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The sign of Jonah

As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “These are evil times, and this evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” — Luke 11:29

People who struggle with faith sometimes say that, if they could have actually seen Jesus at work and heard Him with their own ears, they would not have any problems believing. As understandable as this may be, it’s probably not true. Some of the people who saw Jesus at work and who heard Him speak still struggled with believing! They argued with Him over what He said, they were dissatisfied with the miracles He performed, and they kept asking Him for more and more miraculous signs.

Jesus’ response to their lack of belief is enlightening. He saw their attitude not so much as a struggle to believe, but as a symptom of “evil times” and an “evil generation” (Luke 11:29). He was convinced that His contemporaries had been given more than enough evidence that He was who He claimed to be. Their unbelief was not an unfortunate or unavoidable lack of faith—it was an outright act of wickedness. They chose not to believe and demanded further signs.

One day, Jesus said that there would be no more signs except one—“the sign of the prophet Jonah” (11:29). Jesus’ listeners were familiar with the story of the prophet. When God commissioned Jonah to head in an easterly direction to preach to the city of Nineveh, Jonah intentionally headed west to Tarshish. But not for long! God hurled a storm at the ship, and Jonah was hurled overboard by the reluctant crew when they discovered he was responsible for their plight. Then a large fish swallowed him and regurgitated him three days later. When God again told Jonah to go to Nineveh, there were no arguments! Jonah arrived in Nineveh and preached as he had been told. And he made quite a stir; revival swept through the city.

Perhaps some of Jesus’ listeners understood what Jesus meant by the “sign of the prophet Jonah,” but many of them certainly did not. So to give them another hint, Jesus added, “Someone greater than Jonah is here” (11:32). He was referring to Himself, and the sign that He would bring—the sign to end all signs—would be like what happened to Jonah.

Jesus would go down into death (rather than into the sea), be buried for three days (in a tomb rather than in a fish), and on the third day rise from the dead (by His own power rather than by being spit out). Thereafter He would show Himself openly and preach the good news of the kingdom. That was the final sign, which in Jesus’ opinion is more than adequate as a basis of faith for all people at all times.

The issue for everyone today becomes, How do I respond to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? Christianity stands or falls on this tenet of the faith. If Christ is risen, He is all He said He was—the Messiah, the Son of God, the eternal king. If He isn’t risen, He’s dead and irrelevant.

Either way, we don’t need more signs. We need to choose to believe what the evidence clearly shows. To refuse to believe is simply wickedness.

For further study: Luke 11:29-36

Content taken from The One Year Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.