Sign Tology


The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1)

So, okay. Here’s this guy. He looks like any old chump you’d see on the street, maybe he’s even a little bit chumpier than most. He works for his dad as a blue-collar carpenter who bangs out chairs and a few cattle sheds once in a while. Nice dude but totally unimpressive.

So this guy shows up in church one morning and starts spouting weird stuff like, “Me and God are one” and “I am the bread of life” and “You can’t even get to God except through me” and “God and I hung out together before the world was even made.” He takes his medicine show on the road. He does a few nifty tricks and picks up a few followers (like that other guy did a few years back). But his followers start talking crazy like he’s going to overthrow the Roman occupation forces. You get a little nervous. After all, your uncle Zeidel got himself stapled to a pole for talk like that. The Romans are touchy and have no qualms about mowing down a few Jews in the interests of national security.

Worse for you, this new guy starts telling everybody that the church leaders are full of it, that they don’t know their Scriptures from a hole in the ground. He goes so far as to say that the Scriptures themselves all point to him as the universe’s main man. The arrogant bastard acts like he’s God’s gift to the freaking world.

So, as a respectable religious leader, what are you going to do? You would have left him alone in the company of his own megalomania, but he’s obviously aiming to take down the system. You figure if this guy’s for real (which you’re pretty damn sure he’s not), the least he could do is show you his heavenly credentials. After all, the Scriptures tell you that God’s business is signs and wonders. If this new guy’s from God, like he says he is, he should be able to crack one out no problem.

So you go up to the guy during one of his breaks and politely ask him to turn the moon green or make the sun backtrack a couple of hours or even to just stir up a small thunderstorm—anything suitable as evidence of divine sanction. It’s the least the guy could do considering who he’s copping himself off as. Just one little sign is all you ask.

So what does the guy do? He tells you to stick it up your asset. He tells you that there is no way he’s going to show you anything. He calls you a foul felon of fornication. And then he up and walks away, just like that, leaving you gaping after him like an orangutan with hemorrhoids. This was definitely not what you expected from some guy with Messianic pretensions. Hell, he didn’t even try to make nice.

You meet with your wounded comrades. You discuss the problem reasonably. You are, after all, the models of righteousness for the community. You explore your options. What does one do with a renegade false prophet? It occurs to each of you simultaneously. The course of actions is clear: that disrespectful son of a bitch is going to have to die.

You close in prayer and, with a great sense of satisfaction in a job well done, order out for matzah. God, you love your job.


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