Friday, May 16, 2014

In which Jesus mentions both science and the bible

Image source.

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 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.

Matthew 16:1-4

Pharisees, signs from heaven, weather, Jonah, what's going on here? Let's start at the beginning:

They came to "test" Jesus.

They weren't interested in an actual answer. They just wanted to make trouble. Have you done that before? Picking a fight with someone just because you want to argue? Or asking a question in order to classify the person into "us vs them" based on their answer?

Yeah. I've done that. It's not nice.

"A sign from heaven"

So, here's the thing. Back when I was a good Christian who knew all the answers, I knew that when people ask for a sign or some evidence of God's existence or whatever, and that THEN they would believe, they're LYING.

Well maybe not lying, maybe they actually think the reason they don't believe in Jesus is lack of hard evidence, but nope. The real reason is deep down, they know it's true but they don't want to obey God.

Even if God gives them that sign, it will never be good enough for them.

Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, but not because they wanted to believe.

Umm, right. SO IN REAL LIFE, maybe some people are like that, but man, I shouldn't assume everybody is. That bit about "everyone deep down knows Jesus is Lord- they just don't want to follow him", that's bullshit, okay?

In case you missed it: THAT'S BULLSHIT, OKAY?


It's totally normal and reasonable to doubt and ask for evidence before signing on.

Then Jesus talks about weather.

People know how to predict weather stuff based on the sky.

This involves science and logic and stuff. Keep that in mind for later.

"Signs of the times"

See here's the part where I start to get a bit lost. What "signs of the times" were they supposed to see? What were they supposed to conclude from them?

There was something about Jesus that should have been obvious but the Pharisees and Sadducees couldn't see. What was it?

Was it about how he was doing miracles to help people- to feed them and heal the sick- and therefore they should support his work instead of opposing him?

Was it about Jesus' teaching and his message of acceptance and love, and the way he spoke out against the religious rules that hurt people? (You know, even though those rules came from the bible.) Was he saying that, just as you USE YOUR BRAIN to figure out the weather patterns and how to predict them, you should USE YOUR BRAIN and see that even if those are the rules, they're doing more harm than good so let's ditch 'em?

Or was it supposed to be obvious that Jesus was the Messiah? I'm not sure- I really don't think the Old Testament is clear enough on the subject- so it's not reasonable to expect them to know it's him just because they know the bible. (In hindsight, you can say "oh this part here was a prophecy about Jesus" but I'm not so sure they would be able to get it the first time around. Kind of like how you have to watch "Ocean's 11" a few times before you get what happened.)

Image source.

I want to say it's something that's as simple as predicting the weather based on observations. Something you don't need a ton of knowledge for- you don't have to go into a ton of arguments.

What was it? Something that should have been obvious about Jesus, but they missed it. Ideas?

"The sign of Jonah"

Matthew 12:38-42 explains this a bit more. There are 2 aspects:
  1. Jonah was in the fish for 3 days before he got barfed up, and Jesus was dead for a day and a half and rose on the third day.
  2. The people of Nineveh repented when Jonah came, so they're going to judge y'all.
So perhaps Jesus is saying if they want a sign, they can have the resurrection, the sign to end all signs. That covers part 1.

But what about part 2? Jesus is saying repentance is the part that matters, not sitting around unconvinced because you haven't seen the right "sign." (Also the people of Nineveh were Gentiles, so, there's that.)

And I believe that's why Jesus said "a wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign." People want to pretend they're not sure yet, that they haven't seen the right sign, while there are OBVIOUS things right in front of us and we KNOW we should do something about it.

I'm not talking about knowing that Christianity is true, as I mentioned above. I'm talking about things that actually ARE obvious, like we need to love others.

Like how, for a while after I moved to China and started my job, I didn't give any money to charity. Because like, this is the first time I have a real job, I'm not sure yet how to spend my money, blah blah... That's true, but what's obvious is I can afford to give like 50 bucks or so every month, so I should do that. I'm sure I can afford more, but it's better to give a little than to be like "well I don't know how much I should give..." and not give anything.  

Things like that. Things that we know we should be doing, but we're putting them off because we claim to not have enough information yet. It's easier to just keep the status quo. It's easier to just do nothing.

They wanted a sign to see if they should listen to Jesus or not. But you don't need a "sign" to tell you whether you're supposed to love your neighbor.


This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: Jesus didn't want to break the rules? (Matthew 15:21-39)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

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