Matthew 12:38-50: Greater Than Jonah
February 6, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Signs” function sometimes in a positive way in the New Testament—John’s Gospel is structured around signs that are given that we may believe, for instance (John 20:30-31). But here the Pharisees are asking for a sign (12:38), really demanding for a sign; it was another way to attempt to put Jesus through a series of tests. Behind it was not an openness to believe, but a rebellious spirit seeking to find ways to trap Jesus, or at least avoid believing.
Sometimes today, too, people will say, “If only God did such-and-such for me, then I would believe.” Likely as not, with that attitude, even if “such-and-such” occurred, that individual would find another condition that was necessary that God meet before they would follow him. In other words, the real issue is the heart, which is what Jesus now diagnoses.
They are an “evil and adulterous generation” (12:39), this type that demands a sign. In fact, of course, they will be given a sign, the sign of the prophet Jonah (12:39-41). Just as Jonah was miraculously rescued from the sea, so Jesus will miraculously rise again from the dead. Those who repented at the preaching of Jonah will condemn this generation for ignoring Jesus; likewise, those who listened to the wisdom of Solomon will condemn those who refused to follow Jesus’ wisdom (12:42). The reality is that the quotient of learning and receiving is as much about the attitude of the recipient as it is about the one giving the information; if someone does not not want to learn, they will not learn, even if the person preaching is none other than Jesus himself.
In fact, verses 43-45, such a person, even if temporarily healed or exorcized, unless the real core issue is dealt with, unless there is a change of heart and genuine repentance, the end result of the person demanding a sign, even if they received one, will be worse than it was at first—for they still are not willing to believe and now have even more evidence to expose their stubborn heart.
Then Jesus’ family comes to him (12:46). Jesus uses this opportunity to teach about what it really means to be close to him. It is not physical kinship that counts, but doing the will of his father in heaven (12:48-50).
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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