Text: Matthew 12:33-42
For honesty and humility in speaking
For cities and nations
For foreign missions
No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah…
As Jesus continues his sparring with the scribes and Pharisees, he invokes the ministry of Jonah, that reluctant prophet. The odd and wonderful story of Jonah ends with an entire city—Nineveh, the sin-soaked capital of the hostile Assyrian Empire—repenting on the basis of a five-word sermon. It is, without a doubt, the most successful preaching tour ever.
Jesus calls his opponents to account as much for their carelessness as their hypocrisy, because, for all their learning, they have become less attuned to God, not more. Their eyes see only themselves; their mouths speak words intended to increase their own standing; their actions are meant only for their own glory. The evil Ninevites could respond to Jonah, but these students and teachers of the Law cannot respond when someone greater than Jonah is present. Their call for a sign from Jesus comes from their sense that they are in position to judge and weigh; Jesus responds that their own words will condemn their arrogance.
Yet the Pharisees and teachers of the Law will get what they asked for and receive a sign. Just as Jonah was held in the belly of the great fish for three days, so Jesus will be held in the belly of death for three days. The message that will emerge from that three-day period will rock every capital, every empire, and call all people to account. Let the one with ears listen!
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks