And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (ESV)
How did they ask for a sign, how did Jesus respond, how does this apply to us?
In part 3 of this study we looked at the motive behind the Pharisees & Sadducees request, they came in a spirit of argument to test him. Jesus’ response is twofold. Since we’ve been studying up on the sign of Jonah let’s examine that part of the response first and then we’ll delve into the first part of His answer. Quite simply Jesus refuses saying that no sign will be given to an evil and adulterous generation seeking one except for the sign of Jonah. What does he mean by evil and adulterous? Let’s look at a translation comparison for some insight:
Matthew 16:4 ESV
4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Matthew 16:4 AMP
4A wicked and morally unfaithful generation craves a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Then He left them and went away.
Here we see that evil and wicked are used interchangeably as well as adulterous and morally unfaithful.
Scripture teaches that apart from Jesus Christ we have no righteousness, we all fall into the wicked and morally unfaithful category initially but those who believe in Jesus Christ and repent/turn away from their wickedness/the flesh will be saved (Romans 3:10-26, John 3:16, I John 1:9). We see examples throughout the New Testament where people who humbly believed in Jesus were healed from all sorts of physical and spiritual ailments miraculously through the power of God. Jesus did not perform these signs and miracles for the sake of performance but to save the lost, to bring in the ready harvest…let me say that again…
Jesus did not perform these signs and miracles for the sake of performance but to save the lost, to bring in the ready harvest.
As we studied, the sign of Jonah (the miracle of Christ’s resurrection from death and his warning/calling to believe and repent) has and is in the process of being proclaimed. Some respond in unbelief and yet still demand a sign…have you ever heard anything along the lines of, “so you believe Jesus is God or so you believe God is real – PROVE IT!”? Even if that isn’t said audibly that spirit of unbelief mixed with rebellion and irreverent questioning of God’s power and/or existence plagues our generation as it has from the generations before us.
Even when God does perform a miracle not all who are witness or hear testimony of it will always believe. Going back to the sign of Jonah, when people do respond to this sign and are saved and share the miraculous propitiation of sin that has taken place not all who hear their testimony or see their transformed life will respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation. Going back to the Pharisees & Sadducees, Jesus had already performed miracles in their sight. The men who were testing him in Matthew 16:1-4 had either been eye witnesses or privy to testimony that Christ had healed a man’s withered hand, making it whole. What was their immediate response? Belief? No – death! They responded by plotting to put Jesus to death! (Mark 3:1-6) When the Pharisees heard testimony of a blind, dumb, demon possessed man receiving vision, speech and freedom from demonic possession what was their response? Belief? No – they accused Jesus the Messiah of receiving power from the devil! (Matt 12:22-29) When the Pharisees and chief priests heard eye-witness testimony of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead how did they respond? Belief? No – they not only plotted to put Jesus to death but get this – Lazarus also…!! (John 11:45-48 and 53, John 12:10-11)
This leaves a bit of astonishment doesn’t it to say the least. To better understand, lets turn to Luke 16, in verses 19-31 there is a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus (not the same one that was raised from the dead). They both die and since this is before Jesus came, died and rose again the unrighteous one (rich guy) went to the place of torment and the righteous man (Lazarus) went to Abraham’s side. A dialogue unfolds where the rich man is at first pleading for some relief but when he sees there is no hope for him turns his concern to his five brothers that have not yet died:
27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
The Pharisees & Sadducees could not recognize the sign of the times, the Messiah was staring them in the face, they hardened their hearts against Christ’s message and rejected God’s purpose for them (Mark 3:5, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 7:29-30). If they do not hear the prophets they will not be convinced with the resurrection of the dead – not Lazarus – not Jesus.
Salvation is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ and His grace lavished upon us. Demanding a sign, testing God, questioning Him out of a spirit of unbelief – that gets us no where. What did Jesus do when the Pharisees & Sadducees approached Him that way? He said lookie here, you will receive the sign of Jonah and then what? He left them and departed.
Next Time: How’s the weather?