Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And 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.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side. Mark 8:11-13

So there is the old joke: Two Pharisees notice Jesus walking across the water and one says to the other, “Look at that. He can’t even swim.”

Jesus is right. There isn’t a sign in the world that can help anyone see that which they refuse to look at. There isn’t enough evidence in the world to convince anyone of that which they refuse to accept.

“The Pharisees came and began to argue with him…”

We’re walking through Mark in these devotions at the same time as the impeachment investigation drones on in the House of Representatives. What is absolutely crystal clear to one side seems utterly preposterous to the other. Talking heads and talking points argue incessantly. Rejecting the message, they attack the messenger. People keep talking. Few are listening. No one seems to hear.

The ultimate sign that Jesus will demonstrate to the world will be his resurrection from the dead. But that can only come on the other side of the cross of his crucifixion. There is no easier way. There is no shortcut. No work around. No loophole. There is a price to be paid and Jesus will pay it.

Still, there will be Pharisees who will remain absolutely steadfastly convinced that Jesus was a charlatan all along, that the resurrection is a fanciful tale, and still they will wait, looking for the messiah – who will shower them with the earthly blessings that they want and think they deserve – that will never come.

But some will see Jesus for who he is. Nicodemus will come around. Saul will become Paul. And they will follow Jesus. Not because of what they get out of him, but because he brings them into a life that makes sense, a life that is grounded in the love of God for all people. Then those who follow Jesus will become themselves signs of who Jesus was and is and will be forever.

This moment ends with Jesus getting into a boat and heading across the water. He walks away. He doesn’t argue and wrestle to convince anyone to trust him, believe in him, or follow him.

The door is wide open. The welcome is warm. But no one is forced to follow Jesus. No one is forced to see what they are blind to, or hear what they refuse to listen to. Jesus’ love is not, and will never be, coercive.

Signs, by the way, are never the point. They are only markers letting you know that you’re heading in the right direction. I realize that, through all the generations, countless people have wanted a “sign” so that they might believe. They don’t realize that believing in signs is idolatry.

The right direction isn’t about acquiring enough evidence, it is about humbly surrendering to the truth, then paying the price that entails.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, whether we like it or not, we argue about so many things, seeking something other than the truth. Like those Pharisees who sought to test you, we also fall victim to the desire to turn you into a manageable, understandable, controllable, god. But you will have none of that and for that we are grateful. In that, you protect us from ourselves. May your love be the only sign we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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