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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:29-30 the sign of Jonah

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Sign of Jonah
(Matthew 12:38-42)

In verses 29-36, Jesus makes the point that the Pharisees will not be given any special sign to satisfy their accusations or curiosity about Jesus. They will receive what everyone else receives. The points of Jesus’ statement are made this way:

  a, This evil generation wants a sign.
  b, Only the sign of Jonah will be given—the sign given to
    the Ninevites.
  c, Even the Queen of the South in Solomon’s time understood.
  d, She came to hear Solomon’s wisdom, and the Son of Man is
    greater than Solomon.
  e, The Ninevites repented, and the Son of Man is greater than Jonah.
  f, If you have a lamp, you don’t hide it—let the light shine out.
  g, If your eyes are good, you are full of light. Let the light shine in.

29 As the crowds were increasing, Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation. It is looking for a sign, but no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

The participle epathroizomai brings in the picture of people crowding all around Jesus, and the crowd growing into more and more crowds all around him. Although Jesus took time out to eat (Luke 11:37-52, 14:1-24), the crowds would keep gathering to listen to Jesus so that by Luke 12:1 there would be “many thousands.” Luke will use this typical scene of Jesus’ days traveling down to Jerusalem to present a series of Jesus’ parables and other sayings before he shares the account of what happened in Jericho (Luke 18:35-19:27) and finally in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-23:56) and after (Luke 24:1-53).

Was this generation more evil than others? Jesus’ point is that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who were asking for a sign (Luke omits the question which Matthew records, Matthew 12:38) weren’t doing so out of faith, but out of unbelief. After hearing his words, they should have repented, as so many others had done before. To drive the point home, Jesus brings up two examples from outside of Israel. The first is the entire city of Nineveh, one of the leading cities of the Assyrian Empire in the days of the Assyrian crisis just before the northern tribes were defeated and exiled. The prophet Jonah was sent to preach to the Ninevites, but along the way he rebelled and ran away from God. The Lord kept him from sinning more by sending a furious storm to stop the boat and to call Jonah to repentance. Then the Lord provided a whale to swallow Jonah in order to save him from drowning and to spit him out on dry land so that he could continue on and carry out his preaching to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh were aware of what happened and repented when they heard Jonah’s preaching (Jonah 3:4), terrified of God’s judgment and eager to be made right with God.

The Pharisees were not content to listen to the message from God, and yet Jesus told them that they would receive one sign: the sign of Jonah. Jonah was “three days and three nights in the belly of the whale” (Matthew 12:40), and Jesus would be three days in the belly of the earth after his crucifixion. Jonah emerged alive, and Jesus would emerge alive as well—risen from the dead. Whereas Jonah was rescued from his own disobedience, Jesus’ death was to rescue all mankind from our disobedience—the obedient for the disobedient, the perfect for the imperfect, the sinless for the sinful.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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