Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Mark 8:9b-13 No sign will be given

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

After he sent them away, 10 Jesus got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Dalmanutha has not yet been identified with certainty. In the 1980s, a first-century fishing boat was discovered in the Ginosar valley, along with a cargo including glass and an amphora (large pitcher). Other items such as anchors and various counterweights point to a wealthy and thriving fishing village. The Ginosar valley is on the northwest ‘shoulder’ of the Sea of Galilee between Tiberias and Capernaum. The parallel account in Matthew says that Jesus made for “the vicinity of Magadan” (Matthew 15:39), which seems to correspond to the same area.

11 The Pharisees came and began to dispute with Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.

There would have been no way for the Pharisees to have known about the miracle that just took place. Instead, the dispute they leveled at Jesus was probably a rehash of what took place at the beginning of chapter 7, when they argued with Jesus about Sabbath day regulations, ceremonial washing, and the traditions of the elders. Sometimes Jewish rabbis looked for miraculous signs to prove a point.

Could it be that perhaps some of them, agreeing with Jesus’ teachings, hoped he would provide a sign that would silence their opponents? Mark says “they” when he talks about the Pharisees, not “some of them.” These men were all in opposition to Jesus. They were all testing him; taunting him. They hated him, ignoring the love he was willing to show them.

12 Jesus sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Amen I tell you: No sign will be given to this generation.”

They wanted Jesus to resume an argument that he had already settled through the word of God (Mark 7:6-13). If they would not listen to the Scriptures, they would not believe him because he worked a miracle, so Jesus simply refused. The sentence, “No sign will be given to this generation” is given in the form of an oath in Greek: “If a sign is given to this generation…,” but Jesus breaks it off before he finishes the oath. Normally it would be some variation of, “may something terrible happen to me,” but in Matthew’s account, Jesus finishes the thought with a very different sign: “the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). He would not give a sign that they would understand, but he would rise from the dead after three days just as Jonah emerged from the belly of the whale after three days (Jonah 1:17, 2:10). Since the Pharisees did not believe Jesus even when this happened, Mark is justified in leaving the sentence as it is. No sign was given to this generation; no sign that they would take to heart. There was no sign that would have touched them, because their hearts were hard.

13 Then he left them. He got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

Jesus left. Getting back into the boat, he sailed away. As far as we know, this was his only trip to Dalmanutha. In this case, “the other side” of the lake was not directly across to the eastern edge, but only across the northern end, since the Lord disembarked at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22).

The first sentence of this verse is so sad. “He left them.” They had a chance to talk with him, learn from him, hear the gospel from him, but they rejected him, and so he left them. Here is the cloudburst of the gospel of God’s love moving off, as Luther described it. It goes from one place to another, raining here and then there. Where it rains down its goodness, faith thrives. But later, people begin to reject their Lord, and the downpour moves on to a new place, and the former region dries up and withers. When Christians begin to dislike the term “Christian” and try to embrace other faiths, when they begin to say things like, “Well, I think Jesus would never…” or “I can’t believe that God would ever…,” then the cloudburst is about to depart. Beware those who reject Jesus and embrace your Savior. This frightful little account is a warning to those who turn away from Jesus and a permanent encouragement to us to never let go of the one who has reached out with his love and compassion. God has said: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Let his word live in your heart and keep you safe to everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive