Right and Wrong Reactions to Jesus. Mt. 12:38 - 50
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 12:38–12:50
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38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
43“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
46While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50“For whoever does the will of My Father
who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
We've been looking in chapter 11 and 12 of Matthew at all the different reactions to Jesus.
The disciples who have left all behind in order to follow Jesus.
John the baptist who is locked in an evil prison and doesn't understand what Jesus is doing. Why isn't He bringing the Kingdom they expected.
The multitudes who are all at different levels. Most of them want something from Jesus. Healing, or maybe just the entertainment of His mesmerising voice. The miracles. The feeling of being on the ground floor of something important. Crowds cause their own excitement.
The scribes and pharisees from Jerusalem who are the rock stars and power brokers in Israel. Jesus is a threat to them. They hate Him and their conflict is already at boiling point, a year into His ministry. They want Him dead.
Jesus has done miracle after miracle after miracle. And frankly, nobody's too impressed. How can that be.
After pronouncing woes on the cities that had been host to most of His miracles He gives us His own assessment. Mt. 11:25 - 26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26“Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
In view of the mountain of evidence seen, heard, and witnessed that did not bring these folks to a worshipful submission to Him, the only logical conclusion is that most of these folks are blind, deaf, and in the spiritual realms, dead.
And so, again, we find ourselves at a crossroads. I mentioned Dr. Barnhouse a couple of weeks back, who says, this is where the clock stopped for Israel.
We'll see in the next very important chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus will begin to speak to them in parables. No more straight talk.
They had had plenty of straight talk. Like, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. It doesn't get any plainer. But the straight talk had them speaking amongst themselves as to how they might destroy Him. And subsequent miracles were explained away as works of Satan himself.
In Romans chapter 1 terms, we're at one of those junctures that Paul describes as God gave them over.
Jesus is going to step back from His people. Revelation will be veiled. Miracles, while still present, are denied to this group, as we'll see this morning.
38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
I used to read this and think to myself, "What in the world???" He just did a miracle. Why did they say this? Now?
Turn with me to Joel for a minute. Or just listen. Sometimes that's better. If you want the reference later, they'll all be on the web page.
Joel 2:1Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the LORD is coming;
Surely it is near,
2A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As the dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
3A fire consumes before them
And behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like war horses, so they run.
5With a noise as of chariots
They leap on the tops of the mountains,
Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people arranged for battle.
6Before them the people are in anguish;
All faces turn pale.
7They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8They do not crowd each other,
They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
11The LORD utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
It goes on like that. Many places in the minor prophets. That's just a taste.
Or, how about the prophet Micah, 1:3,4
3 For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place.
He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.
4 The mountains will melt under Him
And the valleys will be split,
Like wax before the fire,
Like water poured down a steep place.
I think the religious experts of Jesus time, the scribes and Pharisee's were convinced this Jesus who was doing a few impossible miracles up in Galilee was small potatoes compared to the definitions of the "day of the Lord".
In Matthew 16 we'll see them ask this question again, but with clarification;
Mt. 16:1 - 4 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus, since you claim to be God, show us a sign in the sky.
10Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
Let's see you do some signs Jesus. Turn the sun and the moon off. And the stars. And make the earth quake, if you're who you say you are.
Satan wanted to see that too! Remember the temptation in the wilderness? Turn this stone into bread Jesus. Throw yourself off the temple Jesus. Satan would love to get Jesus to do a sign for these folks.
“Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” From Satan's lips to their mouths.
We'll visit this again in a few weeks, so I don't want to steal all the thunder, but I think this is the scenario. Unbelief, based on expectations from mis-understanding what the prophets were fore-telling.
We do the same things today. Harold Camping's Family Radio group spent $100,000,000 on those billboards declaring the end in 2011.
vss 39 - 40 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The generation of rulers and elders in Israel during Jesus time was defined by wickedness and spiritual adultery. No heart for God. They were power mongers and they would lie and cheat and steal and murder to keep that power base.
The miracles that Jesus was doing - weren't good enough for these folks. They were looking for bigger things. Let's see you shake the heavenly bodies Jesus. Make a few stars fall to earth like figs, then we'll believe.
They paid no attention to passages like Isaiah 11 and 61. Healing the sick. Setting the prisoners free. That's what He has just done with the demon possessed blind mute. Not good enough for them. He quoted Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth before they tried to throw Him off a cliff. Remember?
1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
He stopped short of the wrath in the next part of that 2nd verse. The favorable year of the Lord. Not the stars falling like figs year or the Lord. That will come later. Meanwhile, looking for the latter, they squandered the former.
It's mind boggling really. All of the good things Jesus had done. He eliminated disease from Palestine. Like the 40 other guys before Him that did that too. NOT. Nobody did that before, or after! How do you effectively ignore that.
The beelzebul thing. He's just doing magic. He has Satan helping Him do magic. He can't do signs in the sky. Earthquakes. Darkness at noon. If He's from God, and not some pip-squeak from Nazareth, He could turn the lights out. Re-arrange a few constellations. Make the sun go backwards for an hour. Then they'd believe.
I believe that was where they were going. We don't believe You are who you say you are, because we don't see the lights in the sky going out. We don't see the kind of power we're looking for. Day of the Lord stuff, like in the prophet Isaiah 64:1 - 3 .
1Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence—
2As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
3When You did awesome things which we did not expect,
You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
That's the kind of messiah we want. That's the kind of miracle we're craving, not the magic trick stuff. Notice Jesus doesn't take up an argument with un-belief.
His answer is NO. Unbelief will not get any more revelation than the astounding amount they've already witnessed.
In the book of Numbers we have a parallel generation. Moses has led the grumbling people through the wilderness and they are at the edge of the land of milk and honey. He sends 12 spies into the land to spy it out in chapters 13 and 14. Do you remember the story?
Ten of them come back and say the land is indeed flowing with milk and honey. Magnificent fruit. But it's filled with giants and we were like grasshoppers to them. They'll crush us. Only Caleb and Joshua had faith that God would deliver the land He'd promised them to them.
The people weep all night and they take up stones to stone Moses. Gonna appoint somebody to lead them back to Egypt. In Numbers 14:11 - 12 I want you to put this word evil that Jesus uses for these Pharisees together with the word unbelief.
11The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? 12“I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”
Moses intervenes of course, but God marches that evil generation around in circles in the wilderness for 40 years. None of those unbelievers saw the promised land. And the 10 spies who gave the evil unbelieving report; God smote them with a plague. Removed. Bad move to fear the Amelekites more than God. Very bad. Cost those guys their lives.
Not believing the words of this book; Evil. Not believing the words falling from Jesus lips backed up with miracle after miracle after miracle; Worse than evil.
But, He has a riddle for them. BTW that's all they're going to get from here on out is riddles. Parables. Chapter 13 is full of them. Here's a riddle for them.
An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The hardness of sin! The impossible hardness of unbelief. He'll rise from the dead, and these same men will pay the soldiers to change the story. They'll witness the Jonah thing, resurrection from the grave, and they will remain in their unbelief. Incredible. Obtuse. Other-worldly.
41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
And speaking of Jonah . . the men of Ninevah. Ninevah!! Bunch of gentiles. Vile bunch of heathens. Judge Israel!! Never. Oh yes! The saducee's didn't believe there was a resurrection. Jewish religious liberals.
Jesus here not only talks about the resurrection in real rational terms, He says the gentile peoples are going to condemn the religious jews at the judgement day. Real men. They stand on legs. Ninevites will condemn religious Israel of Jesus day. Because some guy that a fish puked up preached to them and they believed!
Nothing makes this group angrier than when Jesus tells them God's going to take what's theirs and give it to the gentiles. That makes them see red. In Nazareth, at the synagogue, it was going really well until He brings up the widow of Zarapheth. God feeds a gentile widow while the jews are going without. They hate that. And here He tells them that the Ninevites are going to be their judges!! Oh my. The fury of these self righteous men!
Jonah was a prophet. But Jesus was the Son of God. The argument is from the lesser to the greater. Gentiles believe a mere prophet and fall on their faces repenting. Jews reject the Son of God. It will go badly for them at the judgement. They had squandered their opportunity which was magnitudes greater than the Ninevites. Squandered by the sin of unbelief.
and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
It would be bad if Jonah preached in both places and the Ninevites believed, and the Jews did not. That would be one thing. But how much worse is it for these wicked rulers who cast out the Son of God.
something greater than Jonah is here. Under-stated. Creator vss created. They have rejected the creator of the universe.
The next judgement against them is for a sin that has gone on non-stop in every place that has the truth available to them, and men won't have it. It is universal. And frightening, even for us. The sin of apathy. The sin of yawning at God and his power and feeling no need for a Saviour.
42“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
The queen of the south, a gentile, came from the end of the earth, just to have a taste of the wisdom of God through a human agent, Soloman. Great effort. Great expense. Great personal cost. Just for a taste of God's wisdom.
These men wouldn't walk across the street to actually listen to Jesus. Widsom directly out of God's mouth. They won't hear it.
Now I'm not comparing myself to Soloman. But we do have the written Word of God. And we do apply some hours of diligence into studying these things in order to be able to present to you the very words of God, however badly.
This is the word of God! And the people of Tonopah wouldn't walk across the street to hear it. And in a sense, this judgement is for them. We're averaging about 1 in every 200 (150??) who will come and hear the Word of God taught.
It has nothing to do with music, or style, or anything else. The rejection is the same now as it was then. Something greater than Soloman is here. This living book! This queen will judge the people of Tonopah as well as the Jews of Jesus day. No time for Jesus. Can't walk across the street for Jesus.
I hope that doesn't sound bitter. If I'm a little bit bitter it's because of the Lord's prayer. Again. Hallowed be thy name. No honor in Tonopah. Jesus isn't hallowed here, except for a little handful of people. That upsets me. I long to see the Lord glorified in Tonopah. My hearts desire is for Tonopah to worship the God of creation. Put that in the newspaper.
Vss. Mt. 12;43 - 45
“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
Another riddle. This is the parable of the nation of Israel. We live 2000 years on the other side of history from this day. Do some homework and tell me how it went for Israel after they rejected and murdered Jesus and He rejected them. How'd that work out for them.
The word generation is the key. He's not talking about a specific case, He's telling them their national future.
Beginning with John and ending with Jesus, the nation, in spite of wicked leadership, had experienced a real cleansing. John was busy at the Jordan river. There was a real time of revival I think. Their house was cleansed and put in order. The strong man was bound while Jesus was there.
But the house though cleansed and ordered, was empty. The nation benefited but they stopped short of knowing their God.
waterless places. We don't want to build a theology of demons from these words that Jesus used to illustrate the soulessness of Israel. But they are colorful.
We can build a theology that says Jesus believes in a literal Jonah living 3 days in the belly of a fish, and He believes in a literal resurrection and judgement with literal men of Ninevah present along with the queen of Sheba.
He believes in demons. And His words here have all the color of the curses of the Old Testament. I want to make your skin crawl for a moment, if I can.
Listen to the curse on Babylon, just a little part of it from both Isaiah and Jeremiah, Micah and Zephaniah. Talking about abandoned waterless places filled with screeching and moaning;
A Judgment against Babylon
Isaiah 13;20 - 22 …20It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation; Nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, Nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there. 21But desert creatures will lie down there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there. 22Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers And jackals in their luxurious palaces. Her fateful time also will soon come And her days will not be prolonged.
"So desert creatures and hyenas will live there, and there the owl will dwell. It will never again be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation.
Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl.
Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their hooting will echo through the windows, rubble will fill the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed.
Now listen to a prophecy yet future that draws from this picture of screeching and moaning sounds in abandoned places;
Rev. 18:2 With a mighty voice he shouted: "'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!' She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
Such is the state of this generation for having evil unbelieving hearts for Jesus. This is the picture of them. Like a dog that returns to it's vomit, such is Israel for missing their visitation. This pronunciation of Jesus on them is a judgement no less severe than the ones on Babylon.
This last little section in vss. 46 - 50 is the most heart breaking. Nobody "gets" Jesus. The rulers are threatened and want Him dead. The crowds press in for the Jesus show. The sick want to touch His garments so they can be well, physically. Most of the people of the land wouldn't walk out of their house to hear Him if He was preaching in the street in front.
The reactions range from confusion to apathy to hatred to interest in what you can get. Some are mesmerized by the show. All of the different reactions Matthew shows us. But this one makes you the most sad. His own family. His mother and half brothers.
John tells us His brothers didn't believe in Him. Mary surely must, but she is confused by what He is doing. Later on He will save His brothers. James, his half brother will take a leading role in the Jerusalem church.
46While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.”
Mark tells us their motive. The came down from Nazareth to gather up the remains. They were convinced Jesus had lost His mind. He's not eating. He's not sleeping. The crowds are pressing in. We've got to save Him from Himself. He's left the reality train station. He's crazy. His family had come to do an intervention.
Be careful here. Their motive is love. Never-the-less, they are dead wrong. Sometimes you need to submit to your family, and sometimes you need to submit to your heavenly father and resist your loved ones.
Nobody gets Jesus. Almost. We have a similar situation in John chapter 6. The time frame could be about the same. It's hard to tell with John. He wasn't into chronology. But John tells us the story he relates was at Capernaum. So it could have been about the same time as this.
The story also revolves around the same group wanting a miracle greater than what they'd seen. In this case food. They were like whoopee, you created a meal. Moses fed us for 40 years. We're not impressed. Same scenario. We'll pick it up in John 6:52 and read a few verses.
52Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55“For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58“This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
59These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Riddles. Straight talk is over. Now they get parables and metaphors.
60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62“What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64“But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69“We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
The similarities are amazing. Some day we'll ask if this was the same day. Jesus finished with Israel. Israel finished with Jesus. Everybody walks away. Except for a little handful of people.
Are you going to leave too? Where would we go? And that's what true belief does. It says, I'm stuck to You like glue. There isn't anything else. We may have days where we don't "get" you either. But your words are the words of life. We're not letting go. Ever. Back to Matthew 12
48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
And now we've come full circle back to the Lord's prayer. Think it with me as I say it. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.
Kingdom folks are the ones who are doulos, slaves, of Jesus. They're holding on for dear life. They don't necessarily understand everything He's doing. But they are committed to Him. They belong to Him. They do His will. They are His brother. His sister. His mother.
Where did you land in the catalog of reactions to Jesus? Are you hostile? Are you a moralistic religious person? OK in your own man made righteousness? No need for Jesus. Are you a temporary travelor? Along for the ride. See what you can get? Get off any time it suits or fails to suit your needs or tastes. Are you apathetic. Take it or leave it. Are you hovering towards dis-belief because of confusion or dis-appointment? All of those are here in this passage.
Or are you a doulos. A slave who does God's will. Seperated from this worlds kingdoms. Hungering for more of Jesus. Sitting at His feet. His brother, His sister, His mother. In an intimate relationship that even on the darkest day, there's no where else to go. You'll be hanging on, no matter what.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2