Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mark 8:11-13 The Pharisees Seek a Sign from Jesus

11Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. 12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” 13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side.

Jesus after feeding the four thousand now returns with His disciples to the land of Galilee. To a place called Dalmanutha. In Matthew’s parallel passage Matthew refers to it as Magdala (See Matt. 15:39). It appears then that Dalmanutha was near or akin to Magdala on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, near the hometown or birthplace of Mary Magdalene. ***
And so with Jesus and the twelve disciples back in the land of Galilee the Scripture states: “Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.” Vs.11 Even though Jesus had recently just miraculously fed the four thousand; something that they themselves in all likelihood would have been aware of. Yet it is clear by both the nature of their inquiry, and Jesus' brief response to them, that they themselves were still hardened to the fact that Jesus is truly the Son of God, sent from God, first to His covenant people, and now to all people. And so their seeking a sign from Jesus was (by external appearances) to find evidence that God had sent a prophet to His people. For if the sign came to pass that was to confirm that the prophets message was from God. As long as the prophet did not try to turn the people’s hearts away from God, then the prophets sign was to be respected, and his message obeyed (Deut. 13:1-5). That is how God told Israel to identity His prophets.
Now Jesus Christ Himself was “a sign” (if you like) from God (Luke 2:34-35). From the angel Gabriel's foretelling of Jesus' birth to Joseph and Mary and how He would both establish God's everlasting Kingdom with men and save His people from their sins, (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-33). To the Lord Jesus Christ being heralded in by angels, in the heavens, at His birth (Luke 2:13-14). To even John the Baptist being raised up by God to preach a baptism of repentance, according to God’s Prophetic Word (Mal. 3:1; Matt. 11:10) to prepare Israel for Jesus imminent arrival (Matt. 3:1-3). So that all who repent and believe in Him will have remission of all their sins and everlasting life (Acts 5:31-32). Therefore John in faith and obedience to God declared to all that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Which was continually confirmed by God Himself through all of Jesus' merciful acts and healings by the Holy Spirit that He did; who even confirmed Jesus at His baptism by God when God Himself openly declared “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 4:17

Therefore the Pharisees if not eye witnesses to some of these things, would have been told of many, if not all of them. And so their seeking a sign at this point from Jesus seems utterly unreal! For they being experts in the Law of God surely should have been able to instinctively piece together at least some of the many Old Testament Scriptures which fortell of the Christ's (or Messiah's) Person, were in fact being fulfilled in their very presence, and in their very days! For the Lord Jesus Christ is the only One whom the Scriptures foretell and point to (Genesis 3:15; 49:10; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Psalm 2 (vs.7); 8:2; 8:4-6; 22; 16:10; 34:20; 35:11; 35:19; 40:7-8; 41:9; 45:6-7; 68:18; 69:9; 69:21; 110:1, 4; 118:22-23; Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-2; 42:1-4; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-2; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 31:10; 31:15; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Daniel; 9:25-26; Hosea 11:1; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9; 11:12-13; Matthew 2:23; Acts 3:11-26; 13:16-41 etc.) Even the Law of God which the Jews seemingly trust in, always point to faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation from sin and death, not Moses and the Law (Hab 2:4; Acts 13:38-41; Rom. 3:19-28; Gal. 3:19-25). Therefore the Pharisees in seeking a sign from Jesus after He had just fed the four thousand, and the five thousand previous to that, when Jesus revealed Himself as the bread of life come down from heaven to feed mankind (John 6:35) were not inquiring of Jesus Christ as seekers wanting to confirm God’s Word, which He Himself had already amply done.
Their purpose in trying to test Jesus was born out of their unbelief about Him (John 7:47). They already had ample evidence that verified His Person, both of what they had seen and heard. God had already revealed Himself through Jesus Christ to them, just as He does today through both His Word and His people to all people. Therefore with the Pharisees seeking a sign from Him, Jesus does not give them a sign. For God does not give signs to change a person’s hardened heart from unbelief to faith. That is why Jesus says no sign shall be given to this generation; that is to them and all those like them, who simply refuse to believe and thus receive His Person. For again though God gives signs to confirm to His people that it is He who is speaking to them, of which they had plenty. He does not give signs to those who refuse to believe the revelation already given them. Jesus’ response than to the Pharisees request for a sign shows a heart that is deeply wearied by the unbelief in theirs; for the Scripture says. “But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Vs. 12

Now the word translated sighed deeply is an intensified form of the word used to described someone sighing; it means, “to draw up deep sighs from the bottom of the breast, to sigh deeply” Enhanced Strong’s
Jesus then manifested the weight of a Man who having done so many amazing and merciful things and just recently having healed an incredibly disabled man, then fed four thousand people before arriving back in Galilee, was deeply wearied by the Pharisees hardened hearts towards Him. Notice both Mark and Matthew’s parallel passage (See Matt. 16:1-4) then records that Jesus left the Pharisees (Mark 8:13) not just a literal leaving, which He did, but a leaving of them to their own unbelief and miss understandings about Him. For the Pharisees were externally religious men, but internally their lives and their doctrine were corrupted and hypocritical. For them to seek a sign from Jesus was not only hypocritical in that they themselves did not have genuine faith in God. But they themselves made themselves out to be the keepers of the truth, while living contrary to it. That is why Jesus in Matthews parallel passage (Matt. 16:1-4 ) calls them a wicked and adulterous generation whom He will give no sign to, except the sign of Jonah the prophet, which is a reference to His own resurrection from the dead which is the ultimate sign of His coming from God.
Jesus then didn’t give them the sign they requested, nor will He give you a sign if you request one from Him as proof of His Person coming from God, though the devil might. The Lord Jesus Christ’s Person must be believed by faith, not blind faith, but evidential faith, of His coming from God as the Scriptures foretell and which He has fulfilled (Heb 11:1). God’s Word plus the Lord Jesus Christ's own deeds and Words is a sign enough as Jesus has clearly said (Read John 5:31-47).

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

Additional Resources
*** Gleaned from articles on Dalmanutha and Magdala in Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1995.

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