We are going to look this morning at a passage where Jesus is confronted by a group of unbelieving Pharisees and Scribes. They came at a moment when the crowds were showing overwhelming praise toward Jesus.
They came demanding what many in our day are likewise demanding.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." Matt 12:38
One of the wrong assumptions through the ages is that a person’s willful rejection of God in their life will be turned around if they can simply see a sign.
If this is true then:
1) Why wasn’t Pharaoh(10 signs) the most dynamic servant of God in the Old Testament?
2) Why did his soldiers who just witnessed a sea open still follow the Israelites with the intentions of killing them?
3) Why did the children of Israel continually grumble at Moses, especially in the shade of the cloud by day or by the light of the pillar of fire by night?
Many in the NT saw sign after sign, miracle after miracle and yet the crowds still gathered before Pilate to shout, ‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him’.
Jesus gave an account in Luke 16 of one who found himself eternally lost but wanted to have a sign given to his five brothers lest they end up where he was.
Story of two men, one rich and one poor.
The rich man was just known as ‘the rich man’ while the poor man was named as Lazarus. Lazarus ended up in a place of comfort while the rich man ended up in a place of torment. In his agony the rich man first asked to be comforted but when he found out that was not possible he asked this question…
LUKE 16:27-31 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers -in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' "But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'
"But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.' " He thought a sign would do but was told that no sign could replace the revelation that God had already given.
This passage reminds us of Paul’s declaration in Romans 10 where he states that 'Faith comes by hearing(not by signs) and by hearing the Word of God.
God has revealed Himself in many ways so that no kind of sign we might see today could be any more compelling.
HIS CREATION – OUR CONSCIENCE – HIS WORD – HIS SON
1) Romans 1 says that His CREATION is enough evidence of Him that we are ‘without excuse’ if we do not accept that there is a Creator we should worship.
Romans 1:20 ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes , His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse’.
Astronomer HUGH ROSS: CREATOR AND THE COSMOS
Spoke at a prestigious American university to 40 scientists about the proofs of God. He shared many of the proofs science has shown for the existence of God.
'No holy book or scientific theory taught the beginning, expansion and decay of the universe, except the Bible for thousands of years, until Albert Einstein came up with the Theory of General Relativity in 1917'.
1995: 41 design features in which the probability for all to be met was less than 1 in 10(31).
2000: 128 features with probability of 1 in 10(144)
2002: 202 at 10(217) 2004: 322 at 10(282)
2006: 676 at 10(556) Just for bacteria life and not even human.
Probability evidence increases at 1 million times per month that the God of the Bible is responsible for the design of the universe.
PS 19:1 ‘The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands’.
2) The Bible also indicates that each person has been given a CONCIENCE which should lead us to know that we fall short of some level of right and wrong.
Romans 1:19 “That which is known about God is evident WITHIN THEM; for God made it evident to them’. God has put evidence of Himself within each one of us.
a) There is a moral code written on each heart placed there by the One Who created man in His own image.
James 4:17 ‘Therefore, to the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.’
3) God gave us an amazing REVELATION through His WORD that indicates our falling short of His revealed standard and our need to seek His mercy. 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1500 years yet having one central message.,
Discovery of the DEAD SEA SCROLLS in 1940’s gave us manuscripts of OT a 1,000 years older than we previously had. It gave us portions of every OT book except the book of Esther. It also gave us the entire scroll of the book of ISAIAH. EIGHT CENTURIES before Jesus was born these passages were written.
Isa 53:5-6 ‘But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him.
53:9 ‘His grave was assigned with wicked men yet he was with a rich man in His death…
53:10 ‘…He would render Himself as a guilt offering…’
53:11 ‘…He will bear their iniquities…’
53:12 ‘…He Himself bore the sin of many…’
Jesus also quoted the first verse of PSALM 22 from the cross.
Older than Isaiah. A Psalm also written before crucifixion was invented. Teachers in that day would reference an entire psalm by quoting 1st verse.
This psalm could have been written at the foot of the cross.
1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
7-8 All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, "Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."
14-15 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
16-18 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
4) God gave us the REVELATION of His SON Who came to earth, walked with us, called us to repentance and died to pay the only price that could address our sin.
Hebrews 1:2 ‘In these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom He made the world’.
What could any sign add to these things? To have already rejected these four things and to demand a sign is not a problem of the mind but of the heart. That is why the Bible tells us in PS 14:1, ‘The fool has said in his HEART(will) there is no God’ and Romans 1:21, ‘Professing to be wise they became fools’.
Jesus responded to the request for a sign by making a strong point.
39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; (Not a faithful and believing generation but a generation that has already rejected all the other evidences that God has given of Himself)
What does this passage have to do with Easter? Jesus now shares a sign that was given and how that sign actual leads to a sign for in their near future but which is now 2,000 years past for us. The sign we should celebrate every day but especially today.
I heard a statistic this week that 25% of people who come to church on Easter have no idea what Easter is even all about. For ¼ of you here today:
Easter is about our celebration of the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ!!!!
TWO SIGNS THAT GOD WILL SHOW:
"An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;
The sign of JONAH. One of the most attacked miracles in the OT.
If you run into any modern skeptic or liberal preacher/teacher type they will undoubtedly try to attack this account in Scripture. ‘How could a man survive 3 days inside of a fish?’ I would think if a person could eat three straight days of sushi then it might work out ok.
Jesus obviously knew about Jonah and did not doubt that this occurred.
There is obviously ways things happen that we may not always understand until we actually see for ourselves. If you would have pulled Jonah aside in his day and talked about people flying to the moon he would have thought you were crazy also. Now we understand what they didn’t.
The major point to address this or any other miraculous event in Scripture is that a God Who could create all that we can see and are.
A God Who set this universe in motion and will bring it to His chosen end.
A God Who has done, is doing and will do things beyond our imagination.
If all those things are true about Him then what happened to Jonah or anybody else in the Bible is small potatoes in comparison. I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO LOOK AT ALL THAT GOD HAS ALREADY DONE AND THEN DOUBT WHAT HE CAN DO!!
Here is the EASTER message for us today:
40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
This morning we remember and celebrate the fact that after three days and nights in the belly of the earth Jesus emerged as did Jonah from the fish.
1) Jonah was cast overboard into the sea as Jesus was cast upon a cross
2) Jonah when swallowed probably said ‘I am finished’ while Jesus from the cross said, ‘It is finished’.
3) Jonah made a three days journey captive in a smelly ride while Jesus made His trip to announce freedom to the captives in a hellish place.
4) Jonah came out with an amazing message of God’s power while Jesus came forth demonstrating the ultimate power of God in the RESURRECTION.
Jesus told those doubting Scribes and Pharisees, who were the poster children for an evil and adulterous generation, that God would give them a sign and that would be the greatest sign of all time. God’s Son would die and 3 days later be made alive.
We live on the other side of that great sign. We can search and search for the body of Jesus today and never find it because it can’t be found but it will be seen when He comes back.
Last month a court case was finally settled over an ossuary found in Jerusalem. An ossuary is a box of bones. For a short time in Jewish history, which also included the time of Christ, Jews would bury their dead in tombs and then a year or so later go and retrieve the bones and put them in these family ossuary. These would then be inscribed with whose bones were in them. This court case was over one that was found that was inscribed, ‘James, the son of Joseph and brother of Jesus’. This inscription is so odd because a family member other than the father was rarely put on an ossuary unless that family member was of extreme importance.
The NT tells us that James, the brother of Jesus was the leader of the NT church and was also the writer of the book of James. This type of evidence is tremendous truth to validate the NT and so some groups sued to try and disprove the validity of the find. Last month the judge, after hearing 5 years of testimony and taking a full year to study it, declared the ossuary genuine.
We may find an ossuary of many NT people but we will never find any place where the remains of Jesus Christ are: no ossuary or no tomb. ALL ARE EMPTY
Right now we have a tomb that is empty of His body and a church that should be full of His Spirit. The reason many doubt the empty tomb is because they doubt that our lives are filled. We as the Body of Christ should be the modern evidence that Jesus is alive by the proof that His Spirit is alive in us.
With all the amazing evidence of the RESURRECTION Jesus continues by describing some who believed in the face of others who didn’t.
TWO PEOPLE WHO WERE ABLE TO SEE:
Jesus point to two OT accounts. One involved how a nation responded while the other was about a single lady and her response.
A PEOPLE WHO HEARD SOMEONE WHO CAME:
41 "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
The men of Nineveh: One of the reasons Jesus might have used this OT story is the same reason He told the story of the Good SAMARITAN or the same reason that Jonah himself initially did not want to obey God.
These Ninevites were the worst possible excuse for GENTILES.
When Jonah first heard God’s call he ran the other way. He got on a boat and started sailing the other way. When they through him overboard in the storm I think that if it were not for the great fish that he would have started swimming in the other direction.
Jonah was the world’s worst missionary. Which direction are you running when it comes to reaching out to the lost?
Or as I call them in a politically correct way, ‘The eternity challenged’.
Jonah hated the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of the hated Assyrian Empire. Jonah didn’t want to tell them God’s message because he was afraid they might have a revival. And then they did and he was still mad about it.
1) It would have been like Jews for Jesus in 1946 sending missionaries to formerly Nazi Germany. The Ninevites had a cruel past in how they had treated the Jews.
Jonah reluctantly came: Bad attitude, probably sea sick, bleached from the digestive juices of the fish and smelling like fish puke since he had been ‘vomited’ out into the surf of the Assyrian beach.
A little boy was told the story of Jonah in a Sunday School class. The teacher asked the class what lesson that they had learned. The boy replied, ‘I learned that people make whales sick’.
We can learn that God’s message can save the worst of sinners even when preached by the worst of evangelists. The power is in the truth that convicts.
Imagine the impact upon a stuffy bunch of self-righteous Jewish leaders being told that some of the worst Gentiles in history will one day condemn them for their unbelief.
What will generations who lived before the Bible was so available or the truths of Jesus were so well known say to those who live in our day and yet turn a blind heart to all the evidences that surrounded them? What will people who will have come to faith in Communist China say one day to those who rejected Christ in a religiously free America.
A PERSON WHO CAME TO SOMEONE TO HEAR:
42 "The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Jesus then mentions a woman who had so much against her but she still made every effort to know Who God was.
1) Problem of distance: She traveled over 1,000 miles to hear Solomon
2) Problem of distraction: She was wealthy and had all her needs met so reaching her was like a camel through the eye of a needle(MT 19:24). Money, more than anything, can distract people from the truth of their need of God’s mercy.
She came a thousand miles to hear about God from Solomon. Jesus came from heaven to these spiritually deaf Jewish leaders and yet their hearts remained harder than Pharaoh’s before Moses.
You may not have traveled far to hear what you are hearing today. You may think that little effort has gone into this moment. But God has moved heaven and earth to make this moment possible. He has given every evidence to show that He is real and also made the greatest effort possible by sending His own Son to die that there might be a gospel to share this morning. The last thing this moment is today is simple or easy.
Ross ended his book stating the question that he often hears asked when he speaks. ‘Why has our generation been singled out to receive such an abundance of evidences for God and His Word?’ His answer is that God measures out His evidence in direct response to the level of resistance to His truth.
No generation has been given more evidence than ours and yet the darkness appears to have never been greater and seems to be intensifying.
We have the Word of God more available than ever.
We have science now directly pointing to the God of creation.
None has more archaeological proof, fulfilled prophesy
We have churches in every part of our own nation.
After a presentation on the Evidences of God in Science four physics professors came up to Hugh Ross afterwards. Hugh asked if any of them could deny any of what had been presented. They said they could not. He then asked ‘why are you not ready to accept the conclusions’.
One said he was not ready to be that rational because of his unwillingness to give up sexual immorality. The others said that they were not ready because of deep wounds they had received in their lives at the hands of people who called themselves Christians.
Many have come to church and tried to clean up their lives. They have gotten the motivation to change some things for the better but they did not find what the Christian life is truly all about. It is not about making your present life better.
It is about dying to that old life and receiving a brand new life that can only be found in Christ.
Leonard Ravenhill: ‘Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men alive!’
The world has all the evidence they could ever ask for except for the one evidence they need the most.
To see a dynamic church that is not just singing but surrendered.
To see those who are not just congregating but consecrated.
To see those who are not just telling the world about an empty tomb but showing the world where the body went. That Jesus Christ now fills our lives to overflowing and that He is overflowing into a lost world.
EASTER is when we celebrate that the TOMB IS EMPTY but we are also to remember that our LIVES ARE TO BE FILLED. The day will rarely come where a lost person will go and search the Empty tomb but no day passes when someone will not look to see if your life is full.
2 Timothy 1:12 Paul does know say, I know WHAT I have believed’ but he says, ‘I know WHOM I have believe and that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him..’
MT 7:21-23 Many will say in that day, Lord, Lord In Your Name we prophesied…cast out demons….did miracles…depart from me I never knew you’. In your name we WENT TO CHURCH….GAVE TO THE OFFERING…even PRAYED A PRAYER…I never KNEW you. DO YOU KNOW HIM?