The Real Pharisees (Part 3): The Pharisees Desired to See Signs from Heaven

The Real Pharisees

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah’” (Matthew 16:1-4).

The Pharisees – along with the Sadducees – came to Jesus and requested to see “a sign from heaven.” They did not ask this out of sincerity; rather, they were “testing Jesus” (Matthew 16:1). They did this on many occasions – challenging Him in order to find something that they could use against Him.

Jesus certainly performed signs. In fact, on another occasion, they admitted that He was performing signs. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees met together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:47-48). Not only did they recognize that Jesus was performing signs, they realized that they were so convincing that if they did not do something to stop Him, everyone would come to believe in Him. So it was more than just that they wanted Jesus to show them a sign. They were not content even with the signs He would show them and demanded to be shown something that would live up to their expectations.

Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “For indeed Jews ask for signs” (1 Corinthians 1:22). The mentality of the Pharisees had been adopted by the Jews as a whole – at least by those who did not accept the gospel. Rather than showing them signs, Paul said, “But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block…but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

Just like with Jesus, it was not as though Paul never performed any miracles – he had (2 Corinthians 12:12). But he did not do what the Jews demanded that he do as a condition for them to accept what he said. Paul continued to simply preach Christ crucified. This was a stumbling block to those who wanted to be shown a sign.

Signs were performed in order to confirm the word that was preached. The Hebrew writer said, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3-4). When Jesus sent the apostles out to fulfill the Great Commission, Mark recorded, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20).

However, since these signs and miracles were performed in order to confirm the word that was preached, they are no longer necessary because God’s word has been fully revealed. Paul made this point to the Corinthians: “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away… For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). Miraculous gifts were necessary as long as God’s revelation was incomplete. But since His will has now been completely revealed, and we can go to the Scriptures to prove what His will is, making the signs unnecessary. Therefore, rather than seeking for signs today, we need to be content with the word that has been revealed.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are not the ones who are content with what God has chosen to reveal. Instead, they are those who demand to see signs from God to guide or instruct them apart from His word.

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