Have you ever asked the universe for a sign? I think almost everyone has done this at some point in their life. I know have. Whether or not you ask the universe or God for a sign, we always tend to try to find some sort of “confirmation” so that we know we made the right decision. “Should I take this job?” or “Should I date this person?” often precedes “I need a sign to know!” This is why we can whole-heartedly sing along with Ace of Base, “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign!” We want signs so that we can navigate our lives.
The New Testament has a lot more to say about signs than Ace of Base. Within it we see pages and pages of signs and miracles performed by Jesus. Jesus even promises that signs will accompany those who believe in the gospel, and these signs are recorded within the early church’s history (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:43, 5:12; Romans 15:19; Hebrews 2:4). They still happen throughout the world today too. And yet, in many other places, Jesus says that seeking signs is the product of an evil, adulterous generation (Matthew 12:29, 16:4; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:29).
So, is it a good or a bad thing to seek after a sign?
When I started to think about following Jesus, I constantly asked for signs. I wanted God to convince me somehow, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive in head first into the Christian thing. During this season of my life, each morning I would ask God to give me a sign. As I would walk from my apartment to school, I would find a tract on the ground. You know those, little, amazingly blunt, pamphlets about Jesus. I would initially be stunned, thinking “Wow! God answered my prayer.” But then I would think, “It’s such a small thing, how can I know if it’s God?” The next day, I would find a tract again! But again I wouldn’t be sure if it was just a coincidence. Then one day, I found a tract in a place where it could have only been intentionally put for one person on the earth to find it: me. It was tucked between two bricks on the side of a building. I pulled it out, and it was a hand-written tract. It was someone’s testimony. It was so powerful. But then I doubted again, and the cycle repeated.
Asking for signs is only a problem when you’re ignoring the signs God has already given you.
Asking for signs is only a problem when you’re ignoring the signs God has already given you. Within Jesus’ generation, there were people who had witnessed miraculous signs at his hands. They saw Jesus set broken bodies back to health. They saw Jesus cast out demons. But they still want more. The signs weren’t enough. In a way, they forcibly shut their eyes and asked Jesus to pry them open with yet another sign. They wanted to be dazzled into the kingdom.
Signs can only take us so far. They’re like fireworks: bursts of light that quickly dazzle and then fade away like a Katy Perry single. You can’t be wowed into the kingdom because that’s a feeling not a response. Signs, even if we see them, never can replace a proper response to God of repentance and faith. When I kept finding tracts, it was my sign. But despite the tracts best effort to get me to respond to the message of the gospel, I simply didn’t want the gospel in its entirety. I wanted some sort of sign that would do the work of following Jesus for me. I didn’t want repentance and belief. It’s precisely this sort of sign seeking that Jesus condemns as evil.
But God isn’t fundamentally against signs. If you want a sign, not just any sign but a sign that is reliable across all times and places, the best sign you have is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus says “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).
Jesus says that his death and resurrection is the sign you need. You may not know this, but the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus within time and space is astounding. If you’re not sure you believe in Jesus, start with the resurrection. Actually look into it. The reliability of the resurrection has been brilliant explored by a historian named N.T. Wright in The Resurrection of The Son Of God. It’s a long book, but an Englishman of the 21st century has a lot to say about a Jewish man of the 1st century for good reason: the sign of Jesus’ resurrection is credible.
The best sign you’ll ever have is the sign of the resurrection. Because that sign definitely affirms that Jesus really is the Son of God, that he really does forgive our sins, that he really does set us right with God, and that God really does defeat our greatest enemies: illness, suffering, sin, evil and death. It is the sign that assures us that through Jesus we really can enter into unending life in the unending love of God.
Are you asking for signs? You might get some, you might not. But God has given the sign of the resurrection for all. But don’t just gaze at the sign, because its purpose isn’t just to dazzle. God has laid out his heart for us to see in the death and resurrection of his Son because he wants a response.