“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless, God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 8:1-30; focused on Mark 8:11-13
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 miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat, and crossed to the other side.
Seeking a sign
As a retired teacher, I know that any test is effective only insofar as it actually measures the objective it is designed to measure. Its purpose should be the guiding principle behind its administration. When the Pharisees in this passage of scripture decided to test Jesus, what was their objective, their purpose? Were they trying to ascertain whether his power was authentic or in some way staged for the benefit of the crowds that followed him from place to place? Were they genuinely interested in seeing whether God’s approval of Jesus’ ministry would manifest itself in a visible way? Or was their solicitation of an “on demand” miracle an attempt to see whether Jesus would comply with their request and thus place himself under their authority, i.e., under their control?
Whatever their motives, Jesus refused to give them a sign. Clearly, the objectives of his miracles were not to entertain audiences or to attract attention to himself. The Pharisees should have understood that by now. There is such an element of exasperation in the deep sigh that precedes his response, almost as if he is saying, “You have already seen many signs and wonders, and yet you still do not believe. You have already made up your minds about me. What makes you think that anything I do now will change your hearts?”
Sometimes, we present-day Christians feel the need to ask God for signs and miracles, especially when we are facing a momentous decision, when we need his guidance for undertaking an action with far-reaching implications or potential consequences, or when our faith is being tested by events outside our control. When we do so, it is fitting that we examine our motives. Are we genuinely seeking God’s will in our lives, trusting that he has our best interests at heart and that no circumstance is beyond his ability to use for good? Are we placing ourselves under his authority rather than trying to place him under our own? Most of all, do we recognize that the way in which God chooses to respond to our request is not an indication of his power to do so or a measurement of whether or not he loves us?
The scriptures teach that God is all-powerful and that his love for humankind is such that he would send us Jesus to be our teacher, our friend, and, ultimately, our Savior. In the life and death of Christ, we have already been given a more miraculous sign from heaven than we could ever request.
Jesus, You have already displayed Your great power and Your great love for us in that while we were still sinners, You died for us. It is beyond our comprehension. You also remember that we are finite and fragile, so we need You - we need to know Your continued presence in our lives in the midst of all that we face here on earth. We are ever grateful for the promise of Your presence.