A sign from heaven (Lk 11:16-11:16)

“Others,

To test Jesus,

Kept demanding

A sign from heaven.”

 

ἕτεροι δὲ πειράζοντες σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἐζήτουν παρ’ αὐτοῦ.

 

Luke said that other people tried to test Jesus (ἕτεροι δὲ πειράζοντες), by demanding or seeking from him (ἐζήτουν παρ’ αὐτοῦ) a sign from heaven (σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ).  There were other instances about people looking for signs from heaven, but not within this context.  In Mark, chapter 8:11, the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven, since they wanted to test Jesus.  Heavenly signs had been common among the prophets to prove their authenticity.  In Matthew, chapter 16:1, both the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to Jesus.  They wanted to test Jesus also.  They also asked him to show them a heavenly validation of his work.  Later in Luke, chapter 11:29, there was also talk about the sign of Jonah.  Thus, there was a continual attempt to test Jesus, by asking him to give some heavenly signs.  Do you try to test Jesus in your life?

 

The dichotomies of life

“A good name is better

Than precious ointment.

The day of death is better

Than the day of birth.

It is better to go to the house of mourning

Than to go to the house of feasting.

This is the end of everyone.

The living will lay it to heart.

Sorrow is better

Than laughter.

By sadness of countenance,

The heart is made glad.

The heart of the wise

Is in the house of mourning.

But the heart of fools is

In the house of mirth.

It is better for a man

To hear the rebuke of the wise

Than to hear the song of fools.

Like the crackling of thorns under a pot

So is the laughter of fools.

This also is vanity.

Surely oppression makes the wise foolish.

A bribe corrupts the heart.”

Qoheleth presents a reflection on life and death, like the modern philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). With his phrase Sein zum Tode, from his book Being and Time, Heidegger meant that all human beings were destined to die. It is our purpose in life to die. Therefore we must live our life now in authenticity. Qoheleth starts off by saying how important a good name is, more prized than precious ointment. Also the day of death is more important than the day of your birth. It is better to mourn than to feast. As usual, he points out that everyone will die, so that the living must be aware of that. Sorrow was better than laughter, rather than the other way around. The heart was made glad through a sad face. The truly wise mourn, while the fools live a life of mirth. Listen to the criticisms of the wise rather than the songs of fools. Foolish laughter is like burning thorns crackling on a fire since it is pure vanity and useless. Oppression makes us wiser, but bribes corrupt the heart.