By Fr. Felix (African Times Guest Writer)
At Mark 8.11, the Pharisees ask for a sign from
heaven to test Jesus and he refuses. There
were at the time of Jesus a number of
charismatic Galilean rabbis who did work such
They are often recounted in Jewish writings
with a good deal of humour. Rabbi Honi the
Rain-Maker was asked to pray for rain; he was
known for his warm relationship with God and
for the answers to his prayers. When he prayed
for rain a few drops fell, so he rebuked God for
merely playing games with him.
There followed a deluge and again Honi
rebuked God. Only when a steady rain came did
he let God off the hook. When Jesus refused a
sign, it may well be such a conjuring-trick sign
that he refused. This seems to agree with the
passage in Mark 8.11-12, repeated in
In the present passage however, using his
mysterious preferred title ‘Son of man’ (which
he often uses in connection with the Passion)
he offers the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Jonah’s mission to Nineveh was the stock case
of conversion: the wicked gentile city
immediately converts and does penance, by
contrast to the Jewish prophet who has refused
his mission; they are the example for Israel.
Similarly Solomon was the stock figure of
Wisdom, and the gentile Queen of the South (or
the Queen of Sheba) recognised the God-given
Wisdom of Solomon.
Now something greater than either is present,
and they refuse to convert. The listeners are left
to draw their own conclusion.
The Gospel of the Lord reminds us of those
listeners O Lord, but me. The unbaptized live
holy lives, and yet I, so specially privileged by
you in the faith, wander about inconsiderate to
the dignity I bear because of you.