Summary: In times of confusion and angst, sometimes people want a sign that God is around. This message reveals God's roadsigns, that point to life with him.
Have you ever wanted proof – a sign, something tangible that you could see, touch, taste, feel with your senses that God really exists, something beyond the extraordinary?
People everywhere are always looking for a sign that God exists, that God is moving in and through their lives…. Like millions today, most of the folks in Jesus’ times were looking for a sign – they were looking for signs that God was moving in their lives – that God was still concerned about their welfare, and upon hearing and seeing of this one man, Jesus, who’s creating quite a stir because of what he’s doing and saying, many want him to PROVE to them with signs and wonders that He truly was the Promised Messiah – the Promised Son of God.
Read and reference John 4:48.
Like the official who needed to actually SEE Jesus heal his son from the brink of death (in order to believe that God could heal him), so too the Pharisees wanted a sign that Jesus truly was who said he was. They wanted proof.
Turn back to Matthew 12. Just before our Gospel story, Jesus withdrawals to a quite place, but the crowds follow him…. and in their following, they bring to him a demon possessed man, and Jesus delivers the man…. The crowds are astonished, they’re wondering who this miracle worker is – how this man – this person can perform all these miracles. They ask aloud – “could this be the son of David?” Meaning, could this be the prophesied Messiah.
But the Pharisees don’t believe what has happened – they accuse Jesus of being in league with the devil. But in fact, it goes a bit further than this. The tried to outsmart Jesus; they tried to demonstrate their human intellect; they tried to show Jesus their wisdom – only to their own folly!
Jesus rebukes them, and the only way they can respond is by saying, well, then, prove to us you are who you say you are – prove to us you are the Son of God – give us a sign then Jesus!
That’s where the Gospel picks up —in this continuing exchange between folly and wisdom, in this continuing confrontation of living for religion vs. living for God’s Kingdom. IN short, the Gospel for this morning picks up in this continuing confrontation of Jesus (like John the Baptist before him) proclaiming – in a manner of words – repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is upon you!
THE SIGN OF JONAH
I can only imagine Jesus at this point is only a little annoyed with the Pharisees, and in this ongoing battle of wisdom vs. folly, Jesus again rebukes, and then proclaims to the Pharisees a riddle of sorts.
Jesus prophetically speaks to what will happen to him. As Jonah was led to the depths of the earth in the belly of t great fish, so to Christ will be led to the depths of the earth for three days And, as Jonah went came out of the fish, and completed his mission. So as well Jesus’ ministry could only be completed through his death and resurrection. For people of the world (like those in Nineveh) would be able to hear the gospel and believe, in faith. But for many, faith just isn’t enough to believe – some need to see signs in order to believe.
St. Thomas was looking for a sign –a sign as to the prove Jesus truly had died and been resurrected. Listen to the Gospel of John, to Chapter 20 vv 24-30. Like Thomas, neither the official nor the Pharisees were willing to believe with their ears (and heart) the truth Jesus was proclaiming…. For the sign they wanted was not a sign of the heart. But a sign of the heart – a sign of wisdom and not folly is what Jesus is looking for in all us of.
Notice Jesus twice mentions in our Gospel story, “One Greater than these.” Jonah was a prophet sent to the most hideous people of the time. But notice Jesus says to the Pharisees that he is one greater than Jonah.
ONE GREATER THAN THESE
In other words, Jesus is saying to the Pharisees – I am the one greater, and I am calling upon all people of the world to repent – for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus very well might have said to the Pharisees, “I was with Jonah, and I gave him the words to call upon the people of Nineveh to repent. I am the Spirit of God, and I am the one who spoke through the prophets. Jesus is saying, I am the Spirit of Wisdom, and I am calling upon you to be wise, and repent.