38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." 39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Meditation: What would the Lord Jesus say about our
generation? Jesus gave a rather stern warning to his generation
when they demanded a sign from him. It was characteristic of the
Jews that they demanded "signs" from God's messengers to
authenticate their claims. Jesus faulted them for one thing: spiritual
adultery. The image of adultery was often used in the
Scriptures for describing apostasy or infidelity towards God.
Signs from God
When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims to be the Messiah sent from God, he says in so many words that he is God's sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. The Ninevites recognized God's warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented (Jonah 3:5). And the Queen of Sheba recognized God's wisdom in Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-9). Jonah was God's sign and his message was the message of God for the people of Nineveh. Unfortunately the religious leaders of Jesus' day were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God's Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message.
Simeon had prophesied at Jesus' birth that he was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against... that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all - his resurrection on the third day.
The Holy Spirit's gift of wisdom and understanding
The Lord Jesus, through the gift of his Holy Spirit, offers us freedom from sin and ignorance, and he gives us wisdom and understanding so that we may grow in knowledge of God and his ways. Do you thirst for God and for the wisdom which comes from above? James the Apostle says that the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity (James 3:17). A double-minded person cannot receive this kind of wisdom. If we wish to be wise in God's ways, then we must humble ourselves before him, like attentive students who wish to learn, and submit our heart and mind to his will for our lives.
The single of heart and mind desire one thing alone - God who is the source of all wisdom, goodness, truth, and knowledge. Do you wish to be wise and loving as God is wise and loving? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the wisdom which comes from above and to free your heart from all that would hinder God's loving action in your life.
Psalm 50: 5-9, 16-17, 21-23
5 "Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"
6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! [Selah]
7 "Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.
8 I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds.
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."
16 But to the wicked God says: "What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
22 "Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I rend, and there be none to deliver!
23 He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!"
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The stumbling block of the cross, from an anonymous early Christian teacher
"What is the sign of Jonah? The stumbling block of the cross. So
it is not the disputers of knowledge who will be saved but those
who believe true teaching. For the cross of Christ is indeed a
stumbling block to those who dispute knowledge but salvation to
those who believe. Paul testifies to this: 'But we, for our part,
preach the crucified Christ - to the Jews indeed a stumbling block
and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both
Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God'
(1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Why do the Jews seek signs and the Greeks
seek wisdom? God pointed to the sign of the stumbling block of the
cross to both the Jews and the Greeks. Thus those who wish to find
Christ not through faith but through wisdom will perish on the
stumbling block of foolishness. Those who wish to know the Son of
God not through faith but through a demonstration of signs will
remain trapped in their disbelief, falling on the stumbling block
of his death. It is no small wonder that the Jews, considering the
death of Christ, thought he was merely a man, when even Christians
- as they purport to be but really are not - because of his death
are reluctant to declare the only begotten, the crucified, as
incomparable majesty. (excerpt from INCOMPLETE
WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 30)