The Request for a Sign
Text: Matthew 12 : 38 - 50
The request for a sign may appear to be a legitimate request. However, the context of the request must be carefully understood. If Jesus had merely made claims without any manifestations or proofs of His identity then the request would indeed be valid. Many signs had already been given! Thus this special request for “a sign” from Jesus was a spurious one!
THE SIGNS THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN GIVEN
Let us look at some of the obvious signs that were plain for all to see! The scribes and Pharisees had the responsibility of checking out these signs for themselves. They had no right to ask for more signs.
1. The Birth of Jesus
The very birth of Jesus was itself a sign, according to a text from the Book of Isaiah.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
And shall call His name Immanuel.”
2. The Testimony of John the Baptiser
His testimony cannot be easily discounted. His messages could not be conveniently ignored. He had testified long and loudly of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
3. The Testimony of the Scriptures
Jesus appealed again and again to the Scriptures for His authority. One of the most striking passages cited was a text from Isaiah 42 that clearly identified the Messiah-Servant whom God would send (Cf. Matthew 12:17-21).
4. The Actual Ministry of Jesus
The sick were healed. The demons were cast out. The dead were raised! If these were not signs what would they be?
The kingdom of God has indeed appeared to men! This fact should be so obvious! Only the unregenerate wicked could come out with a request for more signs!
AN APPROPRIATE REBUKE
The rebuke Jesus delivered was most appropriate! His words were scathing but most accurate. He saw through their ploy of appearing to be sincere seekers of the truth! The scribes and Pharisees were as false as false could be. Could they be given the benefit of the doubt? Jesus did not think so!
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign…”
The language that Jesus used reminds us of the book that Hosea the prophet wrote. He too rebuked the nation for its idolatrous and adulterous ways. Hosea’s wayward wife well symbolized the wickedness of Israel.
“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the Lord.”
“Bring charges against your mother, bring charges;
For she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband!
Let her put away her harlotries from her sight,
And her adulteries from between her breasts.”
How far different was the generation of Jesus from that of the generation of Hosea? Not very much different at all! The scribes may have a form of righteousness, and they may appear to have much knowledge of the Scriptures. However, the truth was that they had little or no true knowledge of God at all.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.”
The scribes and Pharisees were skilled in the knowledge of their oral tradition. In favouring their own knowledge, they had in fact set aside the true knowledge found in the laws of God! This was a wicked act indeed, hence Jesus rebuked them with scorching words.
“No sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah”
This was a gracious concession on the part of Jesus! He would not give them a sign as demanded. However, there would be another special sign that will be given. He chose to speak in cryptic language. Would the scribes and Pharisees be able to understand this statement?
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly
of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days
and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Jesus was of course making a reference to His resurrection! But to the scribes and Pharisees, these words brought no joy at all. They could not understand His words!