The passage can be read here.
At noon every Wednesday when Parliament is sitting, we have Prime Minister’s Questions. It should be an opportunity for Members of Parliament to ask probing questions of the Prime Minister. It can actually be quite funny, until you remember that these are the people running the country! If you’ve never seen it (it is broadcast live on radio and TV), think of a nine year old boy’s birthday party when they’ve all had too much sugary drinks and food additives, and you get the picture. I’m sure if one threw a sausage roll at the others, on one would be surprised. There is a bit of tradition, we are British after all, and set questions are repeated in between the booing and shouting. The PM will often say; “I refer the Right Honourable Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier”. I feel like saying something like that myself because today’s passage is linked very closely to the verses we looked at yesterday.
As we saw yesterday, the crowds did ask for a sign (v16). Jesus dealt first with the vile accusation made against him and now turned his attention to the request for a sign from heaven made at the same time. In his novel, ‘The Testament’, John Grisham describes the feelings of the principal character, Nate O’Riley, as he gains an awareness of the call of God upon his life. He walks into a church and there staring at a picture of the crucified Christ, he asks a number of questions in a sort of prayer, from memory they are something like; are you real? Did you die on a cross? And then one I remember clearly as it made me smile; ‘were you really swallowed by a whale?’ I read the book a few years ago, enjoyed it very much and my poor attempt at quoting does not do it justice. Jesus was not swallowed by a whale of course, but Jesus and Jonah do have things in common, and when the crowds asked Jesus for a sign, he said that they already had a sign in Jonah.
There are a couple of things about this. First, Jesus believed the account of Jonah. We read this from Matthew’s Gospel; “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.” (Matthew 12:40). If Jesus believed it, so should we. Secondly, as we see in the passage above, Jonah is a picture of Christ. Jonah ran from God and whilst onboard a ship, there came a terrible storm. He then realised that the only way for the crew to escape God’s judgment was for him to be thrown into the angry sea. Jesus was thrown into the ocean of God’s wrath, so that we can be saved. Jonah was three days in the great fish, he said; ‘From the depths of the grave I called for help’ (Jonah 2:2). Jesus was in the grave for three days. Thirdly, the story of Jonah has implications for everyone because the people of Nineveh heard his preaching and repented. Jesus is greater than Jonah, he is greater than Solomon, yet people responded to their teaching, how much more should people respond appropriately to Jesus.
Jesus’ teaching in verses 33-36 follows on from his teaching in verses 23-26. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (v23) “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (v35). The picture is clear, there is no need of any more signs, For us there is the added sign of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 17:30-31). We are either with Jesus or against him, we either gather with him or we scatter and we are either light or we are darkness. The choice is clear; “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (v28)
Lord, we thank you that you have made it possible for fallen human beings like us to be part of your family. Help us to hear your word and obey it, to be with you, to follow you, and to be light in a world of darkness.