34. Signs in the Sky

Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 34.  Signs in the Sky

Mt 16:2,3    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.

I am sure most of us just meander through life with little thought of where it is going and where it has come from. I know that is how I was when I was younger; we were too busy just coping with life to think big thoughts. I am sure there are many people who are too busy coping with life to thing about and then think through ‘God issues’. Life goes on around us and just happens. Yes, we have what some call presuppositions, starting ideas about ‘stuff’ that we picked up along the way, but so often give little thought to how we picked them up, or who it was who passed them on to us.

The Pharisees, some two thousand years ago in Israel were rather like this. They had their beliefs which became certainties, until an itinerant preacher from the north starting making waves and unsettling people and then, even worse, came to Jerusalem and upset people before returning north again to do more of his unsettling work.

When you are ‘certain’ you can’t let things like this remain, you have to do something about it and so, The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.” (v.2)   Now where have we heard something like that before? Ah! “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Lk 4:3)  And, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Lk 4;9-11) So we know where this “prove yourself by a miracle” mentality came from! But it is more than this, it is “Prove yourself for us, prove yourself to us.”  That was a mistake!

Rather than focus on himself and prove how great he was, Jesus is more concerned to get the Pharisees to address their own short-sightedness. There he was, and had been for some time, performing miracle after miracle, healing after healing, and now they turn round and ask for a sign ‘from heaven’. Oh, come on! We’ve been through this business of the origins of what Jesus did, where his power came from. Have you forgotten that already? Hostility has a short memory. No, you just want Jesus to act on his own behalf. You know that if he is of God then it is God who does it through him, and you want to try to bend God’s arm to turn up for you. Don’t you realise you are messing with Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe?

But that is what makes this all the more amazing. God doesn’t strike these narrow-minded and short-sighted bigots down. While Jesus is around, some of them may yet get saved!!! So Jesus teaches them, because that is what God does.

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.’ “ (v.2,3a)  It’s funny isn’t it. Here in the UK we are hyper weather-conscious because we have such a changeable climate, but aware of the sky and the weaker conditions is a world-wide thing. We have a saying, “red sky at night, shepherds’ delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning.” Our weather lore includes, “It will turn into a fine day if it rains before seven or if it is foggy in the morning.” There are lots of this sort of thing and they probably vary in different parts of the world. So Jesus just gives them an example of this sort of thing. The point he is making is that they take this sort of thing for granted, they are happy to look for signs in the sky so, he adds, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (v.3)

In the previous study we suggested that perhaps sometimes we need to catch the look on Jesus’ face and perhaps it may not be as we have previously thought it. I don’t know about you but so often I think of these chiding words of Jesus coming over as from a hard teacher, and yet I wonder if it was like that. Is that what he would want to convey to his close followers? It doesn’t correspond to the Jesus who healed people without doing deep counseling with them, or the Jesus who could sit down with sinners and have a meal.

You see Jesus knew who he was and he had no need to be defensive and so did the conversation go something like this: Hard Pharisees – give us a sign. Jesus, with a big broad smile of total confidence – oh, come on guys, you’re better than this. You know how to reads the weather, how about learning how to work out what my Father is doing from heaven, and if you see me healing people all over the place in His name, doesn’t that speak of His love and goodness. So don’t be so stressed and don’t be like bad-hearted generation who are so blind they can’t see the good works of God.  I spoke to you before of Jonah and that’s the most significant sign I can give, and if you hang around long enough you’ll witness that (v.4).  Well, it may not have been like that, we just don’t know, perhaps it was the exact words Matthew recorded or perhaps there was a bigger conversation.

The same lesson is there as we picked up on recently – be careful what you demand of God, maybe your question originates out of blindness and that comes because a heart adjustment is needed. Pictures and lessons, pictures and lessons.

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