Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 12:38-50.
Because the Pharisees could not argue with the Lord Jesus, they changed the subject seemingly from the negative side to the positive side. Verse 38 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Because they could not defeat the Lord Jesus by arguing, to save face they changed the subject from one thing to another; they asked the Lord for a sign. This was a subtle proposal. A sign is a miracle with some spiritual significance. The Jews always seek for signs (1 Cor. 1:22). Once again this gave the Lord the opportunity to reveal to the whole universe something further concerning Himself.
Verse 39 says, “But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” If you had been one of those Pharisees, would you not have been bothered by the Lord’s reply? The Pharisees seemed to be saying, “We want you to show us a sign, and you call us an evil and adulterous generation. Before this, you called us a brood of vipers. We recognize that you are a good teacher. Teacher, show us a sign. Show us a miracle with some significance.” The Lord Jesus seemed to say, “Yes, you will see a sign. Although you are not an honest generation nor a pure generation, but an evil and adulterous generation, there is a sign for you—the sign of Jonah.”
The Lord Jesus proceeded to tell them the significance of the sign of Jonah. In verse 40 He said, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” This was to be a very meaningful sign to them. “The heart of the earth” is called the lower parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9) and Hades (Acts 2:27), where the Lord went after His death. Hades, equal to Sheol in the Old Testament, has two sections: the section of torment and the section of comfort (Luke 16:23-26). The section of comfort is paradise, where the Lord went with the saved thief after they died (Luke 23:43). Hence, the heart of the earth, the lower parts of the earth, Hades, and paradise are synonymous terms, referring to the one place where the Lord stayed for three days and three nights after His death and before His resurrection.
In verse 41 the Lord continued, “Men, Ninevites, will stand up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.” The Greek word rendered “greater” in verses 41 and 42 is pleion, meaning more in quantity and quality; hence, greater. It differs from meizon, the word for greater in verse 6, which means greater in external size or measure. Christ, as the Prophet sent by God to His people (Deut. 18:15, 18), is greater than Jonah the prophet. Jonah was the prophet who turned from Israel to the Gentiles and was put into the belly of the great fish. After He had remained there for three days, he came out to become a sign to that generation for repentance (Jonah 1:2, 17; 3:2-10). This was a type of Christ, who would turn from Israel to the Gentiles, and who would be buried in the heart of the earth for three days and then be resurrected, becoming a sign to this generation for salvation.
In verse 41 the Lord seemed to be saying, “The Ninevites repented because of the sign of Jonah. Yet you, an evil and adulterous generation, which will see such a sign as that of the Son of Man buried in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, will not repent.” The Lord’s word in verses 40 and 41 was not an ordinary word; it was a prediction. Before the Lord was buried in the heart of the earth, He prophesied in this way, telling the Pharisees that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. I believe that the Lord Jesus told them this in His mercy. He seemed to say, “I give you a prediction of My death and burial. This shall be a sign to you, just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites that caused them all to repent. I predict this now so that when you see it, you may repent.” However, they did not repent. By this we see how stubborn the Pharisees were.
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