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Sinners, Signs and Salvation. Jonah 12:38-42


Sinners, Signs and Salvation

Matthew 12:38-42

The Pharisees are back. But this was some of them, not all.  Perhaps just a small number who were having some doubts.  Still, they come with a request, if you like, a PRAYER, and in answering it, Jesus gives a very plain warning, about their unrepentant hearts, and makes the way of the Gospel very plain to them…

1 The Wickedness of a Whole Generation.  38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.

Let’s see this description of the heart of mankind in every generation.  39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.

  • Evil.  They are evil. Mankind is evil in every generation Romans 3:10 -12  Paul was directly quoting from Ps. 14, a passage the Pharisees would have known very well indeed.  Psalm 14:1-3  The Pharisees knew this doctrine, but the next description must have cut them to the bone…
  • Adulterous.  These were the rigid keepers of the law, how can there be any suggestion of adultery with these well-behaved, religious people.  Of course they were hypocrites, and there may well have been adultery in their wicked hearts, but there is a deeper meaning here, that the Pharisees would well understand. The OT is full of references to Israel, as an unfaithful bride, betrothed to her husband, who loves her dearly, yet whoring after other gods of her own making.  (cf Hosea and Gomer the prostitute wife.) By calling them adulterous, Jesus is succinctly reminding them that they have wandered far from the God with whom they should be in a covenant relationship.   
  • Sensation seekers.  They want a sign. They want some great event, something to excite them and entertain them.  Just like every generation.  The written Word of God, – is not enough for them, they want to see something spectacular.  

So, in effect the Pharisees have come to Jesus with a prayer, a request to the Lord Jesus.  There’s a biblical principle, and it’s found in James 4:3  Their motive for asking was wrong, and their prayer went unanswered. and no sign will be given to it … They did not receive what they sought, YET, in mercy…

2 The Only Sign.  except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Jesus tells them that there would be one final sign given.  One sign that would be for their generation and for ours.  What is the promised sign?

  • The Sign of the prophet Jonah.  Let’s refresh our memories. Jonah was called by God to go preach to the city of Nineveh, a thoroughly pagan place.  Jonah was terrified, and immediately booked a ticket on a ship – to get well away from Nineveh!  But God wasn’t finished with him.  Out at sea, the weather broke and a great storm battered the ship.  The sailers were afraid and cast lots to see whose fault it was, and Jonah was the man.  He confessed that he was running away from God, Jonah 1:12  Cast into the sea Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, Jon 1:17. In the belly of the fish, Jonah repented, and cried out to God for deliverance.  Jon 2:1   He trusted in God, and pledged to serve him. Jon 2:9-10.
  • What is the sign? Jonah is a shadow, a type of Christ. Matthew 12:40  The experience of Jonah points the Pharisees and us to Jesus, The DEATH BURIAL AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS is the sign!  Isaiah 53:9  .

Kids – download this picture and colour it in!

Now, how does Jonah point us to Christ?

  • Both were in the depths of darkness for three days. Both went into the depths as a ransom for others.  In Jonah’s case, his being cast into the sea was that the sailers would be spared from the wrath of God – Jesus died and was buried, so that we would be spared from the wrath of God!
  • Both lay in the darkness, in expectant hope of the resurrection.  Jonah 2:6  
  • Both Jonah and Jesus returned to life, and when they did, their resurrected life brought new life to men.

Now that sign, the sign of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the sign!  It is the sign for the Pharisees and it is the sign for us too!  NO OTHER SIGN WILL BE GIVEN and no other sign should be expected or sought.


3 The Gospel Testimony.  41-42   

Jesus now challenges the Pharises. They are sinners, and they have been pointed to the only sign that any man will ever have, the death and resurrection of Jesus.  On judgement day others who have been far less privileged and who did respond will rise up and act as witnesses against them.   

  • Jesus is GREATER THAN JONAH!  What happened when Jonah preached? There was great repentance, and turning from sin.  Jonah 3:10   What will those repentant Ninevites say on judgement day?  They will report that they repented under the preaching of a mere man, who walked the streets declaring God’s judgement upon sinners, while the Pharisees and their ilk refused to repent even though the Son of God Himself was in their midst.
  • Jesus is GREATER THAN SOLOMON!  In 1st Kings 10 there is a remarkable account of how the Queen of Sheba travelled a long distance to visit the King of Israel.  She had heard reports about his wisdom and she travelled to meet him.  When she met him she tested him with questions, and he amazed her with his wisdom.  She believed in GOD who had prospered Israel and Solomon! 1 Kings 10:7-9 What will the Queen of Sheba say on judgement day?   She will rise up against these Pharisees and testify that she believed in God, because she had met a man – Solomon.  These men had met a greater than Solomon, the Son of God, and not believed!

Now, here’s the underlying challenge.  There are two fundamental responses that are common to every sinner whom Christ has called to himself.  They will REPENT and BELIEVE!  Mark 1:14  

So, the Pharisees are left without excuse.  They are aware of their own history, aware of the historical references in the OT, – they know how great and marvellous was the repentance of the Ninevites under the preaching of Jonah, how wonderful was the Queen of Sheba testimony of belief in God when she met Solomon – yet one stood in their very midst, who was far superior to both these great men – and they have refused to repent and believe.  How great will be their condemnation!  Now, what of us?  It is the same message that comes to us.  Repent and Believe.

© BobMcEvoy February 2019

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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