MATTHEW 16: THE SIGN OF JONAH
Cool art courtesy of TheBibleProject.com
"The people who are living today are evil and not faithful to God. They ask for a proof from God, but no proof will be given to them except the Jonah miracle" (Matthew 16:4, IEB).
AFTER YOU READ MATTHEW 16
One of the crippling illnesses I have is spiritual blindness. I pray for God "to work" in my life and totally ignore the signs all around me of the works of God. I'm not talking about the beauty of nature or something. Jesus said most anyone with an Almanac and eyes on the horizon can see the sunset or certain kinds of clouds and thank God for the rain that's coming.
Our youth minister Nate is good at pointing out humor and wit of Jesus to our youth, and certainly this is one of those witty episodes where Jesus' wry humor sticks a point with the Pharisees and teachers of the law, and we get to listen in.
Pharisees ask for a sign to show he's really the Messiah from heaven. Remind you of anyone? Maybe Satan, hmmm? In the wilderness Jesus was tempted and tested by calling on him to show his divine skills by creating bread for himself, saving himself, taking his rightful throne without struggle or love. And now the Pharisees ask the exact same thing of Jesus: make the divine a great carnival trick for our pleasure and reassurance you are who you say you are.
But they had ignored the compassionate acts of mercy he'd done in every town he'd visited, and they knew about them, but these were meaningless to them because they didn't view the Messiah coming this way. They wanted God how they wanted God, and they were spiritually blind to anything else.
So Jesus says, "The people who are living today are evil and not faithful to God. They ask for a proof from God, but no proof will be given to them except the Jonah miracle" (Matthew 16:4, IEB). Then Jesus left them and went away.
Jesus then warns the disciples about the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees," but this confused the disciples. Their confusion is often comforting to me! I don't always get it, but we sometimes expect they would. They lived in those times, walked with Jesus, and could get the symbolism of what Jesus was saying, right?! They thought Jesus was talking about stopping at the next exit for something to eat! Exasperated with them, he slaps the back of their heads and says, "OK, look, when I say yeast, I'm warning you to cut a wide berth around the teaching of the Pharisees!"
"Hey Jesus, what's a wide berth?"
Jesus didn't really say "wide berth" but I said that to talk about another story Jesus mentions, and it's very important. There's an Old Testament story about a man named Jonah who was called to Nineveh as a missionary prophet, to tell them to shape up and repent or else. Jonah's "wide berth" he cut was to avoid going to Nineveh altogether because he was afraid and didn't like Ninevites, so God showed him what's what by having him swallowed by a fish, spit on the shore three days later, pretty dramatic story and worth you reading it!
"The Sign of Jonah" is Jesus way of cryptically planting a clue that would only make sense when after three days in a tomb, a rumor spread that Jesus had risen. I think I have a text for my 2018 Easter sermon!
Dear Lord, I know I'm spiritually blind, so I can't hardly sneer at the Pharisees or even laugh at the disciples without sneering and laughing at myself! Show us our blind spots, which seems only possible by your Holy Spirit teaching us new things we never knew before, or maybe they were right in front of us and we ignored them.
Ask a trusted person in your life if there are blind spots you seem to have that you can talk about and work on your spiritual, relational, emotional blind spots so you can see the things in front of you Jesus wants you to see.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.