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Matthew

Seeking A Sign

Matthew 12:38-50

Lesson audio

“If I only saw one miracle, I would believe. I would have so much faith. So why can’t God work a miracle in my sight?” We will examine this, and a few other modern misconceptions.

A Sign

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. "The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

(Mat 12:38-42 NASB)

An evil generation

Have you ever wondered why God gives you no control over the miraculous? Perhaps the reason is this: you would not be able to avoid trying to please people, gratify them and amaze them all at once, just by working your pet miracle. Indeed, most of us would soon become a freak show. Like the illusionist of modern times, we would dazzle people – but with what? A God who is a tame lion, jumping through hoops at our command? Is the Lord of Hosts really so much like a dog? When we treat Him like He was ours to command, His lack of response is understandable.

Permit me a parallel. There are women of my acquaintance who genuinely possess their husbands. “My husband would do anything for me,” they say, and they can prove it. Is that the kind of husband you would have, ladies? A flunky? Yet we treat the Lord of Hosts with greater contempt than that. Do we seek him for His love, or our vanity?

This generation is quite similar to ours, in fact. Christ describes it as an adulterous generation. For us, this is true physically as well as spiritually. And like them, we are proud of it.

Proud? How often have you heard sentiments like, “I don’t want to be puritanical about it…?” We are proud of our “enlightened” view of sex; we are also proud of our “enlightened” view of the faith as well. Gone is the thunderous sermon on heaven and hell; hell is now simply “a Christless eternity.” To the non-Christian, just how terrifying does that sound?

The only sign

God is not the tame lion. He will produce His miracles in accord with His purposes. It is not ours to command.

Indeed, we may ask, “what is the use of a miracle?” If we could all levitate mountains into the sea we would soon have scientists who studied “levitationology.” It would cease to be a sign; just earthmoving by alternate methods. Moses showed many signs to the Israelites; but it’s clear that their interest was held much more by water in the desert than it was by the God who produced it.

We would agree with Faust: a sound magician is a mighty god. But Faust was wrong, for there is but one God. For those who deny this, there is only one miracle given to them: the Resurrection.

The greater the witness

Christ now establishes the danger to those who ask for a miracle to prove that God is with us. If the other fellow believed on lesser evidence, will you not be condemned for your lack of faith?

  • In the negative sense He cites Nineveh. Of all the prophets, Jonah was the most recalcitrant and unwilling. He approached his task like most of us would approach mucking out the stalls. Yet, despite that, and with no miracle to prove anything, they repented. How much worse, then, for our generation which commands God to either produce miracles or shut up?
  • In the positive sense He cites the Queen of Sheba. She journeyed a great distance (at a time when women just did not travel) at great expense to hear Solomon’s wisdom. Again, there was no miracle in this either. But if you will not accept the negative example, then the positive one should move you. What have you done to seek the Lord?

There is often comfort in the memory of past things; there is also warning.

The Worthlessness of our own Reformation

"Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. "Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. "Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."

(Mat 12:43-45 NASB)

Spiritual Vacuum

Please note that this passage is also part of the response to the Pharisees demand for a miracle. He is warning them of the results of their placement of God in their lives.

The matter is relatively simple, actually. Despite what modern man thinks today, Man is not his own god. As one writer put it, inside man there is a “God shaped vacuum.” The Pharisees would have comfortable in our generation, for we teach that man can overcome anything. God is simply a sideshow; a crutch for those who will soon leave the gene pool. We believe that whatever our problems are, we can defeat them without any help from anyone. As the folks from AA would tell you, you’re in denial. If you don’t allow God to fill that vacuum – completely – it will be filled. You cannot even fill it by making yourself into your own god, nor even your own demon. But you can surely delude yourself into thinking you can.

You can’t beat somebody with nobody

It’s an old saying in politics: you can’t beat a somebody with a nobody. If pride rules your life, matters can only go from bad to worse. You can imagine someone trying to clean up his own life, throwing out the problem and proudly proclaiming it. You are defeating lust with pride; it’s like swapping a bad cold for cancer. Lung cancer can cure pneumonia, you know.

Permit me an example. One of my co-workers had a regular cycle of joy and despair. First we would hear about her wonderful, life changing love – EST, country western dancing; practically anything would do. Eventually it would let her down – and she grew more bitter with each cycle. She was seeking that which she could not recognize; it is no surprise that she could not find it.

This is how it will be

Note the future tense. Things are going to get worse, for that generation and ours. We, like they, are convinced that we can clean up our act solely by our own effort. We, like they, are wrong.

Mother and Brother

While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

(Mat 12:46-50 NASB)

Extremism

It comes to each of us at some time or another: someone in the family rants and rails against the fact that you are a Christian. You have the choice: harmony in your family OR the love for Christ. If you pick Christ, you will be called an extremist, one who does not practice “moderation in all things.”

Christ suffered this too. Despite who He is, the family obviously came by to remove the boy from the public eye. They wanted Him to step outside and meekly go home with them. But see what leverage they were attempting:

  • They did this while He was still speaking.
  • They did this in front of the crowd, making it publicly known that they did not believe.

His rebuke is thus all the more telling: just who are my family? Those who do the will of God. It raises the point: what do we mean when we say, “the family of God?”

Family vs. family

Those who have known true fellowship in the family of God find it difficult to describe. Indeed, it is sufficiently rare in this part of the world that its witnesses seem indeed to be very few. They find it very difficult to explain just what it means to be in the family of God.

Perhaps the test is this: many of us have friends who have shared a good laugh with us. But have they shared our sorrows? Have they cried together with us? One of the family traits in God’s family is that we, like the Holy Spirit, come along side those who ache.

Taking care of the family

The matter is relatively simple: put God first in all things. As Augustine said, “Love God – and do as you please.” Want the example?

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Mat 25:31-46 NASB)

The Head of the Family will own you in your service to His children; He will disown you in your stinginess.

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