Our world and our generation is not very different for theirs in the first century. Everyone today wants a sign also. Everyone wants to have a special experience. People are looking for a feeling. People want to have something unique happen to them to set them above others. Some time back faith healers were very popular and would call for people to look for a sign and ask for a sign. Today people claim to listen to signs from the Holy Spirit to confirm their faith or salvation. Everyone wants to have a sign today and people in Jesus’ day were also clamoring for a sign.
In our last lesson we saw Jesus target the people in the crowd who were sitting on the fence. Jesus had cast out a demon from a man who was mute. The man is now talking and part of the crowd rejected Jesus by saying he casting out demons by the power of Satan. The other part of the crowd refused to commit to follow Jesus and accepting him as the Son of God. They wanted to see another sign. Rather than receiving the sign, accepting Jesus as the Messiah, and committing to following Jesus, they want another sign so that they can find a reason to reject Jesus. Jesus going to explain the sign that he give and explain why the people are not becoming his disciples.
The Sign You Need (11:29-30)
Jesus observes that the crowds are increasing. Rather than encourage the crowds or marvel at the crowds that are following him, Jesus says, “This generation is an evil generation.” Can you imagine a bunch of unbelievers following Jesus and rather than approving of them following him, Jesus calls them out. As we noted in the last lesson, Jesus is not interested people having a mild interest in him. Disciples are people who fully commit to following Jesus. Jesus explains why he is critical of this generation. He says that they are always seeking a sign. One sign is never enough. Jesus healing the blind, healing the sick, and raising the dead but the people do not want to commit to following Jesus. They just want another sign. Jesus declares that no additional signs will be given. There is only one sign that is needed. There is one great sign yet to come: the sign of Jonah.
Jesus says that Jonah was a sign to the people of Ninevah. We need to consider how Jonah was a sign to the people of Ninevah. What was it about Jonah’s life that became a sign to the wicked people of Ninevah? Without question, the sign was that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. Rather than dying, a miracle occurs. Jonah survives being swallowed by the fish then goes to Ninevah and preaches to the people. Jonah should have died. He was thrown overboard during a violent storm and sinks all the way to the seafloor, according to Jonah 2. Then Jonah is swallowed by a fish. Common scientific thinking would say we have a dead Jonah. Instead, three days later Jonah is spit up from the fish on to the land and he goes and preaches to the city of Ninevah. That miraculous event is the sign. Jesus is explaining that he is going to give a sign to that generation that is sign of Jonah. The implication, which is clearly expressed in Matthew’s account, is that he is going to be miraculously raised from the dead. A resurrection miracle is going to occur. This was the one sign for the people to know that Jesus is truly God, the Savior of the world.
The resurrection has come under heavy fire over the past couple hundred years. It is understandable why this would happen. If there is no resurrection, then Jesus has not given the world “the sign of Jonah” that proves him to be God. To feel the weight of what Jesus is teaching about his coming resurrection, it is useful for us to prove that the resurrection did occur. When we come to the resurrection story at the end of Luke’s gospel we will explore the theological significance of the resurrection. So this is an appropriate time explore the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead so that we can appreciate the teaching Jesus is giving concerning “the sign of Jonah.” There are many pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that must be dealt with by every critic.
(1) Eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. The scriptures record a number of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus. From the apostles, to the women went to the tomb, to the men on the road to Emmaus, to the five hundred who saw him at one time, the eyewitness evidence is overwhelming. It is not like there are only twelve people who saw Jesus risen from the dead. I would like to give you another piece of evidence to bolster our faith in the eyewitness observation of Jesus. Acts 1:22 records that one of the qualifications of being an apostles of the Lord was that he was a witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. When that is stated as the apostles look to replace Judas, they do not look at each other and suggest that this is an impossible feat. It is not like saying you are a Christian if you have gone to the moon, therefore ruling out everyone. There were people who saw the risen Lord. The difficult qualification was that the person was a disciple from the beginning of John’s baptism all the way to the resurrection. That is what made the qualification very narrow. But there are men, like Matthias and Joseph, who we do not read about seeing the risen Lord but meeting the qualification. There are hundreds and hundreds of eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus.
(2) The empty tomb. The fact that anyone in Jerusalem could go to the tomb and see it empty is an immense piece of evidence. If the tomb was not empty, the Jewish opposition would have gone to the tomb and produced the body. The opposition in fact proves the empty tomb because the guards are instructed to claim that the body was stolen. Why claim this except that the tomb was truly empty!
(3) Enemies became disciples. Paul was killing and persecuting Christians because he believed that Jesus was an impostor and not the Messiah. What changed Paul to become a disciple of Jesus who gave his life for Jesus? Paul saw the risen Lord. The brothers of Jesus did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. In Acts and Galatians we read about James the brother of Jesus as a pillar in Christ’s church. We have a letter in our Bibles written by Jude the brother of Jesus. What changed them from not believing to believing? They saw the risen Lord. The resurrection is the defining proof that Jesus is the Son of God.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…. (Romans 1:1–4 ESV) The apostle Paul declares the resurrection proved with power that Jesus is the Son of God.
Do You See The Sign? (11:31-32)
Let’s return to our text in Luke and see the point that Jesus is making to the crowd about his coming death and resurrection as the sign of Jonah. Notice the first point Jesus makes in verse 31. When the wisdom of Solomon was being proclaimed, what did the queen of the South do? She came from far away to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. She was willing to travel to the ends of the earth to hear God’s wisdom through Solomon. The queen of the south can condemn that generation because they are unwilling to hear with open hearts the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus is greater than Solomon!
The second point is in verse 32. When Jonah preached to the people of Ninevah to repent, they did it. The people of Ninevah were wicked Gentiles and yet they repented at the preaching of God’s word. Jesus has come preaching to his own people and they will not repent. Therefore, the people of Ninevah will condemn this generation on the day of judgment because they repented at the hearing of God’s word, and Jesus is far greater than Jonah!
Jesus has identified two common problems. We will not go to hear God’s word and we will not listen and repent at the hearing of God’s word. This is Jesus’ condemnation of the time he lived in and is still the problem today. God has revealed himself through his word. We can know his will for our lives and what his requirements are for eternal life. We can know what behavior is not pleasing to God. Yet we do not want to know. We will not give the effort to seek the time to hear the declaration of God’s word. It is not about being part of the crowd. It is not about just coming to church. We think we have other things we have to do. Remember that Luke is teaching his readers who are disciples of Jesus. Disciples are those seek to hear the word of the Lord and, upon hearing God’s word, change their lives to agree with God’s word.
Why We Don’t See (11:33-36)
Jesus explains why we do not see the sign. The reason we sit on the fence and refuse to commit to Jesus is not because there is insufficient evidence. It is not because the evidence is not convincing. Jesus says the problem lies within us. The fault is not with Jesus. He is the light that has been put on a stand so that everyone can see the light. The light of Jesus is shining. The resurrection is the shining light to us. His glory is not hidden in the shadows. What Jesus did is not a secret. When your eyes are healthy, you see the light and your whole body is full of light. However, when your eyes are bad then your body is full of darkness. The problem is not that we do not have enough light. If there is light, but we cannot see, the answer is that we have bad eyes. The problem is not with the light. This is Jesus’ point. The light is shining. Jesus is the light. He is not the problem. The problem is that we cannot see because our hearts are still in the darkness. Bad, dim eyes cause our lives to remain in the darkness. Good eyes (that is, good hearts) allow light to enter into the body. Bad eyes (that is, wicked hearts) block light from entering the body. The eyes of our soul need to be clear to receive and commit to Jesus.
Friends, Jesus told us that the problem is with us. The problem is not in the source of the light. The problem is not Jesus. The problem is not in the church. The problem is not in the teaching of God’s word. The problem is with us. We cannot blame others for why we are not strong Christians. We cannot point the finger to someone else to excuse ourselves for our lack of dedication, zeal, and love for the Lord. Jesus taught us that to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength. We have no one to blame for not doing that but ourselves. We must look within and consider what is blocking the light of Jesus from entering our eyes. Why is the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection not moving us to love the Lord and serve him? What is interfering with our focused commitment to following Jesus?
Verse 35 gives us the warning: “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” Be careful that you do not think you have the light when you are actually living in darkness. We can think we are in the light when our hearts are darkened. So many in the world, including ourselves, believe that we are in the light. Jesus is warning us to look again. What we think is light can actually be darkness.
If there is darkness in our spiritual lives, it is never the fault of the light of the gospel. The light of Jesus and the light of the gospel shines in full glory. It is our sins that block us from seeing the light of the gospel. The greatest sign has been given. It is the only sign you need. Jesus rose from the dead. What will you do with that miracle? Will the resurrection of Jesus be the basis of your life change, allowing the light of the Lord to remove the darkness in our hearts? Will we seek the light and remove the darkness of sin from our lives to be a disciple of Jesus? We do not need another sign. We need the spiritual ability to see the sign that has already been given to us. Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified for sinners and raised again in power. Are we giving all effort to hear God’s word and change when we hear it? We have the great sign of the resurrection. The question is: why don’t you see?