“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! 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. ” Then Jesus left them and went away.” Matthew 16:1-4 NLT
The point that Jesus was making was that the Kingdom of Heaven had come and that they were going to be excluded if they persisted in their rejection of Him. This warning troubled them, but they were still not convinced that He was the Messiah--far from it. So they demanded a sign from Him. Jesus rebukes them for asking for a sign instead of believing, He assesses their spiritual condition and pronounces sentence on them.
When the hard-hearted Sadducees and Pharisees insisted on seeing a sign from Jesus, it aptly recalls the prophesy of Simeon at the temple when he told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35)
Jesus was the greatest sign that the Jews had ever seen since the time of King Solomon and the prophet Jonah. But the thoughts of the Pharisees and Sadducees revealed their evil nature when they plotted to kill Jesus, whom they regarded as merely a man opposed to their established Judaic traditions and burdensome rituals.
Jesus identified Himself with the prophet Jonah, because both of them were ‘entombed’ for three days, and then rose again to bring conversion to non-Jews. But while the Gentiles of Nineveh were converted and repented even without witnessing any miracles by Jonah, the Jewish leaders continued to ask Jesus for proof even though they had seen the miracles He had performed.
Jesus also identified Himself with King Solomon, because the latter was the son and successor of King David, and Jesus was likewise addressed as the ‘Son of David’ (Mt.9:27,12:23). Both of them displayed extraordinary wisdom, but while Solomon’s human wisdom won over the Queen of Sheba, Jesus’ divine wisdom was rejected by the leaders of God’s chosen People.
The wisdom and power of Jesus to convert sinners and unbelievers is greater than the greatest prophets and kings of the Old Testament, and even encompass all the ages of mankind’s history, as evidenced by the continuing power of His Word, the Holy Bible.
His Word should be enough for us to live by faith. Our conversion should stand alone as a testimony, not merely a sign of Jesus’ power in our life.
If people have a hard time believing and serving Jesus wholeheartedly without a sign, then something is wrong in their spiritual growth. God may do miraculous signs, and when He does it should fill us with praise and thanksgiving. But our faith should be based in the Word of God--that is what the apostles say redeems us.
That Word reveals to us the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. People who have come to faith in God through the Scriptures should set about to grow spiritually and to serve faithfully. The miraculous “signs” they should see would be answers to prayer and people growing in faith or lives being changed through their witness. These will be confirming signs but not signs to compel them to believe in God. It is a fine distinction but God expects us to walk by faith whether the signs are present or not.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” II Cor. 5:7 NKJV