10 November 2011

Matthew 16:1-12

"You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (v. 3)


The Pharisees ask for a sign - but no sign is given to this generation. Christian witness would be made so much easier if a sign could be given to this generation. Interestingly the Pharisees ask this question immediately after the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39) - surely, a sign if ever there was one!

But then the disciples panic - and they have witnessed much more. They are worrying because someone forgot to pack the picnic! So, after Jesus has had an altercation with the Pharisees about signs and after he has presided over the feeding of 4,000 people - the disciples wonder where the next meal is coming from.

And Jesus points out to them that not only have 9,000 people been fed over two events, but that there was more to hear and see if only they inhabit the right story, or know of a greater narrative.

Weren't there 12 baskets left after the feeding of the 5,000?

Weren't there 7 baskets left after the feeding of the 4,000?

This suggests that there was an abundance, and that within the activity of Christ there is an extravagance, a generosity that has no comparison. But the disciples are still worried about lunch.

Doesn't it suggest that the impossible became possible? That miracle, however you want to define it, is not an illusion but a place where the unreal becomes real. Can the disciples not realise a better, alternative future?

Furthermore isn't there something wonderful about the numbers 7 (the perfect number, the days of creation and rest) and 12 (the tribes and the disciples)? Can the disciples not see that they belong to a much greater story?

To Ponder

What do you worry about?

What have you witnessed God doing in the world and in your life that might offer some hope at times of anxiety?

How might you gain a greater, deeper appreciation of the epic story of God and God's own people?

Bible notes author

The Revd Simon Sutcliffe

Simon Sutcliffe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church currently working part time as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and part time as a pioneer minister with Venture FX establishing new forms of Christian community in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District. Simon has four children who help to keep him grounded and in a constant cycle of tidying up(!), and is deeply disappointed that none of them support Bradford City..