October 22, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Matthew 12:38-42.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of they whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with the is generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”
A friend of mine used to refer to this sort of response of the scribes and Pharisees as the principle of infinite prerequisites — there is always one more question that must be answered before a decision can be rendered, or an endless string of conditions that must be met for a proposal to be accepted. The scribes and Pharisees had witnessed Jesus curing people of disease and disfiguration and exorcise demons. Yet they still weren’t convinced that Jesus was God’s anointed one. They wanted a sign of some kind. They wanted all doubt removed from their minds. I think Jesus knew that another sign wouldn’t have changed their minds; there would have been yet another obstacle to clear. When it comes to faith, there is no proof that can overcome doubt. It has to come from a willingness to trust.
Jonah and the people of Nineveh had turned their backs to God, placing their wills above God’s. It’s interesting that Jesus used Jonah in this teaching, because Jonah, the most successful of Israel’s prophets, instead of rejoicing at the success of his mission to Nineveh complained to God that He let them off without punishment! Even though he carried out his mission after being given a second chance himself by God, he was vindictive when it came to the Ninevites. The scribes and Pharisees were like Jonah. They knew the scriptures and they had seen the miracles that Jesus had performed, yet they were vindictive and plotted the death of Jesus. That’s why the men of Nineveh would arise to condemn them. They refused to be transformed, to repent and accept that Jesus was God’s anointed messenger. They would not turn their hearts and faces to God and be saved from destruction.
I can be stubbornly persistent in clinging to my own set of beliefs, to the way I see the world. No matter how many signs I am given, I continue to demand more — more proof, more signs. I don’t want to be transformed; I don’t want to give up my way of believing or give up my doubts. It is a difficult thing for me to give up what I have held on to for so long. It is a difficult thing for me to relax, to open myself, to rest in faith instead of to resist in doubt. It has helped me to listen to the words of Jesus. His words are more convincing than Jonah’s and wiser than Solomon’s. That’s what I need to turn to every day instead of looking for another sign.