Monday 15 February 2021

Snappy Messiah


The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

Mark 8:11-13


It’s a phrase designed, I think, to clip your wings, and stop you in your tracks, and to get you to back down. Yes, it’s the phrase, “That’s not very Christian.” Often it comes from those outside the Christian Faith and who may have a preconceived idea of what Christians should do and how they should respond to things. Christians use it with each other, too, perhaps when challenging one another, or when criticising a decision made or a course of action taken. Finally, of course, and most profoundly, it can be used to criticise something that doesn’t quite stand up to the measure of Christ. And yet, it’s all to easy to gloss over the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and to allow images of him to dominate and misrepresent who he was and is. Here, in the gospel reading we have the ‘impatient Christ’, the ‘snappy Messiah.’ Jesus heaves a huge sigh of heartfelt irritation at the Pharisees’ demand for a sign from heaven. He swiftly snaps that no sign will be given, and then sharply turns away. He won’t give into their preconceived notions, or fulfil their tedious demands. There are many human emotions described as ‘not very Christian’ and we may feel guilty if we exhibit them at times. And yet all of our emotions are part of what it means to be human, and so also what it may mean to be divine. Perhaps it’s more about using these emotions for good not bad, to fill them with love, sincerity and truth. We can, at times, be angry – for instance, if it’s an anger towards injustice, having a love for what is right. We can be snappy at wrongs done to us or to others, speaking up and speaking out when necessary. We can even, like Jesus, be impatient with trying, testing people. After all, perhaps at times a heartfelt sigh is often more fruitful and faithful than a sickly smile!


God our Father, help us to be at home with our human emotions, to soften them when needed, to use them wisely and sensitively, and fill them with love for you and the world you have created. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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