Luke 11.29-32 — The Sign of Jonah

As the crowds increased, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them. “This is a wicked generation,” he said. “It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Hey, so they asked for a sign? What’s wrong with a little healthy skepticism? After all, the man claims to be God, so it makes sense to investigate. Why is it wrong to ask for a sign? Because by this time he has easily given them enough teaching and miracles for them to know who he is. The request for a sign is just a sign of disbelief. They didn’t really believe, but wanted to sign to try to convince them. But even if he did something spectacular, like lightning from the sky, they would have made some excuse for it or attributed it to Satan. They were painting Jesus into a lose-lose corner: if he didn’t do a miracle, they would accuse him of being a fraud, but if he did do a miracle, they would accuse him of Satan’s power. So instead of showing them some boffo miracle, he gives them an obscure teaching. If they won’t understand anyway, then don’t give it to them clearly, otherwise they’d be accountable for it. But he lets it rip:

“For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.” Jonah preached against the people a message of impending doom, which is what Jesus is doing here. The sign of Jonah was that their sin had brought God’s judgment. See, people who aren’t paying attention think Jesus just preached forgiveness and love, but they aren’t taking in his whole message. Jesus loves, but he’s also just and has to be fair. Rebellion and sin can’t be left to thrive.

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here.” The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba that showed up in Solomon’s day. She noticed something special and different about Solomon, and so it was worth and long and expensive journey to listen to him. By comparison, how blind and deaf these people are, who get to hear Jesus himself, but miss it? No excuse can be made for those who hear it clearly and walk away.

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.” Even the people of NINEVEH figured it out. Well, if they could figure it out, anybody could (the end of Jonah says those people didn’t even know their right hand from their left). “So, like, what’s YOUR problem?” Jesus is saying. I think I’ve said before it’s like the gospel of John. Andrew could figure it out. Nathanael could figure it out. The servants at the wedding could. Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin could. The Samaritan woman at the well could. The Ninevites could. Even Rahab could figure it out. Jews, Gentiles, men, women, rich, poor, sinners and saints…nobody has an excuse. It’s SEEABLE! If you can’t figure it out, it’s your problem, not God’s.

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