Don’t let your heart be hardened / Don’t let your love grow cold / May it always stay so childlike / May it never grow too old – Petra, Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened, from the 1987 album “This Means War!”
The Pharisees and other religious leaders are at it again: demanding the Christ give them a sign to prove He is who He says He is. This time, however, they think they’ve outdone themselves. They demand a specific sign. One they think He can’t perform. A “sign from heaven” (v. 1). I don’t know exactly what they were looking for. Did they want the sun to turn black? Or for a star to fall from the sky? Did they want a plague of locusts to blanket the horizon? No one knows. It could have been anything. Maybe they purposefully left it open-ended just to bait Him into responding.
You see, the religious leaders of His day tried to “explain away Jesus’ other miracles as sleight of hand, coincidence, or use of evil power, but they believed only God could do a sign in the sky. This, they were sure, would be a feat beyond Jesus’ power” (Study Bible, p. 1575). One thing is clear: Jesus was having none of it, as usual.
He never minces words, this Jesus fellow. He tells them they know how to interpret the weather but they have no clue how to read the sign of the times (v. 2-3). He calls them an “evil, adulterous generation” (v. 4) and tells them the only sign He will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the great fish for three days. What? They probably had no clue how to interpret the last part of this comment. What was He trying to say?
This is the second time Jesus has told them He would only give them this sign (see 12:38-42), and He was referring to His death and resurrection when he said it. It’s a prediction. And surely there is no greater way to prove you are God than to die and bring yourself back to life. Right?
But the Pharisees and the religious leaders missed it because they had cold hearts. Here Jesus is willing to give them a sign greater than the one they are asking for, and they didn’t get it. Oh, He could have done as they wanted. So why didn’t He? Why be cryptic with them? Most biblical scholars believe that Jesus didn’t perform on command because He knew they still wouldn’t believe in Him anyway; that they had already made up their minds that He was NOT God so it wouldn’t have done any good to give them what they wanted. “He knew that even a miracle in the sky would not convince them he was the Messiah” (Study Bible, p. 1575).
And all of that just goes to show how gracious God really is. Sure, He could have forced them to believe in Him, but that’s just not His style. I sure would have been tempted to take this route. Not Jesus. He never forces Himself on people. Is it possible to do something miraculous in the heavens? Of course. But when hearts are hard, He doesn’t demand they soften to Him. Which is why we, as believers, shouldn’t force Jesus on others either. Instead, go above and beyond their expectations in how we live our lives. Give them more than they ask for, just like Jesus did with the Pharisees.
There are some people today who say they would believe if they only saw a miracle, just like the religious leaders of His day. But Jesus knows miracles don’t convince the skeptical. The disciple John would record in his gospel that Jesus would say people are blessed when they believe without seeing proof (20:29). Which begs the question: which are you?
Are you the kind of person waiting around for a miracle to happen before you commit? “Do you doubt Christ because you haven’t seen a miracle? Do you expect God to prove himself to you personally before you believe?…We have miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments, 2,000 years of church history, and the witness of thousands. With all this evidence, those who won’t believe are either too proud or too stubborn” (Study Bible, p. 1576). There’s a great series of books by a man named Josh McDowell called Evidence Which Demands a Verdict. Each volume lays out the direct evidence for believing in Scripture in a simple, methodical way. They lay to rest the doubts and questions that many people have today when it comes to Christianity.
But don’t take my word for it. Investigate for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_9?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=evidence+that+demands+a+verdict&sprefix=Evidence+%2Cstripbooks%2C186&crid=3HKRN63BQUH72
Or maybe you know someone who would benefit from reading this book. It would make a great holiday present. Either way, the choice is yours. Investigate or don’t. Jesus will still be Jesus no matter who believes in Him and who doesn’t. And we have the benefit of being on this side of the sign of Jonah. The grave is empty. The rest is history. Remain childlike. Don’t be like the religious leaders. Don’t let your heart grow cold.