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God’s Children Raise The World Up

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:33 ESV)

We are currently reading seven parables from Jesus. In all of them Jesus related the common experiences of His listeners to the kingdom of heaven. In today’s parable Jesus uses the every-day task of making bread.

Leaven, or yeast, is used to make dough rise. Whenever a woman would bake a loaf of bread she would save a piece of dough from the previous batch just before it was baked. This piece would have contained leaven. When mixing the next batch of dough she would place the saved piece inside the new batch so that it would ferment the new batch and make it rise. Then the process would be repeated. The fact that she hid the piece of leavened dough implies that she kneaded it all the way into the new batch so that it was all mixed into the dough.

Just like the leavened dough had to be deeply mixed into the new batch of dough, so too must Christians be mixed into the world. When we are the world rises up – it becomes a better place. Like leaven makes dough rise when it is mixed into it, God’s children raise the world up by being a part of it.

Once in a while we hear about someone wanting to create a Christian city or state. Such a place would supposedly be a better place to live. Maybe so. Maybe not. But in any case, such an arrangement is unbiblical. God does not want His children to be separate from the world. He specifically sends us into the world, but warns us against becoming like the world [John 17:14-16, 18; Romans 12:2].

The Amish separate themselves from society. They do not want to be ‘contaminated’ by the world. But in so doing they have become a cultural oddity and have no impact for Christ on the lost world around them.

Believers cannot affect the world if we are separated from it. We must be in the world. We are to be teachers. We are to be athletes. We are to be scientists. We are to permeate society. But we are not to become like society.

There is certainly no doubt that the world’s living conditions have improved immeasurably since Jesus walked the earth. This is 100% attributable to Him and His followers.

As a result of Jesus’ teachings and example, living conditions on this earth, while still far from Eden-esque because of our sin, are infinitely better than what would be otherwise. This is easily verified by looking at the non-Christian parts of our world. They live in poverty. The rights of women and children are non-existent. They have governments that demand to be served by the populace rather than serving. Without the Jesus the world is a big mess.

Jesus ushered in a completely new way of thinking about people. He treated everyone with dignity because each and every one of us was created in the image of God. This makes the world a better place.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



Christianity Is A Blessing To The World

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
(Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)

Yesterday we read the Parable Of The Tares. Before Jesus explains the meaning of that parable He gives us two more parables about the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven began the day Jesus ascended into heaven. From that moment the kingdom began to be built here on earth by creating new believers throughout the generations. It will continue to be built until judgment day.

In today’s parable Jesus likens the kingdom to a grain of mustard seed that was planted in a field. Even though the mustard seed is small, in the parable the mustard plant grows larger than all the other garden plants to become a tree.

Many critics of the Bible point to the statement that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds as proof that the Bible is filled with errors. It’s true that the mustard seed, although very small, is not the smallest seed known to man currently.

But at this time in Jewish history the mustard seed was, in fact, the smallest of all the crop seeds and this is how we should understand Jesus’ words as this parable, like all the parables, uses farming references.

We must also remember that Jesus was not teaching science here. He was speaking allegorically and prophetically, using what people understood to inform them about something they did not understand. Jesus was explaining that His kingdom, even though it was small and seemingly insignificant at the time, would grow beyond what anyone at that time could imagine, like the mustard plant in the parable.

Mustard plants don’t often grow into the size of a tree, although there are some species that do grow large enough so that birds can make nests in their branches. But again Jesus is not teaching science here. He is teaching a spiritual truth through the use of a parable.

Like the mustard plant in the parable was a blessing to the birds, the kingdom of heaven would grow to be a blessing to the world. This prophecy has undoubtably come true as the world has benefited greatly from millions of acts of Scripture-inspired Christian service world-wide in areas of education, poverty, slavery, women and children’s rights, and many other areas.

Today’s parable allays some of the doubts and fears that the previous two would have introduced. The previous two parables spoke of the rejection people would have for God’s kingdom as well as the contaminating influence of the world on the kingdom [Matthew 13:3-9, 24-30]. Many of Jesus’ listeners would have wondered, then, if the kingdom of heaven, would survive.

Jesus tells them that not only will it survive, it will thrive beyond what they could imagine. History has shown this is exactly what happened.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


For Now Good And Evil Exist Side By Side

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
(Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

Today we study another parable of Jesus’ as recorded by Matthew. The subject of this one, like the previous one, is the kingdom of heaven which began when Jesus ascended into heaven and which continues to this day. This time period is often referred to metaphorically as the time of harvest in which people who believe in Jesus are gathered up like wheat during harvest season.

In this parable a man sowed good seed in his field. But during the night, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. While the ESV translates the Greek word ζιζανιον (pronounced: dziz-an’-ee-on) as “weeds” other translations use the word “tares”. In fact, this parable is often referred to as The Parable of the Tares.

This particular weed is a variety of darnel that closely resembles wheat. It is actually a bit of a narcotic, inducing sleep. In severe cases it can cause death.

The difference between darnel and wheat is almost impossible to distinguish until the plants ripen and the grain is visible. Which is why it wasn’t until the plants came up and bore grain that the weeds appeared also.

Planting tares in someone’s wheat field was not uncommon in the ancient world. In fact, records show that the Romans had a law against doing it.

The man’s servants offer to go and gather up the tares but the farmer wisely declines. By this point the roots of both the wheat and the tares had become intertwined and in gathering the tares the wheat would be pulled up too, including any wheat that had not yet fully ripened.

Instead, the farmer waited until the harvest when he would tell the reapers to gather the weeds so they could be burned. But the wheat would be gathered up and put into the barn. Notice it is the reapers who gather the weeds, not the servants. This will be important when we study the meaning of this parable.

This act of sabotage was committed by the farmer’s enemy whose goal was to destroy the wheat. The enemy thought that the farmer would be inclined to pull up the tares before harvest because they would be depriving nutrients to the wheat. But by doing so the farmer would have also destroyed his wheat crop.

The farmer was wise enough to know that patience was the better choice. He was willing to allow the useless tares to grow along side the wheat for a time. But ultimately, the farmer knew, the tares would be eliminated and the wheat would be gathered up.

Jesus will explain this parable in detail in a couple of days. But since we know that it is about the kingdom of God we can notice for now that Jesus is telling us that His kingdom is currently comprised of good (wheat) and evil (tares). They exist side by side.

Some often wonder why there is evil in this world. The answer is that, just like the farmer puts up with the tares for a season, God is patiently allowing evil to exist for a time. In the future, like the wheat and the tares, good and evil will be permanently separated.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


We’re All Some Kind Of Dirt

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
(Matthew 13:18-23 ESV)

Two days ago we studied the passage in which Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who went out into his field to sow seed [Matthew 13:3b-9]. In today’s passage Jesus explains the spiritual lesson behind the parable. Each of the four soils on which seed fell illustrates a kind of receptivity to the gospel, which is represented by the seed.

Along the path: The soil described as the path represents those who do not understand Biblical truth and do not make any effort to do so either because they’re minds are closed or they are too lazy to put any effort into understanding it. It is the goal of Satan to convince people that God’s word is a lie or is too difficult to understand. A person who buys into such lies is unteachable. As we learned yesterday, understanding God requires effort.

Rocky ground: The soil described as rocky ground represents the one who responds very quickly to the gospel but whose response is entirely based on emotion (joy). Such a person endures for a while. But when tribulation or persecution arises because of the gospel (such as ridicule from friends or family), they fall away. Many critics of Christianity claim it is nothing more than an emotional experience. But this is not true. In fact many passages, including this one, are clear that God appeals to our minds not our emotions [Ephesians 1:17; 1 John 5:13].

Among the thorns: The third type of soil represents those who receive the gospel but who don’t place it first in their life. Instead, the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and worldly success take priority. Some of these things are not inherently bad. But they must come no better than second in a person’s life. Otherwise, the gospel will be unfruitful.

Good soil: The final type of soil is good soil. This represents the person who hears the word and understands it. They may not understand it initially. If not, they take the time to research it. They are open-minded. They don’t simply dismiss new information or information which they don’t immediately understand [Acts 17:10-11]. Such a person bears fruit by creating more believers in their life through their lifestyle and teaching.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, you fall into one of the first three types of soil. You’re mind is perhaps closed to the possibility that the Bible is true. Or you are only looking for an emotional experience that will quickly dissipate when the next fad comes along. Or you’re too enamored with the temporary things this life has to offer. All believers were once like this, of course. But God changed our hearts [Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26]. He’s willing to change your heart too.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Why Did Jesus Speak In Parables?

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
(Matthew 13:10-17 ESV)

Yesterday’s passage closed with Jesus challenging those who wished to understand His parable to explore its meaning. That is precisely what the disciples do in today’s passage. They came to Him and asked “Why do you speak in parables?“. Jesus always gives an answer to those who ask of Him [Matthew 7:7].

First, notice that parables reveal the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus spoke He didn’t engage in unnecessary talk. His words were focused on giving useful knowledge. Secrets in this context simply refers to truth that was not previously explained but which always existed, specifically that in the Old Testament.

Secondly, notice that parables revealed meaning to some and hid meaning from others. Those who honestly and earnestly sought truth (such as the disciples) were given the ability to know that meaning. But to those who rejected Jesus (them) it was not given.

This is why Jesus says “to the one who has, more will be given… but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away“. To the one who has a desire to know more (a reference back to Matthew 13:9) God will give more knowledge. But those who don’t have that desire will lose the knowledge they do have. This is not a cruel tactic by God. It is a fundamental principle of life.

For example, suppose two kids are taking piano lessons. One kid enjoys playing the piano and the other does not. The one who enjoys it will desire to know more. As a result, she will know more as she continues to study. But the kid who does not enjoy it will stop taking lessons and whatever knowledge she had acquired to that point will be forgotten.

Christianity can only be understood from the inside because it is the Holy Spirit – God living in us – who reveals that truth [John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10]. Unbelievers cannot understand nor should they try.

All an unbeliever needs to know is that he/she is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. Once they believe that and accept Christ’s death as complete and necessary to pay for their sins, then they become a member of God’s family [John 1:12]. Then God will teach them everything else.

Some critics of Christianity – those with dull hearts and closed eyes – want to understand all of it before committing. If they find anything in it they don’t understand (which, as today’s passage promises, they will) they reject it. Such people will indeed hear and see but will never understand or perceive. Therefore God cannot heal them.

But those whose eyes do see and whose ears do hear are blessed. We get to see and hear things that Old Testament prophets longed to see and hear but did not.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Parable Of The Sower

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear”
(Matthew 13:3b-9 ESV)

Today we study one of Jesus’ most famous parables: The Parable of the Sower. In these days seed was dispersed by hand as a farmer walked through his field. The seed would fall on various types of soil within the field. Everyone listening to Jesus would have been very familiar with this activity as they lived in a farming culture. Jesus used this real-life example to explain a spiritual truth.

In this parable a sower went out to sow seeds. The seeds fell on four different types of soil:

Along the path: Just like we have today, paths would have existed between rows of crops. There would also have been paths between fields that were used by the farmer and which also acted as a right-of-way for travelers. We recently saw Jesus and His disciples use one of these paths [Matthew 12:1]. As a result of all this foot traffic, this soil in these areas would have been compacted. It would have been too hard to accept the seed. As a result birds come and devour the seed.

Rocky ground: Farmers would have cleared their fields of boulders and rocks in preparation for sowing, so this type of soil is not referring to above-ground rocks. It is referring to sheets of rock that would have been just below the surface. The soil above the rock would have been thin – perhaps just an inch or two. Seeds that landed here would immediately spring up. But since the soil has no depth, the plant’s roots could not obtain nutrients or reach water. As a result the plant would be scorched by the sun and die.

Among the thorns: Some seeds fell on soil that was fertile, but which was filled with undesirable weeds (thorns). Weeds grow much faster than any desired plant and in so doing they steal sunlight and nutrients, choking the life out of the desired plant.

Good soil: Some seed fell on good soil that was not compacted, had depth, and was free of competing, undesirable weeds. These seeds produced grain. Some seeds that fell on the good soil produced more grain than others. But all seeds produced some grain.

Notice that it was the same seed which fell on all four of these soils. The seed had the potential to germinate. Whether it did or not was entirely based on the quality of the soil.

This entire story by Jesus would have been well understood by His listeners… at least when it came to the obvious facts. No one would have argued against anything Jesus said in this parable as it related to farming.

But not everyone would have understood the spiritual aspects which is why Jesus issues the invitation: “He who has ears, let him hear“. This was apparently a common Hebrew idiomatic phrase which invited those who heard to explore the deeper meaning behind the parable.

In a couple of days we’ll study the meaning of this parable.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Stories Teach Through Word Pictures

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying:
(Matthew 13:1-3a ESV)

Today we begin a very interesting and important chapter in the Gospel of Matthew. In it we see a shift in Jesus’ ministry regarding where He spoke and also how He spoke.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He taught in synagogues. But as opposition against Him from the religious leaders grew, He resorted to teaching outdoors, including besides the sea. And even though the religious leaders spoke against Him, great crowds gathered about Him. Bravely, the masses did not follow their leaders. They followed Jesus. Such a decision would be wise in today’s culture as well.

In this chapter we also see Jesus begin to make full use of parables. The word “parable” comes from two Greek words which mean “to set down next to each other” for comparison purposes. Parables present abstract truth in a concrete way. They make truth easier to understand by presenting it with word pictures.

If one wants to teach people something they don’t understand, he must begin from things which they do understand. Parables use references to things and experiences that are real to the audience. Jesus spoke to His audience in parables which used cultural norms they would have understood to explain things they did not yet understand.

That is why it is important for us today to have an understanding of Jewish, and even Roman, culture as it was 2,000 years ago. We cannot understand much of the Bible without this knowledge.

People do not like to be taught. But they do like to learn. When we tell a story, especially one with a moral attached to it, we can teach while entertaining. Stories create interest. People will not listen, and therefore will not learn, unless they are interested. People are more likely to remember a story and, hence, its application.

One of the most important things about parables is that they compel the listener to discover truth for himself. It does not do a man’s thinking for Him. Jesus taught in parables because He had respect for His listeners. He did not spoon feed them truth. He presented it in a realistic way and left it up to the listener to meditate on it so as to understand it and subsequently apply it.

But at the same time a parable conceals truth from those who are too lazy to think for themselves or who are simply not interested in acquiring character-developing knowledge. Telling a parable puts the responsibility on the listener.

A parable reveals truth to the one who desires truth and is willing to work to find it. Yet it obscures the truth from those who have no interest in it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Ultimately, God’s Family Is The Only One That Matters

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Matthew 12:46-50 ESV)

Today we come to an interesting passage which at first glance might seem out-of-place. But it actually fits in well as it occurred while Jesus was still speaking to the people. These are the same people who had followed Him and were wondering aloud if He was the long-awaited Messiah [Matthew 12:23].

Jesus had been confronting the Jewish leaders’ opposition to Him by speaking words against them. However, His words were spoken for the benefit of the masses who overheard the whole conversation [Matthew 12:22-45].

Jesus had told the religious leaders that they would not be going to heaven based on their external behavior. The people who heard this must have been wondering how they themselves would be able to get into heaven if these leaders – who were considered to be very spiritual – would not. Today’s passage reveals that answer.

Jesus’ mother and brothers were on the scene but at some distance from Him, asking to speak to Him. Many who had known Jesus as a boy thought He had lost His senses when He began His preaching ministry [Mark 3:21]. Not only that, but His harsh words for the Pharisees caused them to want to kill Him. It’s easy to imagine that Mary and her other sons were concerned about Jesus’s mental and physical well being. Perhaps that is why the wanted to speak with Him. By the way, notice Mary had other children besides Jesus, debunking the Catholic notion that she remained a virgin her entire life.

But Jesus uses their request to answer the doubts that were in the people’s minds. He indicates that His true family is not His earthly family but anyone who does the will of His Father. And that will is to believe in Jesus [Matthew 17:4-8]. Anyone who believes in Jesus becomes part of God’s family and lives with Him in heaven for all eternity [John 1:12].

People often think that every human being is part of God’s family. Not true. But anyone can be adopted into God’s family. The word whoever confirms that universality. God makes this offer to everyone [1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9].

No one who believes will be excluded. But, no one who does not believe will be included. Heaven is a holy place. There is no sin there. Hence, no one with any sin can enter. But we’re all up to our eyeballs in sin. The only way to remove it is to accept the forgiveness God offers through Jesus.

These comments by Jesus must have been a welcome relief to the people. They had been taught that they had to keep hundreds of exact, petty rules to please God. But God is not impressed by outward conformity to rules. He wants us to know Him [Hosea 6:6]. Upon hearing these words the people knew that heaven was just as accessible to them as anyone else.

God’s family consists of those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Ultimately, it is the only family that matters.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Morality Apart From Jesus Is A Dangerous Sham

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
(Matthew 12:43-45 ESV)

Jesus continues addressing the scribes and Pharisees in today’s passage. These men were the leaders of Israel who outwardly appeared to be right with God but who were actually not. Today Jesus addresses the danger of maintaining an outward appearance of spirituality as these men did. He does this through a parable.

In this parable an unclean (i.e. evil) spirit departs from a person. It then goes about seeking rest but finds none. Interestingly we learn that demonic spirits, like a virus, need a host to live in and are uncomfortable without one. This explains why the demons Jesus previously cast out of two men requested to go into a herd of pigs [Matthew 8:31].

The demon in this parable decides to return to the house (the person) from which it came. Upon doing so it finds that the house is swept and put in order.

Apparently the person from whom this demon was exorcised had made some changes in their life. They now had an outward appearance of living rightly. They had removed sin from their lives, as the demonic spirit had observed.

But notice though that the house (the person) was also empty. The demonic spirit had departed and the person had subsequently cleaned up their life. But they had not replaced the demon spirit with a positive force. They were relying on their own abilities to live righteously. Such a situation is extremely dangerous as Jesus’ parable tells us. Such a person is susceptible to being filled with other spirits who are even more evil than the first. The person’s state then becomes worse than it was before.

The principle is clear. Just like nature, our souls abhor a vacuum. We are not made better when we “empty” ourselves as eastern religions such as Hinduism espouse. Jesus’ parable clearly teaches that doing so only opens the door for Satan to dwell (i.e. reside) in us. That which dwells in us controls us.

Human beings are made to be filled with God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, who will guide us to truth [Ezekiel 36:27;John 16:13; Romans 8:11 et. al] . If we are not, then we are filled with Satan who destroys us. There are no other choices [1 John 3:10, 5:19].

We cannot improve our lives, or the world, simply through self-effort. While that may appear to work, it only creates more problems that will be manifested in the future. Certainly we see this in our world today. We enact laws and use social media to control behavior. At the same time we expel Jesus from our culture and define our own set of moral standards. Yet our problems continue to multiply at an alarming rate.

That is no coincidence. Outward reformation without inward transformation cannot work. It only leads to self-righteousness, arrogance, and conflict.

Morality apart from Jesus is a dangerous sham.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Jesus’ Resurrection Is All The Sign We Need

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just 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. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
(Matthew 12:38-42 ESV)

After Jesus’ scathing words for the Jewish leaders yesterday, they ask Him to perform a sign. In the original Greek, the emphasis in their statement is on the word “you”. In other words, they wanted Jesus to prove that He had the authority to speak to them the way He did.

This is quite an absurd request as these leaders had already seen Jesus perform numerous “signs” to prove His identity as God [Matthew 12:10, 24]. Apparently they wanted an even greater sign – perhaps a celestial sign (e.g. darkening the sun) – to prove His power over the universe. Only then would they believe that Jesus had authority over them.

Here we see an example of people who stubbornly refuse to believe. Like many people today, the scribes and Pharisees were not approaching Jesus objectively. They had already drawn a conclusion about Him and ignored any evidence that contradicted that conclusion.

Interestingly Jesus calls such people adulterous. God often describes man’s relationship with Him as a marriage [Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 4:15 et. al]. When we seek fulfillment and joy in things other than Him we are committing spiritual adultery, just like a husband might seek these things apart from his wife (or vice-versa).

Jesus states that He is not going to give these men the immediate sign they are seeking. Instead He informs them that He will be all the sign they need. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so would Jesus (referring to Himself as the Son of Manbe three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus here is predicting His own death and resurrection. He would die, be buried, but would only spend three days in the grave.

One gets the impression from their question that these leaders doubted Jesus’ could perform a sign and were asking only to expose His “weakness” and thereby “prove” He lacked authority over them. In asking this question they were really rejecting God’s authority over their life and were instead attempting to exert their own self-appointed authority over God.

As a result, Jesus tells them, they will be condemned at the judgment when they see the highly evil men of Nineveh (a Gentile city now known as Mosul, Iraq), who repented when a mere man, Jonah, preached a message from God to them, entering heaven [Jonah 3].

Similarly, the queen of the South (aka Queen of Sheba) recognized the God-given wisdom of Solomon and, apparently, believed in God, repented and will be in heaven too [1 Kings 10:1-10].

Jonah and Solomon were two human “signs” of God’s love and power. The Gentiles who heard them humbled themselves and repented. Yet the Jewish leaders, who were in the presence of God Himself – something greater than Jonah and Solomon – refused to believe.

Sadly, they – and anyone else who refuses to believe God – will someday watch as those who did believe and repent enter heaven while they themselves are refused entry.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


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