January 9, 2022 Signs


January 9, 2022



Scripture: Matthew 12:38-42.


All our Lord’s words are rich with meaning. Every gospel author preserves our Lord’s teachings and, as his disciples, we must abide in his word, taking his teaching to heart. Those who do not abide in Christ’s words are not truly his disciples (John 8:31-32).


Remember our Lord’s words to the devil during his temptation in the wilderness:


But he answered, “It is written,

       “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” [1]


Jesus commanded us to not live by our stomachs, but “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In this age, this applies with equal force to the words of Jesus. We must live by every word that came from the mouth of the Lord Jesus! Every word, every teaching of his ought to be understood and then applied. “Lord, grant us great grace to desire your word, know your word, and live your word! Amen.”


The scribes and Pharisees ask him to show them a sign. His answer is ripe with meaning:

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.[2]


Who seeks for a sign? According to our Lord, it is evil and adulterous people who look for a sign. Some may think, “What about Gideon? He sought for three signs and the Lord gave him three signs.” (Judges ch. 6) While it is true that Gideon did not have an evil heart, neither was his request for signs pleasing to the Lord. The Lord gave him signs as a concession, but Gideon’s request was actually a demonstration of a lack of faith.


Jesus says that it is evil people who look for a sign. Why is that so? Considering the situation that Jesus was in shows this.


The request of the scribes and Pharisees is almost laughable. They wish to see a sign. Yet, Jesus had already performed numerous and amazing miracles, including cleansing a leper, healing two paralytics on separate occasions, raising a dead person, curing a fever, and casting out a host of demons from one man. His most recent one (vs. 28) they attributed to the devil.


The scribes and Pharisees constitute that evil generation. Jesus is not going to play their game. He could have said, “I have already given you seven signs and you rejected all of them. Therefore, you get no more.” Instead, he simply says that no sign will be given to this generation. They would not accept any sign that he did. Therefore, practically speaking, no sign was given to them. Except the resurrection. But even this would not convince them. This shows a very important truth. It is not for lack of evidence that unbelievers refuse to believe. They refuse to believe because their hearts are set against God.


Remember this truth!


It is not for lack of evidence that unbelievers refuse to believe. They refuse to believe because their hearts are set against God.


To seek a sign indicates that the person seeking the sign does not wish to commit to a course of action even though the Lord has already given direction. Isn’t this exactly the situation with the Pharisees? Our Lord had already proven who he was through seven miracles at this point. Yet, they would not commit themselves to him!


There is already abundant evidence through the creation that God is real. This evidence includes the beginning of the universe as well as the design of the universe. The apostle Paul  makes this point in Romans:


For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.[3]


Note verse 21: everyone knows God already! The reason they know him is because of creation. They know God but they become futile in their thinking, inventing bizarre stories for both the beginning of the universe as well as the design we observe all around us. Why? Paul says so that they will not have to honor God.  They wish to remain in their sin and rebellion.


Similarly, the evidence for Christ is more than adequate. Both his miracles and, especially, his resurrection from the dead testify beyond doubt that He is the Son of God, Savior, and Lord. The evidence is sufficient but men refuse to believe. And, they will be without excuse on Judgment Day.


But, I tell you, Christians are the same way! Of course, Christians believe in creation and the Lordship of Christ. But contemporary disciples sometimes seek for a sign for other matters. Why? It is because they do not want to commit to something the Lord has already revealed!


Now, I think there are some situations that may allow for seeking a sign for direction. But those would be rare. I may mention one later. Seeking a sign, in most instances, is a revealing of a lack of trust in the Lord. The Lord has given us much direction in his word, but many followers of the Lord do not wish to commit to follow them all. We must trust in the Lord! If he has given us direction then he will also supply what we need to accomplish it, including wisdom from above and material resources.


Jesus said that only “the sign of Jonah” would be given to that wicked generation.


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. [4]


Was Jesus in the earth for three days and three nights? Yes, he was.


Matthew 26:17 says that they would prepare the Passover meal on the first Day of Unleavened Bread. The OT requires eating the Passover meal also on this day. Therefore, Jesus and his disciples ate the meal on the first Day of Unleavened Bread, which was sunset of Wednesday night of the crucifixion week (14 Nissan; Exodus 12:18).


Thursday, Jesus was betrayed, tried and crucified. He was buried before sunset on Thursday. Friday (beginning at sunset on Thursday in Hebrew reckoning) was a Sabbath Day because it was the Passover. Saturday, too, was a Sabbath. Thus, during the crucifixion week there were two Sabbaths in a row.


Therefore, Jesus was in the tomb Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night. Likewise, he was in the tomb Thursday daytime (before sunset), Friday daytime, and Saturday daytime. He arose before sunrise Sunday morning.


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.[5]

Again! Jesus brings up judgment!


I have mentioned this many times, even as recently as last Sunday: In the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus gives a teaching that is either of moderate or long length (six verses or more), 80% of the time he talks about the judgment to come. Clearly, Judgment Day was on his mind! It was on his mind because he cares for his people. He desires us to pass through the Judgment in a good way and not to be taken by surprise if we should discover that we have failed ourselves and failed the Lord. Because the Judgment was on the mind of our Lord, it should be on our mind also.


What is fascinating about verses 41 and 42 is that Jesus reveals something about the coming judgment that few people think about. He says that the Ninevites and the queen of Sheba will participate in the Judgment. They will be witnesses! This means that the Judgment will be more thorough than we may have imagined. Jesus Himself will be the Judge, but it will me more like a trial than we may have thought. There will be witnesses! The Lord will make it plain to all that whatever judgment is rendered is completely correct.


The Lord here seems to be referring to the judgment of the lost for, certainly, the Pharisees who opposed Jesus were not saved. However, just as in our consideration of the judgment of the words we speak, to which Jesus referred in the previous verses (covered last week), this principle (of a thorough judgment with witnesses) likely applies to all three Judgments to come.[6]


This is why I taught last week and I remind you once again, to be certain that you have made peace with all people while you have the time. There will be witnesses!! It would be wise to even go the “extra mile” and confess things of which you are not even certain you are guilty. It is because we have a tendency to think more highly of ourselves than is real. And, we tend to be overly critical of others. Therefore, allow others to tell you what you have said or done that was wrong. Learn to say, “You may be right. And, I am so sorry. What can I do to be in perfect peace with you?”


Repentance is the great need of the lost. But, it is also a great need of the disciple. The first three years that I was here at New Salem, I made it a point to never repeat my teachings. I was always striving to bring something new. (Not new to the Bible, but new to the congregation.) Then Suzanne told me that the church needs to hear things over and over because people tend to forget. I realized that she was right. It was a simple truth, but one that I did not see. That little incident shows how much we need one another! I’ve been studying the Bible for over 45 years and I need my brothers and sisters to show me things. We all need it!


So, one thing that I have said more than once, but will now repeat, is this:


When a person who names the name of Christ is made aware of a sin, but does not repent, it is evidence that they do not truly belong to Christ. All they have done is believed some facts and then someone told them that they were saved. True disciples hate sin and renounce it as soon as they become aware of it.


There can be a temporary lapse into sin and a short-lived avoidance of repentance, as, for example, the brother in I Corinthians who was guilty of incest. But the Holy Spirit will do his work and bring heart-felt repentance. Every follower of the Lord repented soon after their sin. Think of King David, the apostle Peter, and even the incestuous brother.


Continuing in sin is a manifestation that one has not been born again (I John 3:4-10).


But there is one habit that the true saint can practice. That is avoiding the knowledge of sin! Brothers and sisters, we need self-examination! Examining ourselves is not usually a pleasant experience because we discover things about ourselves that we do not like to think about. But, I tell you, it is better to deal with a little unpleasantness now than to have witnesses against you at the Judgment Seat! Expose your own sins and rejoice in leaving them! Repentance brings refreshing! (Acts 3:19-20). Repentance brings joy! (Acts 8:39)


Repentance needs to be part of every disciple’s life.


Finally, our Lord says that He is greater than Jonah and He is greater than Solomon.


  • Jonah was a preacher who proclaimed the necessity of repentance to a lost people.
  • Jesus was a preacher who proclaimed repentance to a lost world.
  • Jonah was three days and nights in a fish being alive.
  • Jesus was three days and nights in the earth being dead.
  • Jonah was spit out of a fish.
  • Jesus rose from the dead!


Oh! Jesus is so much greater than Jonah!


  • Solomon was the wisest man who lived under the old covenant.
  • Jesus was wiser than Solomon.
  • Solomon gave good directions for life. If one reads and follows the advice in Proverbs they will find that they inherit a better life on earth.
  • Jesus gave far better directions for life. If one reads and follows the teachings of Jesus they will inherit eternal life!
  • Solomon gave directions without the power to live them out fully.
  • Jesus gave teachings and then comes to live within the disciple so that they have the power to live them out!


Jesus is greater than Solomon!


What a Savior we have! He deserves our full, unrestrained allegiance! Take that one foot that you have in the world and place it on the Rock! Give your all to the Lord! Stop your half-way following!


Let me conclude with a brief word about signs.


I said that seeking signs reveals an evil heart or, at least a heart that lacks trust in the Lord. But there may be times when seeking a sign may be the right course of action. We do not have time to consider Gideon’s situation and condition in depth. But, we can mention one thing.


 Gideon was already doing God’s will. This is key. We must be faithful to what the Lord has given us already, as was Gideon. Be faithful with what you have been given. Then, when the Lord asks you to do more, you will mostly be ready! He certainly asked Gideon to do more…so, so much more! He would deliver the whole nation of Israel!


First, then, we can say that when we are faithful with what we have the Lord will give us more and we will not even need to ask for a sign. Gideon knew that the Lord was not pleased with his asking for a sign (Judges 6:39).


One time when seeking a sign may be appropriate is when we have already exercised wisdom in attempting to make a decision, that is, we have carefully considered what the Scriptures teach about the decision that we should make. We may also consult with someone who possesses wisdom. If, after all that, we still are uncertain as to the best decision then we may ask for special, divine guidance. We see this in Acts, chapter one, when the apostles drew lots to determine who would replace Judas. They did this after they narrowed down the choice to two men based on other criteria.


What ought we to do with our Lord’s teaching this morning? If we do not apply what we learn then we are wasting our time. I leave you with three things.


First, we must prepare ourselves for our own judgment. The true disciple need never fear eternal perdition. Our place in the New Heavens and the New Earth is secure by the blood of Christ. But we will be judged for either rewards or discipline based upon our faithfulness. The Lord may call forth witnesses! Be at peace with all, as far as it is in your power!


Second, do not seek for signs. Live by what you have been shown already. Step out in faith and see the hand of the Lord support you!


Third, rejoice in the greatness of our Savior! He is greater than Jonah. He is greater than Solomon. He empowers you to live for him! This is something that Solomon could not do!


We have everything we need! Take these words of our Lord and allow them to guide you this new year. What a good time to renew your commitment to our Greater Solomon! Let 2022 be the year that we honor the Lord more than we have. Let this year be the year that we repent, if we need to do so. Let his year be the year that we live the life that we have been called to live and we do away with half-heartedness.


If we prepare for our judgment, if we live by faith, and if we honor Christ, we will discover that our life is a life of enjoyment!



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 12:39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 1:18–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 12:40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 12:41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Judgment Seat of Christ (only for his own people, both OT and NT saints), the Judgment of the Nations (Matt. 25), and the Great White Throne (Rev. 20).