“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matt 12:39)
So far in chapter 12 of his Gospel, the apostle Matthew has presented Jesus’ dealings with the religious leaders of His day over two major controversies. First, with regard to the Sabbath, we learned that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, which He demonstrated by healing a man on the Sabbath day. Secondly, with regard to evil spirits, we found Jesus to be Lord of the spirits, which He demonstrated by casting a demon out of a deaf-mute man. In our text, we are confronted with a third controversy as the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign to authenticate His claims.
Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees telling them that no sign would be given to them except for the sign of the prophet Jonah. Just what is this “sign of Jonah?” Commentators vary in their opinions as to exactly what this sign is; but what is very clear is that in light of the presence of the Messiah, seeking a sign beyond His Person and work is considered “wicked and adulterous.” Yet sensual people love to live by sight and feeling, and as a result Jesus Christ becomes insufficient, in and of Himself. The more carnal a person is, the more they will be taken in by remarkable or impressive outward signs, and the less likely they will walk by faith in the invisible but Almighty God. In the very life of Jesus, God has opened all the stops, delivered all of His signs, and provided all the proof necessary for us to believe. To seek for heavenly signs such as visions and dreams, or apologetic proofs from science, or “signs of the times,” in patterns of history, the moon or sun, weather, the economy or politics, are all not only insufficient, but may be an indication of infidelity to God’s covenant. For One who is greater than the temple, greater than Jonah, and greater that Solomon has come, and He is our final Prophet, Priest and King! Do not insult His majesty by seeking for a sign from the muck and mire of some parlor magician, prophetic guru or mysterious storyteller. You have Him who died and conquered the grave; you have Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; He is more than enough; hear Him!