Matthew 16: 1-4 (continued)
“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red;’ and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’ And He left them and departed.”
Last week we found how the Lord satisfies our needs to the fullest. I have a personal testimony of the Lord’s provision to my family. We needed some beds for our two girls; we also have a son. Their bunk beds had fallen apart a few weeks ago, and we were looking for new beds for them. We kept praying for the Lord to supply for us, as we–like many families–live on tight budgets. The Lord supplied us with two free box springs from a lady who lived about ten minutes from us. And then my wife was able to find a new mattress, two new bed frames and other needed items at a local store that had a great sale; they paid the taxes as well. So now our girls have two new beds, and the cost to us was less than $300. God answered our prayers and supplied all that we needed and beyond. You cannot outgive God. You can never do better for yourself than God can do for you.
We will move on to the importance of proper doctrine. This is a weighty issue for us in the modern church. We can honestly say that there has been a great movement away from the doctrine once delivered to the saints. False doctrine is nothing new. Satan has been trying to slip teachings into the Lord’s work since the Garden of Eden. In Jesus’ day the false doctrine mainly came via the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These men were revered as scholars in the Law of the OT (Old Testament), but Jesus simply took them head on and destroyed any reliance that they had on their own righteousness. He simply laid them bare as unregenerate agents of Satan.
Give Us a Sign, verse 1
These religious leaders came to Jesus and demanded that He perform a sign from Heaven to convince them that He was who He said He was. What more could they ask for? Just in these last 15 chapters, we have seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle. He did everything from healing the sick, to feeding the masses, casting out demons, and calming the storm of the Sea of Galilee. Don’t ask us to believe that the Pharisees had not seen at least one of these great miracles. Surely they had heard of them; they could easily take firsthand accounts from multiple people about the veracity of the miracles Jesus had performed. There was simply no need for Jesus to put on a ‘dog and pony show’ for them once again. If they were going to believe, they would have by now.
Sadly, I find myself in the same situation, constantly asking God to prove himself over and over again. Think of your marriage: What if–after many years of faithfulness and caring for your spouse: loving her/him; working to provide a home, food, clothing; sharing all of life’s ups and downs–your spouse would come and ask you to prove your love over and over again? What if no matter what you did, no amount of sacrifice or kindness you showed, you had to prove your love over and over, yet he/she doubted it. Well, that is kind of like what we are with God all too often. God has proven His love for us. He has proven His ability to care for us and provide for us. Yet still we ask him to prove himself with every new obstacle. It is as if we are actually waiting for God to fail.
Jesus refused to get involved in their foolishness. He explained how they were able to read the weather simply by looking at the sky (verses 2-3), but refused to believe that He was God, even with a mountain of supernatural evidence right before their eyes. There are none so hardhearted as those who refuse to believe. Jesus addresses them as a ‘wicked and adulterous generation’ (verse 4), because they were seeking for a sign.
Wow, what a statement to our generation! We live amongst a host of churches that are all about the signs from God. They just call on God to perform sign after sign, and that is their basis for belief. Let me share a couple of verses with you:
2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Hebrew 11: 1-2 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”
We put our faith in the testimony of the Bible and the men and women who saw firsthand the wonders of the Son of God. We put our faith in the integrity of God in that He wrote the truth in the Bible.
Folks, we are called to believe by faith that Jesus is God and that God has redeemed us in Him. No one, not even Billy Graham, not even the smartest, most elegant preacher in the world, can ‘prove’ that God is real, that the Bible is true or that we will go to Heaven. We have to accept it by faith; we have to trust God and put our faith in Him. We are told in Hebrews 11:2 that this is how the elders attained a good testimony, and it is also the only way for us to have a good testimony as well. I can testify that God has never let me down. When He has closed a door that I prayed to be opened, it was always because He knew what was best for me and did what was best for me, even when I did not appreciate it or even understand it.
Most if not all of the apostles, except for Judas, of course, were executed for the name of Jesus; they refused to back down or deny Him. Since that time millions upon millions have died for the cause of Jesus. They put their faith in the now and the forever as well–in Jesus. They counted that this life was not worth having if that meant denying Jesus. These people put their faith in God, in Jesus, and they accepted the consequences of that faith.
The Only Sign, verse 4
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
You will recall the account of Jonah from the OT: He was called by God to go and preach to the great city of Nineveh. He did not want to, and so he ran from his task and ended up being thrown into the sea by the sailors of the ship he intended to escape on. God prepared a ‘great fish’ to swallow him and then spit him out three days and three nights later (read Jonah 1-2). The important part of the story to these Pharisees was that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights; then the fish vomited him out. Thus, the sign was that Jesus would be in the heart of the earth, or the tomb for three days and three nights; then the tomb would open. He would not stay in the tomb, just like Jonah did not stay in the belly of the fish.
We have firsthand testimony from the apostles, including Paul, who hated the followers of Jesus. He initially left Jerusalem in Acts 9 to go to Damascus to find these “heretics” and bring them bound back to Jerusalem to be punished. Then Saul (as he was named then), still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus. Then, if he found any who were of “the Way,” whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
This same Paul met the risen Jesus and became an immediate follower. He became the embodiment of a missionary of Christ and wrote 50 percent of the New Testament, testifying to the very event of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition to these 12 men and several women, we are told by God through Paul that over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus over the course of the 50 days between the resurrection and the ascension, recorded in Acts 1. We see these verses in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
My friends, we have 500+ eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. If a man, who was beaten and killed by Roman soldiers (men who were professional killers), came back from the dead and was seen by 500+ people, many of whom were willing to die rather than deny that the resurrection did not happen, why do we need other signs? The answer is we don’t. God does not need to do another thing to prove who He is to us. We convict people on the eyewitness testimony of one or two witnesses; Jesus had 500+.
God does miraculous things in our lives because He is a miraculous God, not to prove anything to us. He is God; either accept Him by faith or take eternity into your own hands. But stop asking for signs, and be wary of those that keep asking God for signs. Simply believe and put your faith in God. If you are lost He will save you; if you are saved He will reveal Himself to you in new ways, because you trusted by faith.
Romans 4: 1-5 “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
Sean Gooding, Pastor Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church