The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And 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.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
If you look at the picture above, do you see a young woman or an old woman? Well it's an optical illusion. According to the experts, younger people tend to first see the the young girl, and older people the elderly lady. Can you see both figures? If not, concentrate on the arrow point - the black curving slash is the old woman's mouth, but is the young woman's necklace; or look at the eye of the old woman which is the ear of the girl. The girl looks upwards towards the left, and the old woman looks down to the left - she also has a huge nose!
In New Testament times people were accustomed to look for signs of God at work in the world. So a new star might signify the birth of the Messiah, as happened not just with Jesus but at Herod the Great's birth. Often 'pretend' Messiahs (and there were many) promised feats to rival Moses' actions! So in typical fashion we see the Pharisees come to Jesus asking for a sign to prove he was God's Messiah. Isaiah prophesied that when God came to rescue His people:
'Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.' (Isaiah 35.5-6).
The Pharisees could not see that Jesus himself was the sign, even though they witnessed his work in healing the people and his authority over nature.
In today's world sometimes we cannot see the signs of God at work in our world. Just as we struggled to see the young or old woman, we struggle to see the real picture. We become sucked in to the negative news that we hear each day, and forget that God is at work in every act of love, compassion, generosity, and selfless giving. These are the true signs of God's work.
sometimes we get caught up
in the negative news that appears
on social media
or the news on our televisions,
so that we forget to notice
the acts of love and compassion
that occur in our world.
Help us to make a difference
by spreading love through our actions
this day and in the future.