When I look at your heavens and all of creation—the moon, stars, and everything else that you have set in place—what is humanity that you are mindful of us? You have made your image bearers a little lower than the angels and all of the heavenly beings. You have crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands. You have put everything under their feet, all animals on land and sea. God of all creation, I pray today that you will remind your people of the gift and responsibility we have as stewards of your creation. May we be faithful in how we live, how we spend, how we speak, how we love, and how we enjoy your gifts.
We’ll look at just three verses today—Mark 8:11-13.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
(Mark 8:11-13 ESV)
The Pharisees wanted a sign. And it seems that this frustrated Jesus intensely. “He sighed deeply in his spirit…” I know this kind of sighing. I know the kind of frustration that wells up when people just seem completely oblivious to the truth that is right in front of them, and rather than joining the party, they’d rather poke and prod, trying to find holes. The difference, of course, is that my frustration is rooted in soil that is always tainted by my sin and spiritual blindness.
But Jesus was sinless and could see perfectly—right into the hearts of the men and women he encountered. And at the end of the day, I think that is why he was so frustrated. He could see their hearts, and he knew the evil that prompted their arguing and their desire to test him. Instead of seeing him for who he was—their long-awaited anointed one, their Messiah—they were blind. They didn’t believe. They lacked the very faith we’ve been witnessing in the disciples who followed Jesus, the people he healed (paralytics, lepers, possessed, deformed, sick, and deaf), and those who were fed by his miraculous provision. They assumed a position of judge—”you must prove yourself to us!” they seemed to be saying.
Jesus knew he didn’t owe them proof. He had been “proving” himself over and over already, bestowing his healing power and his provisional power and his knowledge of the kingdom of God for many days, weeks, months by this time. Besides that, faith is often belief without “proof.” He knew (it seems to me) that their hearts were evil, and no amount of “proof” would open their eyes. They were set on not believing, it seems.
And what did he do?
He simply said, “No.” And then he left in a boat.
I am floored by this, mainly because my nature would have been to argue. To explain. To prove myself. And this lesson is profound: sometimes you must simply say, “No,” and then leave.
We can waste a lot of time arguing. But we have work to do, work of mercy, kindness, love, and compassion. Work of glorifying God by our actions. And arguing can take us away from that.
I read a few blogs, and through my work as a social media consultant, I’m constantly watching Twitter streams and Facebook posts. And I see a lot of arguing going on there, especially among people who are considered followers of Christ. And the thing I find really interesting is that a lot of the arguing seems to be rooted in a demand to prove our faithfulness, our legitimacy as Christ-followers.
Meanwhile, there is a world that is desperate for the love and compassion of God. And how does that love and compassion get shown? Through the actions of people. We are God’s hands and feet, remember?
My challenge today is to avoid foolish arguments and just leave. Let the fools argue. I’d rather let my faith be proven by my actions. There is a time for fruitful dialogue, which might include disagreement, but that’s not what the Pharisees were looking for here. They were looking to pick a fight. And Jesus didn’t get swept into it for a second.
He got in a boat and got the heck out of there. And sometimes, that’s the only right thing to do.
Do you ever find yourself tempted to get involved in foolish arguments with people who are not truly seeking truth, but are rather seeking to be “right?” Don’t take the bait. Stay focused on the work we’re called to do: doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.