11The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
14Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
22They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
We want signs too—signs that things are improving or returning to normal. We want signs that will tell us something so that we can make sense of a world in quarantine, where the innocent suffer and where the inequalities of our day, rather than leveling, become starker as people lose jobs and the ability to pay for necessities. Where is God in this? Is God at work to make things better? Did we miss a sign that this was coming? Ultimately this kind of thinking reveals what we’re really looking for. We, like the Pharisees, want signs because information is our way of controlling what’s happening. If we know enough or read enough maybe, we think, we’ll find that one thing that will put things back in their place. This is what the Pharisees do. It’s not that they’re bad—they’re not. But they’re misguided in that they think their learning and success have given them special access into the knowledge of God. And so, by challenging Jesus, they’re attempting to put his teaching into their already comfortable categories that reduce God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, into a theological proposition. This is the sort of thinking that causes Jesus to get into his boat and float away. Not that the disciples are doing much better. Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their ideas that might spoil Jesus’ teaching. But the disciples are still thinking literally, wondering about their next meal. Maybe Jesus doesn’t give signs because he knows we will appropriate them for whatever we want, even when we say we want God. Only the blind man, ironically, sees clearly. Jesus heals him with a touch. He admits that, even then, he can’t see very well. Then he sees clearly. It’s not that we can ever see in ourselves. We need the touch of God to open our eyes, and that is always beyond our control. Maybe the evening Psalm for today gives the answer: “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Have courage and wait.”
Holy God, we wait on you. Nothing else will satisfy our curiosity and fear and longing. We don’t want signs or even the suggestion that we are in control; but we put all that we have into your hands, trusting that the grace of your Son and the comfort of your Spirit will meet us, even in distress. We wait on you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.