38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
The sign is Jonah passage is one in which there are 2 basic things be communicated. However, its usually just one thing that the reader picks up on; the connection of Jonah being in the belly of the whale for 3 days and Jesus being in the grave for 3 days. This connection is obvious. However, few see the secondary point, which is that the enemies of the Jews are going to stand with God in the end, condemning the Jews for not repenting.
When Jonah preached to Nineveh, the enemies of Israel, they repented. However, Jonah was bitter that God did not destroy them. Like Jonah, the gospel of grace was preached to the non-Jew and those who repented, God showed mercy. Also like Jonah, the messenger(s) of God was upset that outsiders were accepted by God and shown mercy.
Jesus was explaining the gospel while also condemning the Jews who opposed Him. Even Nineveh was better off than the Jews of Jesus’ generation. They were no better than their enemies. In fact, they were worse since they had the actual word of God with them.
The warning to the Jews may sound harsh but keep in mind that they had witnesses Jesus heal the sick and perform wonders. Yet, the accused Him of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub. Jesus has little patience for those who taste the goodness and grace of God but reject it. Perhaps, the author of Hebrews best explained this sentiment.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodnessof the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
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