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. Mark 8, verses 11-13
We don’t need no stinkin signs. There: I’ve gone and paraphrased one of the most over-used cliché comic drops ever. Did you know that the first place anyone said “we don’t need no stinking badges” was in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, first in the 1920s book and then in the 1940s movie? It wasn’t the exact same wording, but it was close enough for Mel Brooks to parody it 30 years later, then to etch it into our pop culture consciousness.
And that consciousness is actually echoing Jesus. The Pharisees asking Jesus for a sign is really just mocking Him; “we’ll ask for your sign, Jesus, but we don’t need your stinkin sign.” Did you notice, yet again, how He answers them without berating or belitting them, yet His answer smacks them right back into where they started? “You’re right: you don’t need a sign. No sign will be given. I’m all the sign you need, pal.”
What signs are you or I looking for? Do you play the same game that I play, trying to bargain with God about what you have done wrong? “If I see x, y or z, I’ll know it’s a message.” Fool’s game. Or, “God, forgive me just this once…again…for doing that.” More fool’s game.
The truth is that the only response we can count on from God when we do this is the same response Jesus gave to the Pharisees. “Why do you ask for a sign? I’m all the sign you need, Dave.” Yet time and time again I forget that simple truth and then get all wrapped around the axle over small details that, in the grand scheme of things, are mostly unimportant. Things like signs.
Signs aren’t all bad. Road signs are helpful. Advertising can be helpful, as well as both provocative and mindful. Sometimes I need a sign to tell me where to go or what to do. On the surface, you’d think that’s what the Pharisees needed: some sign. Yet they were the edumacated teachers and preachers of God’s law ‘back in the day.’ Jesus reminds them of this fact by questioning them. Then He tells them “stop focusing on what isn’t important and turn your focus to what is.”
Am I extrapolating much from just these few verses? Of course I am, but IMO it makes sense to do so. It’s one of the things I like about the words of Christ. They pack a lot of punch into a little bit of message. It’s only natural that He would intend for us to ponder and ruminate on His few words…so long as we don’t go all Pharisee and wrap ourselves around that same axle of thinking too small. We don’t need no stinkin sign to tell us that.
Lord, help me to focus more and then only on You. It’s tough, and I sometimes forget to do it, or get sidetracked. Forgive me, re-focus me, and encourage me to do better.
Read Mark 8, verses 14-21.