MANKIND HAS ALWAYS wished for a “sign” from the Gods, an augury of such indisputable, authoritative power as to sweep all doubts and misgivings aside. And when the opportunity arose to ask God straight out, man didn’t hesitate.
In August of AD 29, Jesus and the twelve apostles were camped in Magadan Park, near Bethsaida-Julias. More than a hundred believers, evangelists, and others interested in Jesus and his kingdom had come over from Capernaum for a meeting with him. The Pharisees got wind of the event and made the trip, too. Already some of the Sadducees had joined ranks with the Pharisees in their efforts to entrap Jesus in some doctrinal heresy that would justify his arrest, torture, and demise.
Before the meeting with believers, Jesus had a public sit-down with the folks, at which the Pharisees did their best to heckle him and their worst to disrupt the whole thing. Said the leader of the Pharisees, “Teacher, we would like you to give us a sign of your authority to teach, and then, when the same shall come to pass, all men will know that you have been sent by God.” Jesus answered, “When it is evening, you say it will be fair weather, for the heaven is red; in the morning it will be foul weather, for the heaven is red and lowering. When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say showers will come; when the wind blows from the south, you say scorching heat will come.
“How is it that you so well know how to discern the face of the heavens but are so utterly unable to discern the signs of the times? To those who would know the truth, already has a sign been given; but to an evil-minded and hypocritical generation no sign shall be given.”
Yeah, we still have it bad. More than two thousand years later, otherwise sensible men and women still consult with astrologers, laboring under the belief that the course of stars and planets have something to do with events on earth. Charms, relics, crystals and other sundry lumps of stuff are still thought to heal disease, ward off disaster, and influence evil spirits. All of this crap is gross superstition.
While the current Hollywood craze of eternal vampires and deathless zombies may be more about jaded juveniles than metaphysical mysteries, many men and women still think the spirits of the dead can show up precipitately to shoot the shit with friends and family— albeit in breathy, halting prose. Divination, sorcery, and witchcraft are superstitions of ignorant minds, as are the delusions of magic. Belief in “magic” numbers, omens of good luck, and harbingers of bad luck— all of it pure and unfounded bunkum.
But man is not content to ruminate on this rubbish during his waking hours alone. He also drains mystery from the midnight hours as well. The interpretation of dreams being another largely superstitious and groundless “system” of ignorant and fantastic speculation. Jesus warned his followers that the gospel has nothing in common with soothsayers, enchanters, wizards, magicians, sorcerers, spells, bewitching, curses, mandrakes, knotted cords, signs, and yeah, most of those over-the-counter remedies for whatever ails you.
As Jesus prepared to give his last presentation at the Capernaum synagogue, the place was awash in a stew of official religious muckety-mucks, some fifty-three Pharisees having trundled over from Jerusalem, along with thirty-some leaders from other synagogues. Even Herod Antipas had a contingent of flunkies present to get to the bottom of this “king of the Jews” business. This was open war, and Jesus took the offensive.
Among other things, Jesus said,
“What is it you seek as evidence of my mission on earth? We have left you undisturbed in your positions of influence and power while we preached glad tidings to the poor and the outcast. We have made no hostile attack upon that which you hold in reverence but have rather proclaimed new liberty for man’s fear-ridden soul. I came into the world to reveal my Father and to establish on earth the spiritual brotherhood of the sons of God, the kingdom of heaven. And notwithstanding that I have so many times reminded you that my kingdom is not of this world, still has my Father granted you many manifestations of material wonders in addition to more evidential spiritual transformations and regenerations.
“What new sign is it that you seek at my hands? I declare that you already have sufficient evidence to enable you to make your decision. Verily, verily, I say to many who sit before me this day, you are confronted with the necessity of choosing which way you will go; and I say to you, as Joshua said to your forefathers, ‘choose you this day whom you will serve.'” [my italics]
It was during the after-meeting on this afternoon that one of the Pharisees brought to Jesus a distraught youth, said to be possessed by a devil. Jesus looked upon the youth and was moved with compassion; beckoning the lad to come to him, he took him by the hand and said: “You know who I am; come out of him; and I charge one of your loyal fellows to see that you do not return.” Immediately the lad was normal and in his right mind. (This was the first case where Jesus really cast an “evil spirit” out of a human being. All of the previous cases were not true possession by one of the various rebel spirits then present on our planet. This was a genuine case of demoniac possession, which sometimes occurred in those days right up to the time of Pentecost.)
Even in the face of witnessing this astounding occurrence, the Pharisees had the balls to accuse him of doing the works of the devil. And after reaming them for their hypocritical logic— “How can Satan cast out Satan?” and warning them of the seriousness of their intransigence: “If you were not blinded by prejudice and misled by fear and pride, you would easily perceive that one who is greater than devils stands in your midst,” another Pharisee stood up and said: “Teacher, we would have you give us a predetermined sign which we will agree upon as establishing your authority and right to teach. Will you agree to such an arrangement?” When Jesus heard this, he said: “This faithless and sign-seeking generation seeks a token, but no sign shall be given you other than that which you already have, and that which you shall see when the Son of Man departs from among you.”
It is not the purpose of true religion merely to bring peace but rather to insure progress. And there can be no peace in the heart or progress in the mind unless you fall wholeheartedly in love with truth, the ideals of eternal realities. The issues of life and death are being set before you— the sinful pleasures of time against the righteous realities of eternity. Even now you should begin to find deliverance from the bondage of fear and doubt as you enter upon the living of the new life of faith and hope. And when the feelings of service for your fellow men arise within your soul, do not stifle them; when the emotions of love for your neighbor well up within your heart, give expression to such urges of affection in intelligent ministry to the real needs of your fellows.”
—Jesus speaking in The Urantia Book
You still want a sign, don’t you.