I am currently reading through the gospel of Matthew and last night came to the 16th chapter and the request by the Pharisees and Sadducees for Jesus to provide them with a sign from heaven. This really struck a note because I can’t tell you how many times I have heard folks make the same demand as a requirement for believing in Jesus or even in the existence of God. I believe Jesus response to this demand should be helpful in knowing how to answer this question today if it is asked of you.
Jesus responds to this question by telling them that “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus first of all compliments those asking the question for being rational and intelligent people who demand evidence before believing. Not! Jesus actually identifies them as being wicked and adulterous, a people who are not looking for God, but rather looking to their own interests. People who are asking for the sign, not because they are interested in believing, but as an excuse for not believing.
But Jesus does provide them with one sign that when fulfilled, should be proof enough; the sign of Jonah. If you remember the story, Jonah flees from God and ends up being tossed overboard and swallowed by a great fish. Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days before being spit up on the shore. Jesus here is looking forward to his crucifixion and subsequent stay in the tomb for three days prior to his resurrection. The sign of his resurrection should be enough to convince them, if they are willing to be convinced, otherwise nothing will.
As Jesus and his disciples go on from there he warns them to be on guard against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These are the same folks who had just demanded a miraculous sign from heaven, refusing to believe the signs already given. These were the intellectuals of the Jewish people who made every attempt to steer the people away from God’s Messiah and to themselves; people who thus were fighting against God.
There are many Pharisees and Sadducees in our world today, although they generally carry different titles. Some of them carry the label of Christian, but are leading people away from the Christ of the New Testament and into more modern philosophies concerning Jesus. And others may be atheists, leading us to worship the creation rather than the creator. In whatever guise they come, remember Jesus admonition to be on your guard against them.
In John 20:30-31 John tells us:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John has recorded seven ‘signs’ that should be sufficient for one to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son, and in believing to experience eternal life. Additional signs are given in the other gospels, including the sign of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem 2015 years ago. What will you do with them? Will you reject them and demand a sign of your own? Or will you accept them and find eternal life?
For those who have believed, remember Jesus’ words and guard against those who would seek to lead you away from simple faith in your Creator and in his son Jesus, leading you into the worship of self and denial of God. This is not an admonition against rational thought and learning, but rather a warning to not abandon faith in the pursuit of rationality.