Mark 8: 11-12- The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, demanding of him a sign from heaven to test him. Sighing deeply in his spirit, he said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” CSB
As we have traveled through the book of Mark, we have seen Jesus perform many miracles. In the previous chapter He healed the Syro-Phoenician’s daughter by getting rid of the unclean spirit that had her bound. We don’t how He did it, we just know that He told her it was done and when she returned home, it was as He had said.
After that He healed a man who was both deaf and mute.
They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly.Mark 7:32-35 CSB
I don’t know what you are thinking, but even by today’s standards, this is a pretty impressive sign of the power of God. And yet, they seek a sign!
In the beginning of chapter 8, He feeds four thousand people! When we hear of a ministries feeding four thousand people today, we hear of the big trucks rolling in with produce, dairy products, water, meats and other goodies. When Jesus fed the four thousand, He asked what was around, and fed them all without breaking a sweat!
He called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked them.Mark 8:1-5 CSB
Somebody found some fish in the crowd, and He blessed that also, and they ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftovers! The Pharisees had to have heard about these miracles, and yet, they seek a sign!
For some people, as for the Pharisees, looking for a sign is not about building faith in God. If it was, Jesus probably would have given them a sign. But if you look at the first part of verse 11, it is obvious what they were doing.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, demanding of him a sign from heaven to test him.Mark 8: 11 CSB
This activity was the work of the devil, not of faith seekers. How do I know? Let’s return to the wilderness where Jesus spent forty days and forty nights. Mark doesn’t go into detail about that experience, so we need to visit the gospel of Matthew.
- “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3
- “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” Matthew 4:6
Twice, the devil tried to get Jesus to show proof of His divinity. Jesus didn’t do it for the devil and most certainly wasn’t going to be tricked into it by the devil’s agents. First of all, these verses should be written with “since” and not “if” for the devil knew that Jesus was and is the Son of God. Secondly, He was trying to get Jesus riled up enough to use His miracle working power to overcome His temptation and to show off! The devil was trying to get Jesus to perform for him, at his bidding, instead of waiting on God’s timing. What a deceiver!
Today, there are still sign-seekers. They want us to prove that we are Christians by doing this or that! They want to attack our position in Christ by saying what we should and shouldn’t do if we are really Christians. They have the same spirit that the Pharisees had when they argued with Jesus and asked for a sign. But what did Jesus say to them?
Sighing deeply in his spirit, he said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”Mark 8:12 CSB
Why did Jesus sigh deeply in His Spirit? I believe it was because He understood with absolute certainty that nothing He said or did would bring the Pharisees to faith in God. There comes a time, sisters and brothers in Christ, when we have to face that there is nothing that we can say or do to lead some people to the Lord. They will ask us to jump through hoops because as Christians they think we should. They will ask us to flip over backwards because they like to see us perform. But the bottom line is that they are using us as the enemy wanted to use Jesus. Jesus walked away from those sign seekers! And unfortunately we are going to have to walk away from the sign seekers in our life. It’s too burdensome of a place to be when you are always proving yourself, your love, your faithfulness, your Christianity to sign seekers!
Jesus told them that they wouldn’t get a sign from Him. He had nothing to prove. He didn’t perform miracles to prove that He was God, He simply was God. He worked miracles because it was His nature, and because He was moved by compassion (see Mark 8:1). He worked miracles at the direction of God. He worked miracles because faith moved Him to do so. But never to prove anything to the devil or the world!
While Jesus was on the boat with the disciples He gave them a command that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Then he gave them strict orders: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”Mark 8:15 CSB
Since the disciples were already talking about bread, they thought Jesus was also talking about bread. They had only one loaf of bread between them all and they were probably discussing how it was not enough. Jesus was perplexed at the conversation, so much so, He asked if they had forgotten how He fed the five thousand, then the four thousand. They didn’t understand what He was talking about with the leaven, and they still didn’t understand that there is no lack with Jesus.
Back to the leaven. When He commanded them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod, He wasn’t talking about bread at all. In the natural, leaven was used to cause the dough to rise. A small piece of dough was kept to the side to start the next batch of dough. When this piece was placed in new dough, with time it would ferment the entire batch. That, Jesus was saying, was the way of the sin, the evil intents of the Pharisees. It may have seemed a small matter, but Jesus knew that it would grow in its influence against Him and He was warning them to be careful of it!
That’s a whole new blog, but suffice it to say, we too must be careful of the little sins that we can be enticed into practicing, or the little sins that we allow in our lives. It is still the little foxes that spoil the vine (Songs of Solomon 2:15). Wonderful Jesus!