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 Pharisees seek a sign from heaven (Mk 8:11-8:11)

“The Pharisees came.

They began

To argue

With Jesus.

They were asking him

For a sign

From heaven.

They wanted

To test him.”

 

Καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ ἤρξαντο συνζητεῖν αὐτῷ, ζητοῦντες παρ’ αὐτοῦ σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, πειράζοντες αὐτόν.

 

This seeking of signs was common among the gospel writers, in Luke, chapter 11:16, and especially in Matthew, chapters 12:38 and 16:1-4.  The Pharisees wanted a sign.  There was no mention of the Scribes here, as in Matthew.  These Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that became the basis for later Rabbinic Judaism.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with the letter of the law above its spirit.  They had a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  The Pharisees in the New Testament, often engaged in discussion and disputes with Jesus and his disciples, as here.  Mark said that some of these Pharisees came to Jesus (Καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι).  They began to argue, dispute, or discuss with Jesus (καὶ ἤρξαντο συνζητεῖν αὐτῷ).  They asked him to show them a sign from heaven or a heavenly validation of his work (ζητοῦντες παρ’ αὐτοῦ σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  They wanted to test or tempt Jesus (πειράζοντες αὐτόν).  Heavenly signs had been common among the prophets to prove their authenticity.

Christian Whole Life

There are material dimensions to our life.  We are flesh, not just a spiritual soul.  We know about physical beauty and wealth.  If you are wealthy and the right race, does that prove that God loves you?  In reality, the physical world is morally neutral and can be an asset or a liability.  A disability can lead either to self-pity or courage.  Sex can either be an act of love or manipulation.  Wealth can be a power to help others or a path to greed.  We have to accept ourselves and who we are.  Thus, we have to let God shine through us.  We must bring our senses of touch, smell, and hearing into our faith.  We have to appreciate the beauty in the world around us.  Christians believe in an incarnation theology.  Jesus was truly in this world.  Do not fear the body, imagination or the aesthetic sense.  Your imagination uses myths and images to help you describe God, whether it be in music, art, or literature.

The Bel priests versus Daniel (Dan 14:8-14:9)

“Then the king

Was angry.

He called the priests

Of Bel.

He said to them.

‘If you do not tell me

Who is eating

These provisions,

You shall die.

But if you prove

That Bel is eating them,

Daniel shall die.

Because he has spoken

Blasphemy

Against Bel.

Daniel said to the king.

‘Let it be done

As you have said.’”

Then King Cyrus became angry at Daniel. He called in the priests of the idol god Bel. He told them to tell him who was eating the provisions that were set out for this god Bel. If they did not tell him, they would die. However, if they could prove that Bel was eating these provisions, then Daniel would die. One way or other, someone was going to die. The king accused Daniel of blasphemy with his statements about Bel. Daniel agreed to this proposition, death for him or the Bel priests.

One Davidic king (Ezek 37:24-37:25)

“My servant David

Shall be king

Over them.

They shall all

Have one shepherd.

They shall follow

My ordinances.

They shall be careful

To observe

My statutes.

They shall live

In the land

That I gave to

My servant Jacob,

Where you ancestors lived.

They,

With their children,

With their children’s children

Shall live there forever.

My servant,

David,

Shall be their prince

Forever.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, spoke lovingly about the kingship of David. However, King David lived nearly 400 years earlier than the time frame of the exile. Obviously, this is an allusion to a Davidic king, someone from his blood line. However, that would be hard to prove. The key point here was that there was going to be only one shepherd, one king, one country, not multiple kingdoms. Everyone would follow and observe Yahweh’s ordinances and statutes. They were going to live in the land that Yahweh gave to his servant Jacob, where their ancestors had lived. There they, their children, and their children’s children would live forever under the princely leader from the Davidic dynasty.

The rich fools (Jer 17:11-17:11)

“Like the partridge hatching

What it did not lay,

So are all

Who amass wealth unjustly.

In midlife,

It will not leave them.

At their end,

They will prove to be fools.”

Jeremiah has this neat little proverb about a partridge hatching an egg that it did not lay. This was compared to rich people who get their wealth unjustly. They will keep their wealth through midlife. However, at the end of their lives, they will prove themselves to be fools.

You cannot question the judgment of God (Wis 12:12-12:14)

“Who will say?

‘What have you done?’

Who will resist your judgment?

Who will accuse you?

For the destruction of nations

That you made?

Who will come before you?

Who will plead as an advocate?

Who will plead for the unrighteous?

Neither is there any god besides you,

Whose care is for all people.

Who can prove

That you have not judged unjustly?

Nor can any king confront you.

A monarch cannot confront you

About those whom you have punished.”

Who can question God? Who could resist him? Who will accuse him? Who will plead for the unrighteous? Who can prove that he judged unjustly? Notice that there is a shift from wisdom to God, who is then compared to all the other gods. This God (Θεός), formerly Yahweh, cares for all (πάντων) the people, not just the Israelites. No one could confront him, not even a king or a monarch (βασιλεὺς ἢ τύραννος). No one could question him about his punishments.

Wicked actions (Wis 2:10-2:11)

“Let us oppress the righteous poor man!

Let us not spare the widow!

Let us not regard the gray hairs of the aged!

But let our might be our law of right!

What is weak proves itself to be useless.”

Unlike Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes, this author believed that the impious would do wicked deeds. These impious ones wanted to oppress the righteous poor people (πένητα δίκαιον), take advantage of the widows (χήρας), and not respect the aged (πρεσβύτου) with their gray hair. For them, might and strength was only the law (νόμος) to prove who was right. The weak were useless. Only the strong survive.

Job maintains that he is innocent (Job 9:13-9:24)

“God will not turn back his anger.

The helpers of Rahab bowed beneath him.

How then can I answer him?

How can I choose my words with him?

Though I am innocent,

I cannot answer him.

I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.

If I summoned him,

And he answered me,

I do not believe that he would listen to my voice.

He crushes me with a tempest.

He multiplies my wounds without cause.

He will not let me get my breath.

But He fills me with bitterness.

If it is a contest of strength,

He is the strong one.

If it is a matter of justice,

Who can summon him?

Though I am innocent,

My own mouth would condemn me.

Though I am blameless,

He would prove me perverse.

I am blameless.

I do not know myself.

I loathe my life.

It is all one.

Therefore I say,

He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.

When disaster brings sudden death,

He mocks at the calamity of the innocent.

The earth is given into the hand of the wicked.

He covers the eyes of its judges.

If it is not he,

Who then is it?”

Job wanted to defend himself. The sea monster or chaos of Rehab had to bow to God. This was also the name of the prostitute in Joshua, chapter 2, who helped the Israelite spies. He wanted to know how he could prove his innocence. He would have to appeal to mercy. God would not listen to him. He has crushed Job because God destroys both the wicked and the blameless. Job loathed his life since he did not know himself. The judge’s eyes were closed so that now the wicked have control of things.

Tobias is confused (Tob 5:1-5:3)

“Then Tobias answered his father Tobit.

‘I will do everything that you have commanded me, father.

But how can I obtain the money from him

Since he does not know me

And I do not know him.

What evidence am I to give him?

How will he recognize and trust me?  

Also, I do not know the road to Media,

Or how to get there.’

Then Tobit answered his son, Tobias.

‘He gave me his bond.

I gave him by bond.

I divided his in two.

We each took one part.

I put one with the money.

Now twenty years have passed

Since I left the money in trust.

So now, my son, find yourself a trustworthy man to go with you.

We will pay him wages until you return.

However, get back the money from Gabael.’”

Tobias was confused. He had no idea who this man was that had the money in Media. He was willing to follow all the commandments of his father, but this money deal was confusing. How was he going to prove that he was the son of Tobit. On top of that, he did not know how to get to Media. Tobit than told him that he had half a piece of paper that corresponded with the half piece of paper with the money. 20 years had gone by, so that this guy Gabael might be dead. Tobit said that his son Tobias should find a trustworthy companion to lead him to Media and back. He was going to pay this person who would help Tobias when they returned with the money.