In light of all we have learned about Jonah the past few weeks, let’s take a look at what Jesus said about him in Matthew 12:38-41.
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him (He just got done talking about the day of judgment and how a tree is known by its fruit), 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 day 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 (don’t miss this), something greater than Jonah is here.'”
Alright, so these Pharisees come and want a sign. They want proof. They want to be able to hold the truth in their hands. Umm, they’re obviously missing the fact that Jesus, Son of God, is standing before them, but we’ll overlook that for now…
He calls their generation adulterous. They are literally, spiritually cheating on God. Running after rules and regulations and laws instead of running after the heart of God. And they want a sign from the very God they are running away from?
And Jesus says that the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah. I can only imagine their reaction to that. Just as we dis’ Jonah so often, I’m sure they did. They probably called him stupid and slow, just as we often do. But they, just like we have (see how much we are like this adulterous generation?), missed the true point of the book of Jonah: God’s heart for people and the nations to know Him personally, for His glory. And that is the sign Jesus is going to give. He is about halfway to the cross when He is confronting these guys. He is about to show us the ultimate sacrifice that God is making for us. God’s heart is breaking for people on such a deep level that He is sending His Son to die for us.
So, Jesus continues by revealing what the sign of Jonah is: Resurrection. Just as Jonah spent 3 days in the fish, so Jesus will spend 3 days in the heart of the earth. That is the sign they are going to see: Jesus, raised from the dead. To never die again (unlike those He raised from the dead in His ministry).
He goes on to say that the men of Nineveh got it right. They repented. This generation (and perhaps our own…?) is not repentant.
And don’t miss the last phrase of verse 41… Behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus > Jonah. Duh, we got that. But do we realize what He is really saying? This generation should be SO much more repentant than you are, he is saying, because I’m not just preaching 5 words to you. I’m teaching you like a Rabbi. I’m leading you like a Shepherd. I’m living my life with you, beside you. You see me. Jonah walked out of the city and got all angry. Jesus stays in the heart of our mess and grime and works salvation out within us by grace through faith.
WOW. Can we just sit on that for a minute. Something greater than Jonah is here.
And I want to go a step further and say, Something greater than Jesus walking around with us, in bodily form, is here with us now. His name is the Holy Spirit. He lives with us, if we are born again in Christ.
Check out John 16:13,
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.”
And John 14:12,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
Greater works we will do, because we have the Spirit of God within us. Do we claim that?
I’ll leave with a verse that is such a challenge in my life right now. It’s in Matthew 9:28. Jesus is about to heal to blind men, and He asks them this question to check their faith out:
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”