Mark 8:11-13 (ESV)
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
Jesus returns from a gentile mission and come s into conflict with the Pharisees. Jesus, in Mark’s gospel has already come into conflict with the Pharisees (2:24, 2:16;7:1). They have previously asked him questions
2:24 Questions about healing on the Sabbath
2:16 Questions about eating with outcasts
7:1 Questions about ceremonial washing
They have already begun planning his destruction (3:6). In this percicope 8:11-13 the Pharisees demand a sign (σημεῖον ). This is no innocent asking for more miracles but is designed to test him. They have no doubt heard or witnessed Jesus miracles taking place. Jesus could have produced a sign, thus silencing the pharisees and discrediting them. Jesus refuses and allows the battle lines to be drawn and simply walks away. Perhaps the Pharisees are annoyed at the recent Gentile mission and do not want blessings to be poured on the gentiles.
This passage lets us into the ’emotional life of Jesus’. He ‘sighed deeply in his spirit’ (See also 1:41, 43, 7:34). Jesus is hurt that the representatives of the people are against him, and responds with words which include ‘this generation'(v12). These are the words which were used to speak of the people in Noahs day (Gen 7:1) and of the rebellion of Israel in the desert (Psalm 95:10-11). Also Duet 32:5,20. Judgement will come on the Pharisees and the people at large (think AD70 and destruction of Jerusalem)
From this point onwards in the gospel it seems that Jesus focusses more on his own community, that of the disciples.
We may ask how we can apply this today. This is not neccesarily wise/easy as Jesus ministry functions in a differant place in the meta-narrative of scripture than our own position. Jesus stands at the turnign point of redemptive history. He welcomes gentiles and outcasts and refuses to follow the lead of the ‘guardians of tradition’ who have failed to fulfill their missionary calling, that of Israel being a blessing to the nations.
As a loose application for today we may, tentaively suggest, that the covennat community should not allow the ‘guardians of tradition’ to dictate the agenda if the ‘guardians’ have ceased to recognise their missional purpose. For guardians we could read ‘scholastic orthodoxy’, ‘cultural norms’ ……