October 24, 2012 by Michael Dewalt
The past three weeks I have continued to blog upon points from Matthew 16:1-4. This is the fourth and final post over the passage that I have to write. Taking speical notice this time to Jesus’ words in verse four and its ending, “Except the Sign of Jonah.” Matthew 16:1-4 reads;
“1 And the Pharisees, together with the Sadducees, came, and tempting desired that he would show them a sign from heaven. 2 But he answering said to them, About the commencement of the evening you say, It will be fine weather; for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, There will be a storm to-day; for the sky is red and lowring. Hypocrites, you can judge aright of the face of the sky; but can you not judge of the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous nation demands a sign, and no sign shall be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah. And he left them, and departed.”
Jesus says to the Pharisees “expect the sign of Jonah.” Where has one heard this saying before, better is the question, where have they the Pharisees heard such language before? Just weeks earlier Matthew records for us a similar account of Jesus Christ and the Pharisees. There the same language is used in Matthew 12:38-40, it reads,
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it expect the sign of the prophet Jonah. He goes one to say, For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
But what does this mean and why would Jesus continue to respond with the same answer? Why does Christ say to the Pharisees and Sadducees that “no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Christ reminds them of a pervious sign that had been given to before them. The Pharisees and Sadducees would have known this story well, but yet Christ sees fit to remind them of this particular sign given by God. The sign was a prophet named Jonah who would become swallowed up in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights and as the fish could not hold him he would then be spit out of its mouth onto the land to preach the salvation of God to the Ninevites. The Ninevites, one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity, an important religious center for worship of the pagan Assyrian Ishtar, the capital of the Neo-Assyrain Empire, and worse of all a Gentile nation? How offensive to the Jews, that God’s signs and salvation be offered to gentiles.
Christ refers them to the sign of Jonah, which should be obvious to us now, because like that of Jonah, there would be a similar sign, but a greater sign to come. A Sign sent by God, who was not only a Prophet like Jonah, but like that of all the old signs; a Priest like Aaron, a Mediator like Moses, and a King like David. This sign, the Prophet, like Jonah would as well be swallowed up, but not by the belly of a fish, but by the belly of Hell. There He would suffer departure not from just mankind like Jonah, but the departure, wrath, and separation from His very father God, but in three days and night He would rise again, and as hell could not hold Him, he would be spit form its mouth back to His Father’s Kingdom for the sake of you and I, compelling His disciples to preach salvation of God to who? All the Nations, both the Jews and Gentiles. Here Christ threatens, after he has risen from the dead, he will be a prophet like Jonah. He will be the Greater Jonah, for there need be no greater sign until His return, for God’s sign has been given in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The message today is the same as Jonah’s, repent, believer and follow Him, Christ is God’s Great Sign.
However, the text here ends sadly, and is broke off abruptly by Christ. Matthew records in this text, “he (Christ) left them and departed.” Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, Christ will not tarry long with those that tempt Him, but justly withdraws from those that are disposed to fight with Him. He simply let them alone the Scripture says. Jesus Christ let them be themselves, left them in their own counsels, and gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts. The meaning of this for us you ask? Thus He intended to serve as a sign to them, that He, Jesus Christ, when he had risen from the dead, would in every place cause the voice of His Gospel to be distinctly heard. Thus we see the Pharisees and Sadducees seeking after signs, but yet missing the Sign, The Greater Jonah, God’s Sign Jesus Christ.