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Reflection 15th February 2021
The Gospel Mark Chapter 8 verses 11 to 13
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Our gospel today is two short verses, but through them Jesus leads us towards a profound insight into the nature of God.
If we believe that God created the world, and everything in it, then the whole creation will be a sign of the creator. Every plant, every animal, every geological rock formation, every person, every situation – will show us who God is and they are to be found in the ordinary, everyday things of life.
The Pharisees are looking for an extraordinary sign from Jesus, something that other would-be Messiahs of the day might promise. But whilst of course God does break through into the ordinary most particularly in the birth of his Son and with extraordinary miracles of healing and feeding, and examples of both are given in this chapter, Jesus sighs deeply at the lack of understanding and faith of a generation that will only believe through such signs.
He tells them that no such sign will be given, and leaves that place, gets back into the boat and crosses back to the other side.
Perhaps this in itself is a sign we could reflect upon – when a person is not able to see who God is or the signs that are present all around, Jesus doesn’t spent hours and days arguing, but gets in the boat and leaves them behind. It reminds me of his instruction to the disciples to shake the dust from their feet and move on if a town does not welcome them on their missionary travels.
Instead we read in the verses that follow that Jesus spends time with his disciples, who themselves seem to have failed to understand the significance of his feeding both the four and the five thousand, asking if they have “eyes but do not see, and ears yet do not hear”. Then he goes on to heal the blind man at Bethsaida and we reach a pinnacle of understanding as he asks his questions “who do people say that I am” and “who do you say I am”, and Peter makes his most profound confession that Jesus is the Messiah.
Comparatively, Jesus didn’t have very much time in his earthly ministry. Every encounter needs to count and lead people towards understanding – like the blind man having his eyes opened and like Peter recognising the reality of his nature.
We share and reflect a lot in our Wayfarers group how we have seen God active in and through “the ordinary” – in his creation and through each other – in our gardens, on the cliff path, in praying for each other and in neighbourly interactions. Seeing the signs of him in daily life makes every day a journey of exploration and joyful discovery drawing us deeper into God’s life and love for us and all creation. Never is a day boring or without inspiration, for the signs are all around us. They may be signs that fill us with joy and wonder, gratefulness and generosity or peace and compassion in the face of suffering, but all can speak to us of the glory and mercy of God our Father.
May we always be people with eyes who are able to seek out and see, and ears able to listen and hear. Amen
The Collect for the Sunday before Lent
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.