When I was a child, whenever we’d be traveling by car with my Granddaddy, we stopped at every historical marker. Every. Single. One. It didn’t matter if we’d stopped at this particular marker before or if we were on a schedule, or if one of us needed instead to find a rest stop (that’s Texas lingo for needing to find a bathroom and our roadside rest stops are fabulous). We’d pull over, read the information on the sign, look around for a bit, and then get back in the car as Granddaddy tried to engage us in conversation about the event the marker was commemorating. And it wasn’t just historical markers that sparked Granddaddy’s interest – he’d read out-loud most every sign we passed: it’s so many miles to such and such town; if we were to turn at this road we’d get to this farm or that town; look to see if this creek or draw or river has water; there’s a Dairy Queen in 10 miles.
Granddaddy taught us how to discover the world through the signs around us. Signs help us navigate and know where we are and where we are going and if we look for them, we just might discover something we didn’t know before.
In Matthew’s telling of the good news story of Jesus’ ministry (The Gospel according to Matthew chapter 16), we learn of a group of religious leaders demanding a “sign from heaven” to build their case against him. Jesus points out to them that they regularly get all sorts of signs from heaven and accept what they mean without question, yet they can’t see the love of God in the healing or feeding thousands from a single sack lunch that Jesus has done.
Jesus is the sign pointing to God’s love and God’s Kingdom on earth, right in front of them and they choose not to see it. They know that if they acknowledge that Jesus is the son of God, the chosen one, the Messiah, then they’ll have to listen to him. All that Jesus teaches undoes their earthly power and prestige and so if they just pretend they don’t see, they won’t have to change. The signs weren’t kept from them, they chose not to see them just like, as Jesus points out to them, in the story of Jonah1.
The signs of God’s kingdom on earth are all around us and in us, if we choose to pay attention to them, even when they are pointing out what we don’t want to see or hear.
What signs of God’s kingdom are you seeing today? What signs are you trying to ignore?
1The people Jesus was speaking to would have been very familiar with the story of Jonah. Jonah tried to ignore God’s plan and in doing so put others in danger. And, yet, even through Jonah’s rebellion, God fulfills the plan for the people of Nineveh. You can read the whole story here , it isn’t very long. Or, even better watch Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie!