Matthew chapter 12:38-45 (continued)
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign [attesting miracle] from You [proving that You are what You claim to be].’ But He replied and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation [that is morally unfaithful to God] craves and demands a [miraculous] sign; but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nineveh will stand up [as witnesses] at the judgment against this generation, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South (Sheba) will stand up [as a witness] at the judgment against this generation, and will condemn it because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and now, something greater than Solomon is here.
Now when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through waterless [dry, arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find it.’ Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So will it also be with this wicked generation.’”
We ended our study in Matthew last time with the Pharisees asking Jesus to show them a sign. We did a short exploration of this incident and warned that the Jesus told us that only miraculous sign that would be given is the resurrection. If this were not sign enough, the fact that Jesus could conquer death, then there were no other signs to be had.
The modern church world is filled with people looking for a sign from Jesus. They want Jesus to prove Himself over and over each week by healing someone, by people speaking in tongues and putting on a show. It is like they ask Jesus to show his credentials each week, He has to prove He is God. It is to the point that it is very hard to build a church without the show. No show no people. Each church has to prove the Jesus does more miracles in their church to keep people and the show must go on, and on, and on and on.
Today we will pick up where we left off and take a more exhaustive look at this need for signs and the warnings that Jesus gives in this matter. It may answer a lot of questions for us in the modern church. This lesson will offend some and that is okay. It is not my intention to offend but there are so many who cannot imagine going to church without all the show that comes with it.
They can’t imagine a church service without someone speaking in “tongues” or someone being “slain in the spirit” or someone having a ‘prophetic word” which is usually about prosperity in the form of money or material things. One famous late night “preacher” always has people testifying about all the money he prophesied about. They show their checks that “miraculously” appeared in the mail from unknown sources.
Let me also be clear that the Bible teaches that Jesus/God is a God of miracles. What God does is not miraculous to Him. He is not awed by His power nor is He surprised when something “out of the ordinary” happens. I have had countless miracles in my life, I have had God intervene and do some cool things in the life of my wife and our family.
One of the greatest examples in my life is when our daughter, Saturn, was born. We had people give us so much formula that she was four months old before we had to buy formula and the formula that was given to us, all had coupons with them so that when we did have to buy formula every can was discounted for months, even when on sale.
God promised to provide for His own and He did, for us. People that we did not know gave us formula and for the people we did know, we did not know that they had access to formula. Some would say that this was not a supernatural miracle and I would stand and testify that what God did was not just miraculous but truly more than supernatural.
You see my wife had a high risk pregnancy and she was off work for seven months before Saturn was born. By the time she was born we were financially struggling and God intervened like He did in the wilderness for the Jews. Only we did not get manna and quail, we got formula, clothes, food, bottles, wipes and a host of gifts that I could go on and on about.
God did for me what I could not do for myself. That is a miracle. BUT if God had not provided He would still have been our God. You see He is not God because he does miracles; He does miracles because He is God.
Show Me a Sign, Verses 38-39
The Pharisees had been following Jesus, watching him and hearing of the wonderful things that He had been doing for the Jews and Gentiles He came in contact with. The news of His fame had spread all throughout Judea, Galilee and in many areas far away. People sought Him out, brought their sick, demon possessed and dead to Him and we are told He healed them all.
If the Pharisees did not believe after these many miracles what would one more do to sway their minds? Jesus goes one step further and called them an “evil and adulterous generation.” This must have chapped their skin. Only morally unfaithful people ask Jesus for signs all the time. Jesus should not have to prove Himself over and over again to us. We should be able to accept Him by faith alone. Jesus then makes them an offer of one last sign as cited in Matthew:
“But no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
Jesus offers these Pharisees and everyone in the whole world one last sign—the sign of Jonah. Jonah as you will recall was running from God and ran into God in the middle of Mediterranean Sea. He was thrown off of a ship going the wrong way and God sent a “great fish” to swallow him:
“Now the Lord had prepared (appointed, destined) a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Jonah spent “three days and three nights” in the belly of the whale and then was vomited out onto the shores of Nineveh, where he preached and the entire city repented from the king to the cattle, so to speak. Jonah had no clue how important his trip to the bottom of the sea would be, it would be used by Jesus to talk about His resurrection.
Jesus would spend “three days and three nights” in the grave and just like Jonah got out of the fish, Jesus would get out of the grave. This is a supernatural sign, one performed by God for all of Israel to see. The Romans knew, the High Priests knew, the Pharisees knew and the common people knew that Jesus was raised from the dead. This is the sign that trumps all other signs.
Paul said that if Jesus was not raised from the dead we are of all men most foolish. The resurrection is the crowning event of history, without it we have no hope and we are all going to hell. If the resurrection is not enough, then nothing else Jesus can do will convince you that He is God.
Jesus the Greatest Witness, Verses 41-42
The city of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes at the preaching of God’s pending judgment:
“The people of Nineveh believed and trusted in God; and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth [in penitent mourning], from the greatest even to the least of them.
When word reached the king of Nineveh [of Jonah’s message from God], he rose from his throne, took off his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust [in repentance].
He issued a proclamation and it said, ‘In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No man, animal, herd, or flock is to taste anything. They are not to eat or drink water. But both man and animal must be covered with sackcloth; and everyone is to call on God earnestly and forcefully that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn [in compassion] and relent and withdraw His burning anger (judgment) so that we will not perish.’
When God saw their deeds, they turned from their wicked way, then God [had compassion and] relented concerning the disaster which He had declared that He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:5-10)
The Queen of Sheba saw the greatness of God in the wisdom of Solomon and gave glory to Solomon’s God:
“Then she told the king, “The report which I heard in my own land about your words and wisdom is true! I did not believe the report until I came and saw it with my own eyes. Behold, the half of it was not told to me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.
How blessed (fortunate, happy) are your men! How blessed are these your servants who stand continually before you, hearing your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, He made you king to execute justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10: 6-9).
These people could see God from the hateful message of a reluctant preacher and in the wisdom of a human king. Yet when the Preacher Himself was there and the one who actually gave Solomon all his wisdom was standing in front of them—they could not, rather they would not believe.
We live amongst such people today. Today we have the science to understand the wonders of God in ways that our ancestors did not. But instead of bowing in sincere and repentant reverence before His majesty, we shake our fists defiantly and demand He prove that He is God.
God will return and then these doubters will be dismayed as He stands from the His holy place and sets foot on the Mount of Olives in Israel and every eye shall see Him. Then it will be too late. Then they will bow to a wrathful and angry God. Trust in Jesus before it is too late.
Religion Just Makes You Better for the Devil, Verses 43-45
Oh how we love religion. It is like the drug of the New Testament church. We try to shake it but we keep coming back to it. The Jews were no different. They were so addicted to their religion that they could not see Jesus at all. Jesus paints a great picture of how religion affects us; it makes us clean but not new. It empties us and does not fill us. We simply are more useful to the devil as religious people than we are as regular people.
Look at what Jesus says, and remember—He is addressing the ruling religious class. What happens when we get religion? We get all cleaned up we stop doing this and that; we may even have an evil spirit cast out of us. We look really good, people can see the changes and we begin to feel well.
The only problem is that there has not been a real transformation. We have not been born- again with the Holy Spirit living in us. We are changing but the changes are not of God, they are of our own power or some new discipline we have gained. But any real and eternal change must come from God. He has the power to give us a new life, a new name and a new beginning. If not, we are just the same old, lost people wrapped up in a new wrapper.
Well the devil knows the difference and comes back to find that the lost man is still lost. but much more useful to him because of the man’s religion. So the man gets a few ungodly friends (unclean spirits), and they make their home within him. Since the Holy Spirit does not live in him, these unclean spirits can move in and stay.
Jesus said that a man is actually worse off, now that he is all cleaned up. Why? Religion breeds arrogance and self-justification. All evil can now be a part of a person’s religion; it can and will do all manner of atrocities in the name of god. Just look around at the world of Islam and even smaller cults like the Church of Latter Day Saints.
True salvation is a spiritual transformation resulting in no longer being citizens of the earth. We become “resident aliens” living amongst men. This place stops being our home and we look for a new home; one that is being made for each of us by the Lord. My focus is no longer earthly but heavenly. True salvation should drive me to repentance and a hatred for sin even when I fail. When the devil comes back to look for me he finds me filled with the Holy Spirit and evil is unable to move in and take up residence.
Folks, look around you. Many churches are filled with unregenerate people who are very religious and pious but NOT SAVED. They know about Jesus but they do not know Jesus, and they are not known by Jesus.
Here are some of the scariest words in the Bible; I hope that you never have to hear them. Repent, humble yourself and be saved:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23)