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Matthew 12:38-42: Show us a Sign

Posted by adventbiblestudy on December 14, 2011


Matthew 12:38-42 MKJV Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we want to see a sign from you. (39) But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. And there shall be no sign given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the huge fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (41) The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the proclaiming of Jonah, and behold, One greater than Jonah is here. (42) The queen of the south shall rise up in the Judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, One greater than Solomon is here.

 

At times God presents a word with so much meaning, it is hard explain everything it represents in human words. In this instance, the word is, “then.” At first the word may appear as unassuming, with little or no spiritual meaning. When the context is considered in regards to the intended lesson, that one word is found to have an abundance of meaning.

Then…. Consider the circumstances based on the context. The Pharisees are asking for a sign from Jesus. This must have broken His heart. Words cannot express the sorrow Jesus felt at that moment. He had already healed thousands, raised people from the dead, taught God’s Word and His love in towns, villages, cities, along the shore, in the fields, and from a mountain top. The Pharisees had seen the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb talk, the blind see, and the dead rise, and they continued to ask for a sign. Jesus also introduced them to His parables, simple lessons taught using symbols easily explained by the Old testament writings to those willing to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees thought of themselves as experts in the study of the Word. They felt they were the ultimate authority in matters concerning God’s Word. Their pride blinded them to the simple truth. God knew this was going to be a problem, because He had seen it in the past. “And He said, Go, and tell this people, You hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed. (Isaiah 6:9-10 MKJV)

After witnessing Jesus’ miracles and signs, they could not see how God was pouring down His love, so the Pharisees had no way of returning it. Their pride had convinced them, if God was going to act, He would act through them, and only them. Their hearts had become so hardened, they believed God would only provide His blessings through them.

Jesus already knew the answer, but He hesitated long enough to pray that the Spirit would reach their hearts with the understanding they needed at that moment. Jesus knew the Pharisees intent, how they were once again attempting to lay a trap for Him. “But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. And there shall be no sign given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Jesus had hoped the Pharisees could see the lesson of a reluctant prophet Jonah, sent to save a nation. No matter how, or where he tried to run, God had a way of calling him back to complete the task God had for him. But the Pharisees refused to look at the bigger picture, so Jesus continued, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the huge fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Once again Jesus tried to direct their minds back to God’s Holy Word. Once again Jesus had hoped they would study His Word, and learn the lessons it contained. Jesus knew, the only hope of reaching them would occur only if they would open their hearts to the scriptures, and discover the simple lessons for themselves. Jesus had hoped they could see the sign He was giving them. If they could understand the symbolism of the sea, they may be able to understand the role they were about to play in Jesus’ death. “Woe to the multitude of many people, who make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations who make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!” (Isaiah 17:12 MKJV)

If they had known and understood what a sea represented, they would have understood the prophecy Jesus was pointing them to.

And Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God out of the fish’s belly, and he said, I cried to Jehovah from my distress. And He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried for help, and You heard my voice. For You cast me into the depths of the seas, and the current surrounded me. All Your breakers and Your waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast off from Your eyes, yet I will look again toward Your holy temple. Waters encompassed me, even to the soul; the depth closed around me; the seaweed was bound to my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was around me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Jehovah my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Jehovah; and my prayer came in to You, into Your holy temple. They who take heed to lying vanities forsake their kindness; but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will fulfill that which I have vowed. Salvation belongs to Jehovah! (Jonah 2:1-9 MKJV)

Jesus had hoped the Pharisees would review the prophecy of Jonah and compare it to other similar prophecies in David, and Isaiah.

Many bulls have circled around Me; strong bulls Of Bashan have surrounded Me. They opened wide their mouths on Me, like a ripping and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are spread apart; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; and You have brought Me into the dust of death. For dogs have circled around Me; the band of spoilers have hemmed Me in, piercers of My hands and My feet. I can count all My bones; they look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them and cast lots for My clothing. But You, O Jehovah, be not far from Me; O My strength, hurry to help Me! (Psalms 22:12-19 MKJV)

He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was stricken. And He put His grave with the wicked, and with a rich one in His death; although He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 MKJV)

Because the Pharisees claimed the role of interpreting God’s Word, they were granted the opportunity to share it with the world. Their claims held them to a high standard. Their job was to prepare the world for the coming Savior, Jesus Christ, instead they misinterpreted the scriptures, changed and rewrote them to benefit themselves in an attempt to control the thoughts and minds of their followers. The Pharisees wanted to be accepted as mediators between the Jews and God. The Pharisees could not understand the role of Christ as a servant. In their pursuit to elevate themselves, they missed the message of Jesus, the true mediator. Jesus tried to explain this to them by using the example Jonah set. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the proclaiming of Jonah, and behold, One greater than Jonah is here.”

Jonah was not the perfect prophet. He delivered the message he was given, but was reluctant to accept it himself. His heart was not in his work, but the Holy Spirit was still able to reach the Ninevites. The Pharisees had the same message, but in the same fashion refused to deliver it to the world. They decided it was only for the Jews. Jesus knew, if only the Pharisees would accept the message they were given, there may still be hope for them.

In the mind of the Parisees, Jesus’ claim of being greater than Jonah included all of the prophets. This greatly offended the Pharisees, who were blind to the fact, gentiles also played a role in Jewish history. To point out this fact, Jesus reminded them of another story. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the Judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, One greater than Solomon is here.”

Jesus intentionally answered their request for a sign with two parables, each teaching a lesson about God’s love for gentiles. God sent a prophet to warn Nineveh about the impeding doom. If they did not understand the lessons taught in that story, Jesus reminded them, Solomon was in love with a gentile woman while he ruled Israel. In both instances, God’s word was shared and accepted by gentiles. How different may things have been if the Pharisees had opened and read the scriptures Jesus had referred to? What deep and lasting lessons may have been learned if pride would have been laid aside for an hour, and their hearts had been open to the Holy Spirit?

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