Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!’
I really enjoy doing crosswords. When I pick up a newspaper I always take a quick look at the crossword first. I like to see what sort of intellectual challenge lies ahead of me. Has this one been set by someone who thinks like me, or is it going to be a linguistic fight to the death? Am I going to know the satisfaction of completing the grid, or am I going to be wishing I could ask the setter for a different, more accessible clue?
In today’s reading we encounter the Scribes and the Pharisees asking Jesus for a more accessible and comprehensible clue. We also encounter Jesus saying, in effect: No! Work it out for yourselves!
Of course, those Scribes and Pharisees are surrounded by clues, they really do not need any more. The Hebrew scriptures, which we know as the Old Testament, is overflowing with relevant prophecies. Jesus himself is present with them. Through his teaching and signs of power he is bringing the Old Testament prophecies to life. But, despite all of those clues, the Scribes and the Pharisees just cannot see the answer they are looking for.
The day is coming when it will be impossible to miss the answer. When Jesus has died and then risen from the grave everyone will know the truth. But until then … human doubt, uncertainty and scepticism keeps the Scribes and the Pharisees from completing the puzzle.
Jesus does try to help them. He points them towards two easily understood stories from their own scriptures, but still the connections are not made.
So, how are we doing with the puzzle?
Are we so caught up in following our own agenda that we are missing the blindingly obvious?
Or … can we, at last, see who Jesus is and what he came to earth to do?
And if we are able to complete that puzzle, have we also found the strength and the determination to live the life of love and service that was modelled by Jesus himself?