Summary: Second message on Matthew 12:38-42, this one dealing with the words of Jesus regarding the sign of Jonah and how the people responded to his words.

The Sign of Jonah

Matthew 12:38-42, 16:1-4

July 16, 2006


There’s a really good chance that you’re going to beat the Baptists to Steak-N-Buffet today, because this message is going to be a bit shorter than normal.

I know you’re just heart-broken over that, but I’m sure you’ll get over it eventually.

We all like proof, don’t we? If we hear someone make a claim that we find hard to believe, we like proof.

And if the desire is to truly know if someone’s claim is valid, then that’s okay. But when we come to it with a cynical attitude, then really all the proof in the world won’t make a difference.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were to the point where they didn’t really care to know if Jesus was the Messiah.

Most of them were convinced that not only was He not the Messiah, but that He was, in actuality, an agent of the devil.

And so they come up to Jesus and say, “Prove it.” But they don’t really mean it.

They’re simply looking for an excuse to discredit Him.

Last week we talked about the dangers of demanding signs from God. We could have left it there, but I don’t want to just walk away from this passage without addressing the specifics of the “sign of Jonah” referenced by Jesus here.

He discusses this later in Matthew as well, and we’re going to look at both passages as we try to sort through this deal of the “sign of Jonah.”

Matthew 12:38-42 (p. 690) –

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”

Just a quick historical note here: the Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba, who visited Solomon and was blown away at his wisdom.

Matthew 16:1-4 (p. 693)–

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, "When evening comes, you say, ’It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ’Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.

These area two separate incidents, apparently with different religious leaders coming to Jesus at different times, but making the same demand of Jesus: “Prove it. Prove you’re the Messiah, and prove it right now.”

But again, they weren’t looking for proof from Jesus, they were looking for proof against Him so they could take action to get rid of Him.

So let’s take a look at how Jesus responds to these people, and I think that by answering the following three questions, we can gain some insight not only into the words of Jesus, but how we can make them a part of our lives.

Just what is the “sign of Jonah”?

Two main opinions:

1. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

This, of course, comes from Jesus’ words in verse 40 of Matthew 12

“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.”

The implication here is that the proof of Jesus being the Messiah will come when He conquers sin and death at the cross and the grave.

And of course, this would be the most obvious to us, since we have the advantage of having the Bible, which records not just all these words, but the actual history of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

And there is no mistaking His reference to Jonah’s experience in the fish as pointing to Jesus.

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