|Sunset over Seattle sky line|
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,"Why does this generation seek a sign?Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation."Then he left them, got into the boat again,and went off to the other shore. Mark 8:11-13
This display of frustration is pointed and something we tend to not want to hear about Jesus. Clearly he was frustrated with this demand for signs to the point where he refuses to provide any. It almost sounds punitive which is out of character for our ideal of Jesus. Why might he have said this?
First, he may simply have been tired of being tested. He perceived correctly that the Pharisees were simply looking for fodder for their attempt to silence him, one way or the other. It would be very understandable--human, in fact--that Jesus would have tired of this constant game with the Pharisees.
Second and related, he could simply have had enough with providing signs--miracles and healings--which didn't convince anybody except a few disciples who chronically misunderstood what he was about. Why do more when the ones he had already performed didn't make any difference?
But third and for me most important, he wasn't really performing signs to convince anybody of anything. If someone believed that he was the Messiah and accepted his message because of his miracles, they were still operating in the realm of the world and human wisdom. Paul learned later that his attempt to preach to the Athenians using human wisdom was fruitless. He decided from then on to preach "Christ crucified which is foolishness" in terms of human wisdom.
Jesus was not preaching much that was new. He was calling his Jewish brothers and sisters back to a more rigorous and ancient understanding of Yahweh and the Divine One's relationship to humanity and creation. His message depended on his audience connecting with the spirit of the Divine One within, not on human wisdom focused in the external world of the "flesh."
What people might see as signs were not meant to convince anyone but rather to express the reality of mercy and compassion of the reign of the Divine One. They were an inside out expressions of the spirit within Jesus to which we are called to respond from our deepest spirit within.