Greater Than

In Matthew 12:39-40 Jesus also tells them no sign will be given to their generation except the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. Now to Jews, three days and nights can mean three full days or any portion of three days. Jesus Christ was in the grave for portions of three days—dying on Friday afternoon, lying in state on Saturday, and getting up and out of the grave on Sunday morning. As Jesus continues His discourse on the Accountability of Knowledge, Jesus says in Matthew 12:41~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. (ESV)

Understand what Christ Jesus is saying to those who truly have read the words of scripture and hidden it in their hearts without understanding. To them, He says the pagan Ninevites, who had no Bible, and yet they repented at the preaching of Jonah, who performed no miracles. However, the privileged scribes and Pharisees, who have the complete Old Testament, refuse to repent at Jesus’ preaching, which is verified by miracles, signs, and wonders. Therefore, at the judgment, the Ninevehites will have every right to join in condemning Jesus’ unbelieving generation. 

Next, Jesus says in Matthew 12:42~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. (ESV) Solomon, the wisest man on earth shared the wisdom of God and it drew people towards God. Jesus is reminding them the Queen of the South, or Sheba—a Gentile—will rise up at judgment against this generation. (1 Kings 10:1-13)

Do you know how far she traveled to hear the truth? We believe Sheba was probably in present-day Yemen, which is bordered by Saudi Arabia in the north. It is about 1,200 miles south of Israel, a journey of at least two months through the rugged desert. A pagan queen of Sheba believed in Yahweh because of His anointed king. Yet, the Jewish leaders in the town where Jesus lives and bases out of during His earthly ministry are refusing to believe in the words of life. Remember Pete in John 6:68~ Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (NIV) They are not accepting the Word of God dwelling among them. (John 1:14) No, they are even rejecting Him as they encounter the miracles of the Messiah. John 10:38~But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (NIV) 

If our true desire is to avoid living our lives in a Veiled Deception, then we must remember that our accountability increases with the knowledge God shares with us. So, do you believe Jesus, or do you believe the works He has done in your life or the lives of others? I want you to know that there is no other who offer the words of life, but Jesus Christ. And, if you believe, then who are you sharing your belief in Jesus with? We are to be disciples who practice what Jesus preached and that means sharing our faith with others. If you are not already praying about people to share faith with, then you should form a list of people and begin praying for them. If you already have a list, who do you need to reach out to and sow some seed, or maybe just a little water and some good Son-shine. Be a doer of the word.

Sinful Generation

We began this week discussing how our accountability increases as our knowledge fo God and His ways grow in our lives. Sticking with that thought, we witness the Pharisees ask again for a sign. Mark 8:11~The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. (ESV) I know in my life I have come and argued with God for a sign. I was hoping to use my best esquire skills and lawyer my way into existence. But each time I was soundly defeated. James reminds us in James 4:2-3~You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (NIV) 

The scribes and Pharisees are asking for grandeur and not accepting the spectacular works of wonder wrought in their midst. Luke says in Luke 11:16~Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. (NIV) Perhaps you have wanted a sign. However, we don’t go to the side of a loved one’s bed and say, if you are really God, you will heal them, or if you do not heal them, you are no God at all. That is to tempt the Lord. 

Remember in Luke 4, after Jesus has fasted 40 days the Devil tempts Him. To which Jesus quotes from the Old Testament and says in Luke 4:12~Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (NIV) The scribes want Jesus to cut the sun off in the afternoon. Or, use your finger and write across the sky Jesus is Lord. You could even make something out of nothing. How about a talking donkey like Baalam? To which Christ Jesus might say, but I already have a whole herd of well you know what you are in this type of situation.

No, Jesus answers them like this in Matthew 12:39~…A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (ESV) This foreshadows Jesus’ death where His body will lay in the tomb for three days just as Jonah rode the belly of the whale. Only to come out an again proclaim God. Jesus will spend about six weeks after the resurrection revealing Himself to many. So when He calls this generation an adulterous one, He links them with a common Old Testament metaphor for spiritual apostasy. 

Isaiah 50:1~Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins, you were sold; because of your transgressions, your mother was sent away. (NIV) (See also in Jeremiah 3:8) Jesus is not accusing them of sexual adultery, but of spiritual adultery because of their unbiblical laws and regulations. Also, they loved their religious positions and manmade traditions more than they loved God, which is spiritual adultery. 

Is there a place in your life that you are holding on to. A place where you feel the warmth and comfort of tradition, rather than the real love of a relationship with the God who created you. Your life is more than just traditions, it is to be an intimate journey with the former, fashioner and finisher or all things, Jesus Christ. Why not take time to just get alone, away from everyone and everything and give yourself wholly and totally to God in a time of worship. You won’t have to worry about who is around or watching because it will just be you and the Lord. Worship Him in the beauty of holiness.

Veiled Deception

Many very religious people don’t have a clue about how to get to heaven. They deceive themselves into thinking they are good enough or religious enough to earn a home in heaven. In our passage Matthew 12:38-50, Jesus defeats that way of thinking in a battleship exercise. Where out of the water, behind the helm our unrivaled Admiral teaches that three things are required if we want to avoid living in Veiled Deception: Increases, Alone, and The Price.

Jesus begins by sharing that our accountability increases with our knowledge (Matthew 12:38-42). Here in Matthew 12, some scribes now join the Pharisees in asking Jesus for a sign Matthew 12:38~Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (ESV) Now scribes were considered to be experts at interpreting the Law, aka the books of Moses. Ezra 7:6~this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. (ESV) 

In the New Testament, most scribes were Pharisees. Mark 2:16~When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (NIV) They were experts in cases in which people were accused of breaking the Law of Ole Mo. Moreover, wanting to see a sign is not a sincere request because Jesus has already provided many signs to prove He is the Messiah. Remember we are here in His home base of operation, Capernaum. The scribes and Pharisees apparently are not asking for the blind to see, the mute to speak, the withered made whole or even the sick healed; these they have seen these many times.

What the scribes are desiring is want a sign that affects the world. In other passages, we find them asking for a sign from heaven. Matthew 16:1~How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (NIV) Yeast is life-altering to flour. It is both powerful and infectious. When making bread it allows it to rise and be soft. Yet in other ways, it can damage all of the flour by infecting it with this quality, and it only takes a little. 

Today, where are you keeping the yeast in your life? Have you separated it out from all the different flours you have? Perhaps you are at a moment of inspection, where you need to set everything aside and just take time to confess your life again to Christ. To allow the Lord to reorganize your priorities and desires so that they are fully and completely aligned with Him and His plan for you. I want to encourage you that each of us must do this in our lives from time to time, and probably more often than we want to admit. Take the time and let God make all things new, again.