment the people of Nineveh will stand there with you and condemn you. They turned to God when Jonah preached, and yet here is something far greater than Jonah. 42 The Queen of the South will also stand there with you and condemn you. She traveled a long way to hear Solomon's wisdom, and yet here is something much greater than Solomon.
Return of an Evil Spirit
43When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when the demon doesn't find a place, 44it says, “I will go back to the home I left.” When it gets there and finds the place empty, clean, and neat, 45it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and the person ends up in worse shape than before. That's how it will be with you evil people of today.
Jesus' Mother and Brothers
(Mark 3.31-35; Luke 8.19-21)
46While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside because they wanted to talk with him. 47Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to talk with you.”
48Jesus answered, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” 49Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “These are my mother and my brothers! 50Anyone who obeys my Father in heaven is my brother or sister or mother.”
It comes as a bit of a surprise that the scribes and Pharisees would ask for a sign. Surely healing the blind, raising the dead, and casting out of demons, should count for something. How can they miss what is going on through the words and works of Jesus? Well, perhaps through stubbornness, blindness and the wish to hang on to their own version of things rather than be disrupted by an alternative. Jesus is of course the sign of God’s kingdom – a sign undiscerned by the Pharisees and scribes. The story suggests that beyond what they already know the only further sign will be the resurrection of Jesus. His mention of Jonah is a reminder that the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s preaching (Jonah 3:10), while those who were listening to Jesus – a prophet greater than Jonah – remain unresponsive. Likewise the Queen of Sheba responded to the wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 10:6-9) – and now someone more kingly than Solomon is here and the scribes and Pharisees fail to discern the kingdom presence.
We too, though well acquainted with the teaching of Jesus, can remain unresponsive, and possess a knowledge that makes little difference in our lives. The strong and sobering words of Jesus speaking of an evil and adulterous generation unmask the self-centredness of the people and their failure to live faithfully to their covenant with God.
A demon cast out is only the first step. What is required next is to acknowledge a Saviour. Humble repentance is a start but it must be followed by an embrace of the one who forgives us. A heart without commitment is fertile ground for the enemy to multiply his presence. At the end of this chapter Jesus makes clear that belonging to the family in the kingdom is determined by a faithful obedience to the will of the Father.
Life-giving Lord, protect me from choosing the paths that lead to death. Open my heart to receive the good news of your kingdom, to keep covenant with you and to have the courage and strength to do your will. In Jesus’ name.