Psalm for the Day

Monday, January 23, 2012

Faith without signs……

“Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up.
Teacher, they said, we want to see you perform a miracle.

How evil and godless are the people of this day!  Jesus exclaimed.
You ask me for a miracle?  No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah.  In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 

On the Judgment Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah!  On the Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she traveled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!”   Matthew 12: 38-42 GNT

The teaching of Jesus in this passage begins with an incident; here a demand is made from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for a miraculous sign (v. 38).

The immediate answer of Jesus was that there would be no sign as they wished, because the request came from unbelieving hearts (v. 39). There would be a sign, though, the sign of Jonah, which would confirm that Jesus was who He said He was.  But that sign would only be recognized after they crucified Him.  Nevertheless, it would give them one last opportunity to believe.

Then Jesus provides two warnings of unbelief based on history: the belief of the people of Nineveh and the belief of the Queen of Sheba.  Here were Gentiles, not Jews, who believed the revelation from God, and therefore who would condemn these unbelievers.  This means that their believing would show that unbelieving Israel should have believed, and could have believed, and so have no excuse.  They had believed the word of Jonah, and the Wisdom of Solomon; but now the Messiah was present and they should have believed.

Then Jesus adds a prophetic teaching about the future hardening in unbelief of this wicked generation.  To realize the power of Jesus to cleanse the heart but still refuse to receive Him will lead to a much worse condition.

There are two historical stories that have to be re-thought: Jonah and Sheba.  People are familiar with those stories, but here we have to see exactly how Jesus was using them to make His point.

The point of the passage focuses on unbelief and belief, unbelief by the Jews, and belief by the Gentiles.   Jesus’ teaching then first declares that they are wicked, and then announces condemnation in the judgment in contrast to those who believe, and finally announces that they will be hardened in unbelief if they do not receive Him.

One clear statement made in this passage is on judgment to those who do not believe the word of the Lord and receive Jesus as their King.  Those who do not believe will have no excuse, for people with far less information than they believed--and now a greater than Israel’s prophets and kings was present.  The idea is not that one needs a lot of information or signs in order to believe; rather, the response of faith to the amount of revelation given will determine acceptance with God. Without faith it is impossible to please God; and so when He sends His word, He expects people to trust Him.

Jesus is also saying that if He defeats Satan and they do not accept Him, then Satan’s power will have a greater hold on them in the future.


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