From: Su Min
Subject: (3 Jan) Demand a Sign
CYBERCHURCHIANSFriday 3rd January 1997
Epistle to The CyberChurch
GREETINGSDearly Beloved: To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2_Peter_1:1-2)
"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!"
TEXTToday we look at Matthew_16:1-4_and Luke_11:16,_12:54.
CONTEXTJesus had just completed the miracle of feeding 4,000 men, women and children beside, with the meagre resources of His disciples: merely 7 loaves and a few fish. He sent the crowd away and got into a boat and crossed the sea of Galilee to the region of Magadan, somewhere on the western shore.
CONFRONTATIONThe Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew_16:1).
PHARISEESThe Pharisees, we have met before: they focused on the keeping of the law, and on an elaboration of the 10 commandments: they managed to expand it by 60 fold: 248 positive rules and 365 negative rules, totalling 613 commandments: their focus was so much on the adherence to the letter of the law with little thought to the spirit of the law.
SADDUCEESThe Sadducees were long time enemies of the Pharisees. The Sadducees are mentioned here and only again in two other times in the gospel record: Matthew_3:7_where they come to threaten John the Baptist, and Matthew_22:23,34_during Christ's last week.
The Sadducees believed that temple worship was the central and main purpose of the law. Under most other circumstances the Pharisees and the Sadducees were at loggerheads with one another. But these were not "normal" circumstances. Here amongst their midst was one whose interpretation of worship and interpretation of the law was radically different from theirs. They, who were enemies, chose to gang up to see if they could dispose of this young teacher.
MIRACULOUS SIGNThese questioners were thick skinned, stubborn, irreverent. Even if a miraculous sign from heaven was shown, would they believe? Or would they find reason not to accept, and ask for yet another sign?
In Matt 12 some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law had asked for the same: "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you" (Matthew_12:38).
The hallmark of wisdom is to hear not only the question, but also the question behind the question: What are they asking for? Why are they asking?
At superficial level, it would appear that the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to see a sign from heaven, a dramatic sign to prove that Jesus had spiritual powers, to prove his spiritual authority.
Yet Jesus had already shown many signs: feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, feeding 4,000 with 7 loaves and a few fish, stilling the storm, walking on water, freeing the demon possessed, healing the sick, the blind could see, the dumb could talk, the lame could walk, and even the dead were raised. Were these not signs enough? Were these not miracles? Were these not signs from heaven?
CHALLENGEWhy then, did the Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus to show them a sign from heaven?
It seems to me that they wanted to challenge Him, to test Him, to ridicule Him if he failed, to disbelieve Him if He delivered the goods requested. It was a lose/lose situation. But Jesus overcame that trap. He had no need to "prove" himself to the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew of His own authority. And of miraculous signs from heaven, there had been plenty enough already.
RESPONSEHe replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red', and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast'.
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you can not interpret the signs of the time.
A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."
Jesus then left them and went away (Matthew_16:2-4)
SIGNS IN THE SKYAmongst the crowd listening to the dialogue, there were many of the commoners who were farmers and fisherfolk. To them it was important to predict the weather, to plan the boat trip or work on the farm, for the day . This they were able do with fair accuracy. Look at the sky and predict the weather.
This ability was referred to by Jesus, in response to the request by the Pharisees and Sadducees for a sign from heaven.
You look about, you look at the sky to see the weather, but you do not look about at the events that occur about you, events that themselves tell of the momentous presence of the Son of God dwelling amongst men, The Anointed one, The Messiah, here to bring salvation to all. The role of Jesus had been clearly defined by the prophecies. His very presence was God doing as He had promised. But The Pharisees and Sadducees had eyes that were blinded. They had tunnel vision. They would not see that Jesus was the Fulfilment. None are so blind as he who will not see!
JONAHThe story of Jonah was familiar enough to the people of the day. The Teachers of the law may have had deep insight into every nuance and every verse of the old testament book of Jonah, but it was common knowledge enough to the man in the crowd that Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, and the wicked people of Nineveh repented and were saved (Matthew_12:39-41). Jesus foretells that He will be entombed for three days, and that He will rise triumphant from the grave: His victory over death will mean eternal salvation for the children of light..
"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."
Wicked indeed they were. Adulterous too. On a physical plane, sexual immorality. On a spiritual plane, they did not keep their faith. They no longer worshipped the One True God. They diverted their attention to other gods. They worshipped man-made idols. They worshipped worship. They worshipped power, money, sex. They worshipped self.
Have things changed?
2000 years on, can we deny that we are guilty of the same sins?
The signs of the times are al around.
The promise of salvation is given.
Judgement day will come.
Lord, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy upon me.
Abba Father, there is much of the Pharisee and Sadducee within me.
Cleanse me with the Holy Spirit.
Purify me in the crucible.
Melt me, mould me.
To Your glory alone.
In the Name above all other names: Jesus
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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