Matthew 16:1-12 Signs

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Signs

Jesus, you warned us to look out for signs.  I hope that I see them.  I see the signs in the culture that moral absolutes are being abandoned and people are pursuing more and more what suits their appetites.  The signs of decay are in western culture (obesity, teen pregnancy, alcoholism) as we embrace advances in technology and business.  I would not like to have Victorian medicine or transportation, but I would like more Victorian morality.  Jesus, people recast the uptight family as the norm of the past, but the isolation and despair of the present is no real improvement.  We fight harder and harder to satisfy our selves, but we are left with just that: our selves.  Observers of the times are baffled because they see less honesty in society, and their solution is that we need more role models.  What kind of role models, though?  Surely we need people who model their lives after you.  However, those inside and outside the church are blind to your true nature.  People redesign you in their own image.  To gay people, you are gay; To feminists you are a feminist; to legalists you are a legalist. 

Jesus, you have allowed the signs of departing from truth to become rampant, but like the Pharisees and Sadducees of your day, people today keep demanding a sign.  They do not know what would satisfy them, but they demand that you give different signs than the ones that you give.  When they don’t understand you, they scoff.  Your servants are derided for being on the wrong side of history.  Your followers are seen as too conservative or too liberal for the times.

Like yeast spreading through bread, doubt and skepticism is spreading through public education, the media, and coffee house conversation.  Who can resist the signs of change that parade around Washington and Westminster?  Only those who see more sinister signs in what we have reaped in the last century.  In pursuit of freedom to do satiate our appetites, we are no longer free from the social evils that were held in check by temperance, fortitude, justice and prudence.  This is a sign of the times.

Questions

  1. How did Jesus use the heavens to answer the Pharisees’ demands?
  2. What kind of sign did skeptics ask for?
  3. Who does the skeptic accept as the authority in evaluating whether a sign is valid or not?
  4. What did the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ spreading skepticism signify?
  5. How are signs of the times interpreted today? 
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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