By Allen White
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:38-42
Jesus doesn’t perform signs on demand. In fact, the need for signs betrays a lack of faith more than the presence of great faith (read more here). The Pharisees didn’t need a sign from Jesus. They had witnessed plenty of signs firsthand. They certainly weren’t struggling to believe. They just didn’t believe Him.
Jesus pointed to a sign they would understand – Jonah. For those of us who spent years in Sunday school, we remember the high tech flannel graph illustrations of Jonah and the whale or more properly, Jonah and the great fish (Jonah 1-3).
A storm resulted from Jonah’s disobedience of embarking on the wrong boat. To save the crew, Jonah disembarked into the sea. The giant fish provided Jonah’s transportation to God’s intended destination.
Jonah’s disobedience didn’t stem from his dislike for the climate in Nineveh. Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites. He felt they deserved God’s judgment. If he preached repentance, they might repent. Jonah wanted nothing to do with that.
Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for the undeserving people of this world. He died and spent three days in the grave, just as Jonah spent three days “buried” in the great fish. At the end of three days, both Jonah and Jesus were raised in victory to proclaim Good News.
Jonah and Solomon both pointed unrighteous people to God. Jesus’ claim to the Pharisees was to be greater than both. What other signs did they need?
Sometimes we feel like we need a sign. Whether we’re making a big decision or just need assurance we’re headed in the right direction. Sometimes we’re so desperate; we’ll take any scrap of coincidence to validate what we’d like to do. But, we already have all the validation we need.
Believers today have all of God’s Word. Those in Jesus’ time had the Old Testament and Jesus’ live teaching, but they lacked the context and perspective that we enjoy today. By having all of the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian theology, we have a greater understanding of God’s plan than any of God’s people at any other point in history. So, why are we so confused?
We also have far more pressures and distractions than anyone at any other time. The world has dictated to us what we should have to be successful. Social media forces us into almost a daily interaction with every person we’ve ever met. Most of our lifestyles extend well beyond our means, yet we continually want more. We are killing ourselves over things that simply don’t matter. Why?
We lack direction. Often we lack perspective. When was the last time we stepped back and evaluated our lives? When was the last time we stopped doing something that wasn’t getting us anywhere? When was the last time we felt at peace? What was happening then?
You were placed on this earth for a purpose. If you feel frazzled and stressed out, you are not functioning in your purpose. You have too many competing values in your life. If you have children, they are part of God’s purpose in your life. If you’re children have become a bother to you, something has intruded on God’s purpose for you.
What do you worry about? A worry is something you think about at least three times per day. Why are you worried about these things? God’s purpose for your life shouldn’t be a worry to you. It’s what you were made to do.
Maybe it’s time to get alone with God for three hours. Take your Bible and a notepad. Tell God everything that you think and feel – write it, type it, say it outloud (not in public). Then, begin to write down the thoughts and ideas that come into your head. Make a To-Do list. Then, make a Stop-Doing list.
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