23rd March 2023
Read (Matthew 12v38-49)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Throughout Matthew's Gospel there have been numerous accounts showing Christ's awesome deeds. We have seen Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and preaching with true power. He was the long promised Messiah who fulfilled Isaiah 35v5-6 "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy."
Jesus had provided more than enough evidence that He was the Christ but nevertheless He was approached one day by the scribes and Pharisees who stated “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (v38). This wasn't necessarily an unreasonable request. In the Old Testament the Lord used men like Moses and Elijah to perform miraculous signs and on other occasions He gave signs directly to His people. A sign acted to authenticate the Lord's servant and the message they'd been sent to deliver.
However Jesus would not be a performing monkey doing signs at the demand of the Pharisees. They had seen and heard enough but still would not repent. Jesus answered them by saying "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (v39) The Pharisees were part of a sinful generation who had eyes to see and ears to hear but still rejected Christ. They would receive no more signs except the sign of Jonah.
What was the sign of Jonah? The prophet was dead and buried in the belly of a great fish and yet after three days and nights the Lord raised him to life. In the same way Jesus would be crucified, dead and buried and in the tomb for three days and three nights (v40). Just as Jonah was raised to life, so too Jesus would stand again upon the earth. The sign of Jonah was the miracle of the resurrection and it remains a sure testimony to the authenticity and power of Christ. Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord in whom all must believe.
Furthermore, the Ninevites who repented in response to Jonah's preaching will stand in the last judgement and condemn the generation who rejected Christ, for Jesus is the greater Jonah (v41). They will be joined by the Queen of Sheba who travelled "from the ends of the earth" to hear Solomon's wisdom (v42). She will condemn the evil and adulterous generation of Christ's day because Jesus is the greater Solomon. The Lord's point is simple - the Ninevites & the Queen of Sheba had much less revealed to them than future generations but still trusted Christ.
On the other hand, the scribes, Pharisees and others had rejected the great Jesus who was the true Prophet, Priest and King. They were like an individual who had been cleansed from a demon. The demon then went out into the desert seeking rest but found none (v43). On the demon's return to the person they had originally troubled, they found that "house" empty and therefore returned with seven other spirits to enter that person once more (v44-45).
The Lord was not giving us a handbook on demonology in these verses. Instead He was stressing that the generation of His day was in a terrible and worse position than before. Christ had come and He had swept the house clean. Nevertheless His work was not accepted, He was opposed at every turn and He was accused of being a tool of Satan. The evil generation who stood before Jesus had every advantage and yet they sought signs rather than offering repentance.
Anyone who follows this path of unbelief will find themselves in the same position as the Pharisees on the last day. All the signs in the world mean nothing if a sinner's heart remains cold to the things of God.
On the other hand, the Christian has nothing to fear in the judgement. We have been moved by the Spirit to repentance and faith. We have received the sign of Jonah willingly and put our trust in Christ. The will of the Father is for us to believe in the Son (v50) and therefore, by faith, we have become Christ's family, children of God and heirs of the promise.
It is as the Apostle John once wrote "to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1v12-13) This is glorious news indeed!
Q1 What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.