Mark 8:11–12—Did Jesus contradict Himself by saying there would be no sign given (cf. Matt. 12:38–39)?

Problem: In Mark, the Pharisees ask for a sign from Jesus, but He says that no sign shall be given to that generation. But Matthew’s account says that Christ responded that the sign of the Prophet Jonah would be given (namely, Jesus’ resurrection).

Solution: First, the main point here is that Christ was not willing to grant their immediate request for a sign. Jesus does not say in Matthew that the sign of the Prophet Jonah will be immediately given. This sign (of His death and resurrection) occurred later. So, even in Matthew He did not grant the requests of the Pharisees. Jesus refused to do miracles just to entertain (Luke 23:8). He did not “cast pearls before swine.” However He did perform miracles to confirm His messiahship (John 20:31), and the Resurrection was the crowning miracle of that nature (cf. Acts 2:22–32).

Second, it is evident that on more than one occasion Jesus was asked to give a sign. Luke 11:16, 29–30 states that others sought for a sign. Here in Luke, Jesus responds very similar to the way He does in Matthew 12. Also, again in Matthew 16:1–4 the Pharisees ask for a sign from Jesus to which He responds that none will be given except the sign of Jonah, just as He had in chapter 12. So, it is clear that on other occasions Jesus was asked to give a sign and each time, Jesus refused to agree to their immediate demands. Miracles are performed according to God’s will, not according to human want (cf. Heb. 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.