I think it’s a pretty common experience for people to look for a sign from God. So many comedies have that premise somewhere in the story line. Don’t we all look for signs from God to make sure we’re doing the right thing?
So signs are necessary and helpful events in our spiritual journey. And Jesus was never stingy about giving signs. After all, he healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed the multitudes. Who could have possibly missed the signs and wonders he was providing? The thing was, the people, especially the religious authorities, were cynical and hard of heart, and they soon forgot the wonders he had done. So they wanted to see Jesus do things they were pretty sure he couldn’t do; in other words, they were asking for a sign not from an attitude of faith, but an attitude of cynicism.
And Jesus had no intention of playing that game. These people would get no further sign, at least not until the sign of Jonah. So what did that mean? Well, as we remember, Jonah was swallowed up in the belly of a big fish for three days, then disgorged on the shores of Nineveh. Jesus was foreshadowing that, in the same way, he himself would be swallowed up in the grave for three days, then raised to new life. These cynical people would just have to wait for that great sign, and even then, well, chances are they wouldn’t believe.
So I think it’s okay for us on occasion to ask for a sign. We can ask God to help us to know we have discerned the right path, or are at least headed in the right direction. But we must always ask from the perspective of our life of faith, being open to whatever God shows us, being open to silence if that’s what he gives us, ready to follow him, sign or no sign, wherever we are led. God is always there, even in our most difficult quandaries, ready to give us confidence by his presence.
And never forget that we have already received the sign of Jonah, and that sign is incredibly good news for all of us!