Red in the morning—sailors’ warning; red at night—sailors’ delight. I remember marveling at that little ditty as a child. The first time I heard it felt like a new and wonderful revelation. I was probably seven or eight, and it seemed as if the mysteries of the universe had been opened up for me. Little did I know that Jesus had said that two-thousand years earlier (Matthew 16:1-12).
I suppose that was as familiar to Jesus’ contemporaries as it is to us—maybe even more so. In a time when there wasn’t a nightly forecast on the local news, signs like red skies caught the attention of the masses. Everyone knew to look at the sky and anticipate what tomorrow’s weather would bring. And that’s precisely why Jesus used that mini-prophecy to convict the Pharisees and Sadducees for their sightlessness.
Jesus said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” In other words, what he had been doing and saying should have been as plain to them as the sailor’s proverb, but they couldn’t tell. They wanted a sign, and I think they were genuine in their asking, but they wanted a sign that they could recognize. They wanted the sign-giver to conform to their mentality rather than allow their mindset to be shaped by the giver of signs. How true that still is today!
How many times have you asked God for a sign? Usually, those requests are not explicit. Instead, I’m just watching and waiting for God to show me something before I yield him my heart, my will, or my pocketbook. But sometimes I find myself in that silly place where I say half-jokingly, “God, if this is what you want, give me a sign.” Either way, the problem is the same: God has already given me a sign; if I can’t see it, it’s my fault.
Jesus came to show the world that God’s reign was already being established through him. The leaders of his day wanted political, religious, and social power to rule the day. They interpreted the prophecies of the Old Testament as anticipating an anointed leader to come in power and to share that power with God’s people. Jesus showed them that the prophets had a different sort of power in mind and that God’s might would always be expressed in ways that human beings found perplexing. The signs of God’s reign—the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the poor receive the good news—were unfolding before their eyes, but they couldn’t see them.
How is God showing up in our lives? Hint: he’s already here. We’re supposed to look for God’s power to be expressed in startlingly subtle though equally amazing ways. Those signs are here, and they are as plain as the color of the sky. But are we seeing them?