The religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign from heaven. They wanted proof that Jesus was sent from God (Matthew 16:1).
Jesus scolded them. They could read the weather, he pointed out, but not the signs of the times. Jesus gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and preached with astounding authority. What more did they want?
The Son of God was standing right in front of them, but they couldn’t see it. Their personal agendas were more important to them than God’s kingdom plan.
Jesus told them that they would get no sign except the sign of Jonah. What does he mean?
Jonah didn’t warm up to God’s plan. God sent Jonah to preach in Nineveh but Jonah didn’t want to. So he took a boat going the opposite direction of Nineveh.
Jonah’s flight from the Lord ended in the belly of a big fish. He was as good as dead. But God was merciful and preserved Jonah’s life.
Jesus is telling these religious leaders that something similar will happen to him. Not that he will run away from God, but that he will suffer the punishment for all who do, a punishment that will require his death.
Jesus did not go down into the belly of a big fish but into a tomb, buried and dead. Then God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the sign that Jesus is speaking about, his resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection is God’s greatest sign. For those who dismiss it, nothing will be good enough. For those who recognize it as God’s power, nothing could be better. They see, understand, and act.
In the Old Testament we read about men from Issachar who understood the times and knew what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Every generation needs men and women who understand the times and know what to do.
Unfortunately, in our day there are many folks who are like those religious leaders who asked Jesus for a sign. They understand nature far better than they understand the Creator. But we need people who can do more than understand nature and question God.
First, we need folks who understand the times from an eternal perspective. Our times are so bad in a spiritual sense that we may be tempted to conclude that God has abandoned us. But that would be a mistake.
Jesus told the religious leaders in his day that they were a wicked and adulterous generation. It’s hard to imagine a more negative analysis! And yet the Son of God came and walked among that wicked and adulterous generation.
We must not be discouraged by the dark state of our world. Despite this present darkness, God is working to accomplish all that he has promised.
The church in America is undergoing historical realignment. Until recently Christians have been divided mostly along denominational lines. But now Christian denominations are dividing within themselves between those who believe the Bible and those who do not.
Those who trust Scripture are now a remnant in many denominations. In some cases they are leaving their institutions behind because they can no longer participate in the disobedient course being taken by spiritually darkened leaders.
Our times are characterized by increasing skepticism towards God’s word and expanding secularism in every facet of life. As a result, biblical illiteracy is growing by leaps and bounds, and church participation is faltering.
Once we understand the times, we must know what to do. A skeptical and secular world must hear and see the truth of God’s word.
The world will only hear God’s word when God’s people are bold enough to proclaim it publicly. The world will only see God’s word when God’s people are confident enough to live in obedience to God’s commands faithfully and openly.
Jesus promises that obedience to his message is like a house built on solid rock. The wind blows, the rain falls, the river rises, but the house stands. He warns that a life of disobedience is like a house built on sand. The wind blows, the rain falls, the river rises, and that house crashes.
All around us we see lives and families and communities crashing because they are built on the sandy ground of skepticism and secularism. We have the answer.
Our task in this dark generation is to obey God’s command and to testify about Jesus. Now.
May God’s Word always be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path,
Brother Richard Foster