The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
So he left them and departed. When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Matthew 16:1-12 ESV
My Thoughts: Our new chapter starts with a frustrated group of religious leaders demanding that Jesus prove he is who he said he is by showing them a sign in the sky, or from the heavens. Although this was something Jesus could easily do, he continued to refuse to produce miracles on demand.
Miracles…, what a touchy subject and I may be about to step on some toes.
I have had multiple people ask me (since I became a believer) why Jesus no longer performs miracles on earth. They aren’t talking about what they consider to be small miracles, but rather the ‘parting of the Red Sea’ type of miracle. I find it interesting that most of these skeptics have used this same example (with me) of the type of miracle they want to see. They affirm they simply cannot believe until they see the proof of such a magnificent miracle themselves.
Let’s begin by taking a quick look at the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. This occurs in the book of Exodus when God tells Moses he will be using him to set the Israelite’s free from oppression, tyranny, and slavery handed down by the Egyptians. Before the Red Sea is parted for the Israelite’s to cross and escape from the Egyptians, there were multiple plagues that caused horrible destruction and a lot of people died! After the Israelite’s crossed the sea, the wall of water collapsed and a lot of Egyptians died. If we look at what are considered other big miracles in the Bible I think we will see tyranny and destruction precedes or follows them as well.
Therefore, if Jesus responded to every request to see a Red Sea miracle or just a big miracle, aren’t we really asking for our world to be in a situation of chaos and oppression just so we can say we witnessed a miracle of this magnitude?
Do you know what really boggles my mind? If you read the entire account of Exodus, you will find that although God performs big miracles multiple times for his people, the Israelite’s were still very skeptical. While God is still leading them by a cloud in the daytime and a fire by night, something they witnessed on a daily basis with their own eyes, they went back to worshiping idols and even asked several times to be returned to their old lives as slaves!
So, that being said…, would we really believe Jesus is who he says he is if we witnessed a big miracle today? I wonder?
Besides, who of us can really say that big miracles aren’t occurring every day? Do we truly know what is going on in every teeny tiny place in the world? Do we really believe that God is going to have someone standing by at the ready to snap pictures just to prove to us there are miracles happening every day? Are we really that arrogant?
Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Listen, these questions are directed to me as much as they are to skeptics. In my last blog I confessed that I had to get back to the basics of remembering who Jesus is and what he has done in my own life. I will boldly tell you that I’ve experienced and been blessed to see miracles more than once since I became a believer. Those miracles may not seem big to you, but they are to me! Yet I’ve wavered in my faith, I’ve allowed hard things to bring me down, and I’ve even wondered if God hears my prayers because I’ve been praying the same prayer every day for nineteen years.
When I look at these religious leaders demanding to see a miracle, I remind myself of some things we’ve seen about their character throughout the book of Matthew. They really never cared about the miracles that Jesus did, they simply felt threatened by Jesus. They did not like that he was changing the foundation of what they believed because it threatened their livelihood.
But Jesus came for that very reason; so we no longer have to have an intercessory (religious leader) to approach God. We are no longer yoked by all the archaic sacrificial laws to receive forgiveness. Jesus died once for all and Jesus is the final and perfect sacrifice!
So why do we have to see a miracle? What is the basis of our real issue(s) that caused us to require a miracle before we believe? I pray that we all examine our own hearts to find out what is really going on and more than that, seek answers to our questions. However, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Meaning, do the real research; don’t just ask like-minded people to get the answers you want.
“Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:12 ESV
Finally, what if I told you that it doesn’t really matter if you believe the Red Sea parted to allow anyone to cross over, or if Jonah was swallowed by a whale and spit out after three days? What really matters is this:
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Believing these verses in your heart is the real miracle and sometimes when it happens it is a huge miracle!
This is what I hope you spend your time learning, understanding, and ultimately believing. Because if you don’t, that means that I won’t be with you in heaven and I can’t even conceive of that possibility. It’s what keeps me praying the same prayer every night and what keeps me from giving up:
“I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Genesis 17:2
That might not mean anything to you but it is everything to me; it’s a covenant between me and God and I know exactly what He meant when He said it to me nineteen years ago. It’s the hope that keeps me praying the same prayer willingly, every night…, for you.
Closing Prayer: Father God, I pray that I honored you today with My Thoughts. When you began to unfold where we were going with Thy Words yesterday I wept for the potential persecution, but my goal is to honor and glorify You above anything else. I ask for Your forgiveness when I fail You. Father I pray there are many eyes that read this blog and I pray they ask themselves what is holding them back from surrendering their hearts to You. I pray Father that the hearts of those I love, the very ones that I pray for each and every night, surrender to you and receive that assurance of forgiveness and everlasting life. I pray this in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.