Matthew 12:38-42 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." 39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
1. Jesus’ response is not very accommodating. The only sigh he offers is cryptic and worst, is still set in the future so that it can be of no help to them now.
2. Moses in the expectation that his God given authority would be challenged was given miracles to perform (Ex 4: 1-9, 29-31), Gideon requested and received a sign to confirm God’s promise (Judg 6: 36-40), Elijah called down fire from heaven (1 Kgs 18: 36-39); Ahaz and Hezehiah were offered signs to authenticate Isaiah’s prophecies (Is 7: 10-14). Jesus dismissed their request because of their attitude.
3. Jesus knows that a spectacular sign will be given to the people in His Resurrection. But He is sure, attitude of these stubborn people are not going to be better even after His resurrection.
4. The common motif that runs in Jesus and Jonah story is that both were miraculously released from death. In Jonah’s case it is virtual death whereas in Jesus case it actual death.
5. Jesus gives the example of the Gentile woman Sheba who showed her receptivity to God’s purposes. She took a great effort to listen to Solomon. Here in front of the unbelievers there is a person who does not only teach wisdom but embodies it.
When people ask too many questions and proofs, it is a clear sign that they are not willing to accept the teaching. Jesus has been performing innumerable signs but still they want more. Faith is not the outcome of our experiments and verifications but an attitude of surrendering oneself to the Divine. Once our mind blocks the incoming grace of God through a technique called ‘Prejudice’ we will remain too far from redemption.
The Gospel of Matthew – R.T France
Matthew and the Margins – Warren Carter