Reader: “Now someone greater than Solomon is here—”
Response: “but you refuse to listen.”
Scripture: Matthew 12:38-42
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
“The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
There is an attitude expressed in this passage that is a universal curiosity. People like to see magic tricks. The Pharisees were pushing for such, but with insincere hearts. But we need to see the larger context. Previous to the portion you just read, in the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus had frustrated them by claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath (eating grain in a field on the Sabbath), healing a man with a deformed hand, and healing a demon-possessed man. They could deny neither of these miracles. Yet we come to today’s pericope with their words, “Show us a miracle as a sign to prove your authority.” There was a popular expectation that the Messiah would perform astounding miracles on command. Remember during Jesus’ trial, Herod questioned Jesus hoping to see him perform a miracle? Jesus saw through the bogus request of the Pharisees for they had already seen him perform miracles in their presence. Have you noticed Jesus never did a miracle for its own sake? His miracles were never as magic tricks nor for entertainment. They always pointed to bringing glory to God and to establishing his identity that people might repent and believe in the Son of God. So Jesus went to a story in the First Testament, the Pharisees’ own Bible, to make his point in response to their request. The prophet Jonah preached and the Ninevites repented. Jesus then drew a parallel between himself and Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish in reference to his death and resurrection. (In passing, observe that Jesus treated the whole encounter of Jonah, the fish, and preaching repentance to the Ninevites as historical truth. He didn’t treat the story as allegory nor should we ever treat the resurrection as allegory.) Jesus then claimed to be greater than the prophet Jonah and greater than King Solomon. In truth, the Pharisees were not the least bit interested in repenting before Jesus and confessing him as the Messiah, though a few did (Nicodemus). All people on earth have been given the most miraculous sign ever, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his victory over evil, sin, and death. The question is, do people repent and believe? In these days following Easter, perhaps you’ll have a chance today to talk with a “Pharisee” and help them become a Nicodemus.
Music: “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” Simon Khorolskiy & Brothers
Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with Thy Grace. Here is my sinful and troubled soul; quicken it and refresh it with Thy love. Take my heart for Thine abode, my mouth to spread abroad the glory of Thy name, my love and all my powers for the advancement of Thy believing people; that at all times I may be enabled from the heart to say, “Jesus needs me, and I him.” ―Dwight L. Moody