It’s just another sign of the times / One step closer to the day He arrives / To come back and claim His bride / I said it’s just another sign of the times – Three Crosses, Just Another Sign of the Times, from the 1995 self-titled debut album
Matthew’s gospel is not presented chronologically. You have to read the gospel of Luke for that. No, Matthew’s gospel is arranged thematically so the events recorded herein are out of order for when they happened. Last time, we looked at Jesus’ fiery first shot speech to the Pharisees (v. 25-37) in chapter 12. Considering what Jesus had to say to the religious leaders of His day, I would be surprised if they ever spoke to Him again.
Yet in verses 38-45, Matthew records that the Pharisees approach Jesus and ask Him to perform a miracle in order to prove His authority. Can you imagine the audacity if these events were sequential? He calls them evil and then they want Him to prove He’s not?
It’s not like that. It’s hard to say exactly when this request is made because it doesn’t appear in any of the other three gospel accounts. I’m not sure why Matthew included it here at this time but maybe he’s on a roll about Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees so why not mention it?
In any event, the religious elites are asking for a sign and Jesus lowers the boom on them again saying no sign will be given. Why not? It’s not like it would be hard for Him to do it. Take your pick: make the mute speak, release the demon-possessed, enable the blind to see or the lame to walk…cause manna to fall from the sky, eclipse the sun on command, or raise the dead. Anything would work.
The problem is not the lack of options or the fact that Jesus is unable to perform. The problem is that Jesus knows their hearts and understands that they had already seen enough miraculous things done to convince them He is the Messiah. The problem is that their hearts won’t believe what their eyes have seen. The problem is that they are not sincerely seeking to know Him. “They had already decided not to believe in Him, and more miracles would not change that” (Study Bible, p. 1567).
Jesus then used two examples of Gentile faith in Jewish history to prove His point. The first example was of the city of Nineveh in the time of Jonah. Yes, THAT Jonah. The one swallowed by a whale (more of a great fish). Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian Empire (yes, THOSE Assyrians) and it was an evil place full of evil people who repented of their evil deeds when Jonah came ashore. The second example is of the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon to see for herself if he was really as wise and wealthy as stories claimed. Jesus told the Pharisees that someone greater than Jonah and Solomon was in their midst (Himself) but they refused to repent and listen to Him (v. 41 & 42). So no, no sign would be given. No sign but the sign of Jonah.
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (v. 40). He is, of course, referencing His own death and resurrection – but He’s saying that not even that would change some of their hearts and minds about Him.
Kind of makes me wonder what it would take for some people to believe in Jesus. This whole scenario applies to us today. There are a lot of individuals who have made the claim that if only they could see a real miracle, then they would believe in God. They don’t believe the Bible is an accurate representation of history even though nothing exists to refute it. They don’t recognize the complexities of nature’s design as being done by an Intelligent Being. They don’t appreciate the fact that every breath is a gift. The problem is not that God has stopped performing miracles in our time; the problem is that we have so much evidence of God in everyday life and the work that believers are doing around the globe, we don’t need to be looking for miraculous signs. We need to be looking to Him and reading the sign of the times that exist.