The Sign of Jonah

December 15, 2020

But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For 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” (Matthew 12:39-40).

Prior to this discussion, and even after this discussion, Jesus performed many miraculous ‘signs’ that authenticated His Messiahship. But faithless hearts choose not to believe, rather they will not believe. An unbelieving heart will hold to a lie rather than admit the truth. That was the extent of the godlessness of the Scribes and Pharisees. 

Having requested a sign from the heavens (see the parallel passage in Luke 11:16), Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes in a scathing denunciation of their unbelief. Jesus called their generation evil and adulterous. The relationship of the Jews to God was often represented as a marriage contract with God as the husband and the Jewish people as His wife (Isaiah 57:3; Hosea 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15). Their apostasy (turning away from faith in God) and idolatry (worshiping idols; demon gods) are often represented as adultery. The Jews were unfaithful to the covenant and commandments of God, making them an apostate and corrupt people. 

Jesus did, however, promise them a sign which would likewise be met by unbelieving hearts - His resurrection. Jesus used the true Old Testament story of Jonah as a type of which His resurrection was the antitype. Just as Jonah miraculously survived 3 days in the belly of the great fish, Jesus would be resurrected from the dead 3 days after His crucifixion.

The rebuke was further elicited in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) when, upon finding himself in hell, the rich man begged the Lord to send Lazarus, via resurrection, to the man’s five brothers and speak to them of the horror their brother was experiencing in the place of torment. The Lord said, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead (Luke 16:31).

What more can the Lord do to persuade us that He is and that He is willing to save from judgment those who will believe in and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? We have the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit. We have 2,000 years of living proof of the resurrection of Jesus through the work and witness of the Christian Gospel that has survived every attempt of man and Satan to subvert it, yet it remains, as does our unbelief. 

“Father, forgive us our sin of unbelief. Forgive us of our spiritual adultery by going after the gods of popular opinion, liberal theology, and Christless religion. Open our eyes to see the truth of the Gospel so that we will believe in the Christ whom You have sent to save us. In His name I ask, Amen.”


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