The Next Big Thing

In a recent interview, Deanna Hinshaw pointed out that a disease like Covid-19, and not SARS, is a public health officer’s biggest test. With SARS, because it both highly virulent and highly deadly, people take it seriously and use the appropriate precautions to avoid infection. With Covid-19, it is highly virulent but not highly deadly (in comparison to SARS at least) and so it is much more difficult to convince people to take the appropriate precautions. People seem to be waiting for something bigger to come along.

This isn’t exclusive to the 21st century or even the field of public health. Jesus dealt with it.

It is helpful in studying Scripture to analyze it as literary units within the larger frame of the narrative of a book. In Matthew chapters 14 to 16 form one of these such units. We are toward the end of it when the Pharisees and Sadducees come to Jesus requesting a sign.

It is an ironic request. In the short space of the last two chapters Jesus has:

  1. Fed 5000+ people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
  2. Crossed most of the Sea of Galilee on foot.
  3. Performed a long distance exorcism.
  4. Fed 4000+ with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

Jesus is well aware of the reality that if miracles, sign and wonders were going to make these people believe, they already would have. But He does promise them one further sign, though He does not expect them to recognize it:

“A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”

Matthew 16:4

The sign of Jonah came up a few chapters ago with this same group where Jesus explains that “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 14:40) The sign of Jonah is none other than Jesus death, burial and resurrection. And despite the infrequencies with which people practice resurrection, it fails to win many converts.

Resurrection it turns out is a pretty poor motivator for faith. Matthew is underlining that in fact these other four miracles are much more robust in their ability identify Jesus. Luke will make the point elsewhere that if people don’t pay attention to the Old Testament, the significance of the resurrection will slip past them (Luke 16:30).

So what? So quit waiting for that next big sign that God has really shown up in your life, some heavenly horseman appearing out of the clouds, sounding his trumpet. Turns out you probably have seen enough evidence already, you just need to evaluate it rightly.

Psalm 19 and the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome remind us that there is a great deal of evidence apparent in the natural world around us. If you’re reading this, you have access to God’s entire revelation in the Bible. Between those two, that should keep you busy for a minute.

Lord, I know you are there. Help my unbelief.

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