Summary: Pharisees and Sadducees came seeking a sign, though Jesus had already given many. They wanted to see something different than He had already done; every miracle that Christ had done was a sign, for no man could do what He did unless God were with him.
Lesson: Pharisees Increase Attack
1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’;
3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
The unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees came seeking a sign from heaven, that is to say, an outward miraculous demonstration, of which Jesus had already given many. They wanted to see some other sign; something different than He had already done. There had already been many miracles; every miracle that Christ had done was a sign, for no man could do what He did unless God were with him.
They wanted to tell Him what the miracle should be. Actually, they wanted to see a sign from heaven. They wanted to see something like what happened on Mount Sinai when the Law was received by Moses: thunder and lightening and the voice of God. They pretended that if they saw these signs from heaven that they were willing to be satisfied and convinced, when that was really not so.
These men (the Pharisees and Sadducees) had a difference of opinion with each other on many articles of doctrine, which can be seen in Acts 23:7-8. There we read, “And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. However, they were in agreement in their opposition to Christ, because His word pointed out the errors and heresies of the Sadducees, who denied the existence of the Holy Spirit and of both heaven and hell. And He also spoke out against the pride, tyranny and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who forced all the traditions of their ancestors on the people.
They had to have a miracle of their choice; but you see, miracles alone never saved anyone. They only serve to validate and call attention to the message, which must be believed in order for salvation to be experienced in the soul. What they really wanted to do was to tempt Him; not to be taught by Him. If He showed them a sign from heaven, they would attribute it to a union with the Devil; and if he did not give them a sign, as they supposed he would not, they would use that as an excuse for why they did not believe in Him.
Instead of another miracle, He points them to the signs of the times, which are related to the sky and His second coming. He referred to their ability to determine the coming weather by the sky and implied that they should have been able to determine the time of His coming also. When Jesus said, “When it is evening you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening,” He was referring to common rules for making weather forecasts, drawn from observations and experience. If only they could have as easily identified the times they were living in.
The miracles that Christ wrought, and the gathering of people to Him, were plain indications that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. These men could not even see that their own ruin was coming for rejecting Christ. Even today, millions are not aware of how they will end up for refusing Christ. Why is it that people believe the weather report, but not the Word of God? They fail to see what God is doing in His world. Keep your eyes open, and ask God for wisdom to understand His plan.
Jesus condemned them for overlooking the signs they already had. They were seeking for signs of the Kingdom of God when it was already among them. He refused to give them any other signs, as he had done before.
The “adulterous generation”, that He mentions, is used here in a spiritual sense, to stand for those who are unfaithful to God. The “adulterous generation” is the Pharisees and Sadducees that He is speaking to, but they were pure in their own eyes. He will only give them the sign of the prophet Jonah. The sign of the prophet Jonah is one of Jesus’ favorite sayings for it relates to His resurrection (see 12:38–40; Jn 2:18–22).