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.
Two weeks ago I posted an article taking a look at a point within Matthew 16:1-4. Today I’d like to take a look at another point within the text. The passage 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.” Thus is the reading of God’s Word.
Verse 3 says, “Hypocrites, you can judge aright of the face of the sky.” We have all heard the saying “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s take warning.” The practical origins for this nursery rhyme are based on weather predictions and how a red sky at night would indicate fair weather on the following day. The rhyme itself came about in England that would refer to a shepherd who would say that a red sky in the morning was suggesting inclement weather to follow. In America here, the words relate to a sailor doing the same. It should be remembered that there were no weather forecasts, for one had to make his own weather predictions by the sings before them. Those with the most knowledge and experience, such as Sailors and Shepherds, whose lives were dependent on the weather and knew the changing weather patterns that were indicated by a “Red Sky at night”. This was true during Jesus’ time as well. Christ reminds them that His power has been made manifested to the naked eye that they can see themselves here on earth. Christ reminds the Pharisees and Sadducees that they on their own accord could not shut their eyes to the clearest of light. Christ reminds them that sometimes a storm unexpectedly arises, and sometimes fair weather springs up when it was not expected, yet the instructions of nature are enough for them to predict from signs whether the day will be fair or cloudy. Christ therefore asks the Pharisees and Sadducees why they do not recognize the kingdom of God, when it is made known by signs that are not less known. This shows that Pharisees and Sadducees were occupied with earthly things and cared very little about anything that related to the heavenly and spiritual life of Christ’s Kingdom, but what is most important in this section of the text is that Christ calls them “hypocrites.” Why does Christ use such strong language as this? Because they pretend to know as that if it were exhibited to them, they are not willing to see the truth right in front of them. The conclusion that we can see here in our text is that these ignorant Pharisees and Sadducees are not at liberty to predict the aspect of the sky whether they shall have fair or stormy weather. It is rather an argument which Christ places on the regular course of nature. That argument is this, that men deserve to perish for their ingratitude, who, while are sufficiently know the matters of this present day life, yet knowingly and willfully quench the heavenly light and truth by their own stupidity.
Does not the same reproof and rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees and Sadducees apply to us? The same reproof applies nearly to the whole world does it not? For mankind continues to direct their skill, imagination, and apply their senses, to their own immediate advantage in this world. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, sailors and shepherds, we can easily tell the natural signs that are around us in this world like the weather, but how come we have no or little concern about the signs by which God invites us to himself? Is it not because every man gives himself up to willing indifference and smothers the light which is offered to him? There may be some of you here today that have the description of these men in our text called “hypocrites” who while seeking after signs to fulfill their own desires, miss the utmost desirable Sign in front of them, Jesus Christ. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees did not know they were hypocrites, the lost are pleading like them. They are pleading with God to suspend their judgment because they are waiting until they have a sign that is right for them, that then, only then they will follow Jesus Christ. There may be some of those that read this post that even try to avoid God’s Sign, and in your slothfulness you wait and neglect your own salvation of your soul with excuses like the Pharisees and Sadducees for gross and stupid ignorance of that which has already taken place, the greatest Sign of God to mankind, that is His son, Jesus Christ.
For these Pharisees and Sadducees had the signs of the Old Testament; the tree of life, the flood, the signs given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the signs of Moses and Aaron, from the plagues in Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea, the signs in the wilderness from the cloud that lead Israel, to the signs that provided water from a Rock and manna from Heaven, the signs within the Law from its offerings and atonement for sin, to that of the priesthood that carried out the duties of the Law, the signs of Elijah and Elisha during the kings and kingdoms, to the signs of the prophets, from that of Daniel and the lions to the specific sign in our text Jonah and the fish. They the Pharisees and Sadducees would what it seems have all of the signs they would have ever needed to know God, but they missed the Sign sitting in front of them. For those that do not know Christ, may you not miss Him. For those of you that do know Christ, may I friendly remind you that you have inherited salvation through the greatest Sign God has ever given to His people, Jesus Christ, and you need no more.