Matthew – God’s Purposes
Comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, had a catch phrase after telling stories of the follies and antics of people he grew up with in his family and among his Southern country friends, “And, here’s your sign.” If you want to know who people are, you watch what they do. Sometimes we just shake our heads.
The events recorded in Matthew 16 form a dramatic turning point in our Lord’s ministry. For the first time, He mentioned the church (Matt. 16:18) and openly spoke about His death on the cross (Matt. 16:21). He began to prepare the disciples for His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. But, as we see, they were slow to learn their lessons. The theme of faith runs through the events in this chapter. In these events, we see four different levels of faith and how they relate to Christ.
NO FAITH—Tempting Christ (16:1–4) Their desire to silence Jesus had caused the two opposing religious parties to unite in one common effort. They were waiting for Him when He returned to Galilee. The Pharisees, of course, were the traditionalists of their day, while the Sadducees were quite liberal (see Acts 23:6–10). They united to issue a challenge to Jesus: “Show us a sign from heaven and we will believe You are the Christ.”
The word translated sign means much more than simply a miracle or a demonstration of power. It means “a wonder by which one may recognize a person or confirm who he is.” This was the fourth time the religious leaders had asked for a sign (Matt. 12:38; John 2:12; 6:30). Later, they did it again (Luke 11:14.). But miracles do not convince people of sin or give a desire for salvation (Luke 16:27–31; John 12:10–11; Acts 14:8–20). Miracles will give confirmation where there is faith, but not where there is willful unbelief.
There is much more going on in this short, simple passage. Why did our Lord talk about the weather? To reveal to His enemies their own dishonesty and stubborn blindness. They could examine the evidence in God’s world and draw valid conclusions, but they would not examine the evidence He had presented. His enemies would not believe, and therefore they could not believe (John 12:37ff.).
The Pharisees and Sadducees did not lack evidence; they lacked honesty and humility. Their demand for a sign revealed the sad condition of their hearts: they were evil and adulterous. He did not accuse them of being guilty of physical adultery, but of spiritual adultery (Isa. 57; James 4:4). These men were worshiping a false god of their own manufacture, and this was spiritual adultery. Had they been worshiping the true God, they would have recognized His Son when He came.
Matthew 16, NLT
Leaders Demand a Miraculous Sign
One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
2 He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; 3 red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! 4 Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Do we ask God for signs along our journey of faith? This is tricky to understand. If we are asking for God to confirm our next step in a work He is inviting us to do, then we pray asking for details to be worked out for His glory. This sign of confirmation that we are on the right track and in sync with His Holy Spirit is welcomed. But to question WHO He is not. We do not test God.
Those with NO FAITH were asking for confirmation of Who Jesus is. See the difference. Notice the last action of Jesus…”Jesus left them and went away.” Which is very sad-you-see. (Sorry for the very bad pun, but you get it, right?)
Dear Heavenly Father,
We do not know how so many can turn you away, not knowing who you are and all you have done, continue to do and will do in our lives as you love us unconditionally. Our prayer is for the lost without you to find and follow You before it is too late. You have provided all the “signs” we need.
In Jesus Name, Amen