A sign from heaven

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
Matthew 16:1 (NIV)

Read:  Matthew 16:1-12

Consider: As the Pharisees and Sadducees were on opposing sides in Judaism, it is interesting that they came together to test Jesus, by asking him for a sign from heaven.  We know from the Bible that Jesus had performed many miracles, yet the religious elite continued to refuse to believe that he was the promised Messiah.

Jesus’ retort to the Pharisees and Sadducees’ request leaves them in no doubt that he will not give them the sign they want.  The sayings that Jesus quotes in Matthew 16:2-3 are very familiar to us today.  He points out to his questioners that while they could interpret the appearance of the sky, they seemed unable to interpret the signs of the times.  Although the Israelites were eagerly waiting for the promised Messiah, they were unable to see (or didn’t want to see) that Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies about the Messiah.

When reading the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees it reminded me of the temptation of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4:1-11.  Satan said to Jesus ‘If you are the Son of God …’ and he said this twice.  What he was really saying is: ‘If you are the Son of God, then prove it’.  Is that not what the Pharisees and Sadducees were saying to Jesus?

In today’s reading Jesus’ response to the religious elite continues: A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah (16:4).  Not very diplomatic!  Jesus was basically saying that by requesting a sign from heaven, the Pharisees and Sadducees revealed that they came from a generation that has rebelled against God and rejected his rule over their lives.

There is part of what Jesus says that might cause you some confusion.  He says regarding a sign that:  ‘… none will be given it except the sign of Jonah (16:4).  So what is the ‘sign of Jonah’ that Jesus refers to?  There are different possibilities here.  If we look back to the book of Jonah, we see that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and after three days he was spat out onto dry land.  The sign of Jonah is, therefore, a foreshadow of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  Jesus affirms this himself in Matthew 12:40 – For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  

In Luke’s gospel we also read Jesus saying: For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation (Luke 11:30).  He is saying that when Jonah went to Nineveh and prophesied against it, this caused the Ninevites to repent and be saved from destruction.  Similarly, as Jesus came as the Messiah, together with the miracles he performed, this should have caused the Jews to repent and turn to God for forgiveness.

What is your response to the claims of Jesus?  Do you ask for signs, so that Jesus can prove to you who he is?  Have you held off asking God for forgiveness, looking for some more information before you decide?  If so, take heed of the lesson we learn from today’s reading.  The signs are all there, if only your eyes and ears were open to the truth.  Jesus doesn’t need to prove he is the Son of God, because he is the Son of God.  Everything about him speaks clearly of his identity.

Pray:  Father, help us to see the sign of Jonah clearly demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ.  We pray that people would come to understand the gift of forgiveness being offered to them, repent and turn to you.  Amen

Every blessing

Author: profsloan

The purpose of this blog is to encourage others to read the Bible daily and to grow in Christ. Each day I will generally publish a devotional or a reading for the day, together with a prayer.

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