The Sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32)

There were no television news reports, no videos to share on Facebook. There were no newspapers or radio communications. All that existed were word of mouth reports that spread slowly over time from village to village, from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Even so, more and more stories circulated about a preacher who performed occasional, incredible miracles. Oh yes … he was a pretty good teacher as well!  But, people coming out to see him, particularly for the first time, were especially hoping to see something extraordinary.

The religious leaders in the nation were increasingly annoyed by this distraction. The gospel writers all talk about how the leaders and the crowds were constantly asking for a sign – something extraordinary that was accomplished upon demand.

But the teaching should have been enough (though there was no shortage of the miraculous being witnessed by large numbers of people). We recently commented about how the leaders were going to attribute any sign or miraculous deed to being the power of the Evil One. And the peoples’ interests in miracles were more about their personal gains than about connection to the kingdom plan of God.

Today we see the irritation of Jesus come through as he considered the spiritual state of the nation…

Luke 11:29 – As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

The only sign he says they are going to get is “the sign of Jonah.”  We recall the Old Testament prophet who went to Nineveh … well, he eventually got to that city after some days in the belly of the whale. Once there, he preached about the pending judgment of God, and the Gentile people believed and repented.

Likewise, another non-Jew, who was the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10), came from a great distance (likely 1200 miles away in what is modern Yeman) to see and meet Solomon. The amazing visit that featured the exchange of great wealth resulted in the Queen being convinced of the blessings of God upon Solomon.

These Gentiles who were removed from the history of the truth of God’s promises had more faith than the Jewish leaders and nation should have exhibited when hearing the words of Christ. They were physically present with something far greater, and that is the presence of the Kingdom in the person of Christ.

We are so often amazed at the lack of belief of Israel at the time of Christ. This should not have been, given all the blessings and advantages they had in their history and heritage. Though we don’t have the physical presence of Christ, we have for our day a tremendous resource in the completed word of God that reveals the completed work of Christ. So there is no excuse to not believe in the first place, and there is every reason to have great confidence for time and eternity in the truths of Scripture.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

One thought on “The Sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32)

  1. Perhaps I can post a thought or two regarding your statement — “So there is no excuse to not believe in the first place, and there is every reason to have great confidence for time and eternity in the truths of Scripture.”

    Scripture is indeed one line of evidence. However this gets muddied up by two factors.

    1) People don’t understand the world correctly and therefore it seems that scripture doesn’t properly line up with what they understand.

    This may involve misunderstanding human history. For example, as explained in the documentary “Patterns of Evidence” most scholars haven’t been able to align Egyptian chronology with the history of the Bible. Therefore, working from the wrong starting assumptions they conclude the Bible stories are a myth. This is a big subject to get into, however the documentary Patterns of Evidence in it’s two hour long award winning (award winning at secular film festivals – mind you!) does a great job in showing the overview of a correct chronology. And as the documentary points out, Egyptian chronology isn’t only a problem as it relates to the Bible, Egyptian chronology doesn’t align well either with the chronology of some seven other nations… and isolated scholars have all messed with the other chronologies rather than correct the Egyptian chronology. So, if you don’t believe the Bible to start with … it can keep you from jumping into it.

    2) People don’t understand scripture and misrepresent or misinterpret it.

    A great example is the creation account in Genesis 1. I note that scripture says —14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,..” (Gen. 1:14 NIV)

    I earlier understood that nearby stars and their constellations were suitable for this purpose. We need the stars and nighttime observations to determine where the earth is in its’ orbit around the sun. This helps us to know the season and adjust our calendars. However what purpose do the far, far away stars serve? They mark the time since creation. The recession of the far away galaxies at higher speeds than closer galaxies, following a mathematical trend shows an expansion of the universe … the expansion of the universe shows the beginning of the universe.

    Who then is mistaken, if someone looks at a far away event in the sky and sees a supernova take place at a distance of some million light years away or more? If someone thinks the universe isn’t that old and that this is just some trick … and says that supernova never took place … and cites the Bible for their proof, is this a good witness? Or rather are the distant stars and distant galaxies, fulfilling the role of marking time since creation? I believe that they are serving God’s purpose and don’t need to be explained away.

    Misinterpreting the science that people believe and understand and come across everyday and claiming that everything that science says about an old age of the universe is wrong … this is a bad witness.

    Another way people misrepresent scripture is by their lives, words and actions. Jesus in the flesh lived a merciful life and embraced the lowly and oppressed. He healed the sick. He opposed the arrogant and self-righteous.

    In short, as we stumble and don’t do the good that God gave us to do, as we seek our honor rather than His honor … we muddy the waters.

    Paul wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5 NIV)

    Yes, scripture itself is a great witness … but sometimes we need to engage in “apologetics” to strip away misconceptions about the Bible. Sometimes we might need to challenge people who misrepresent scripture. Paul was ferocious in this regard in challenging those who tried to make Christianity into a list of rules and who tried to ensnare gentiles into slavery to old testament law.

    Paul also was ferocious against sin in the church. He was deeply concerned about sins in the church becoming acceptable. He even criticized the Corinthian church for accepting sins that were detestable to those outside the church. In 1 Corinthians 1:5 he pointed out that it was alleged the Corinthian church accepted sinful behavior that “even pagans do not tolerate”.

    My purpose in bringing up a certain creation controversy isn’t to correct you in regards to how Tristate Fellowship handles such matters. It can be said that we do a very good job of following Paul’s instruction in regard to the following scripture.
    “3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer
    4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work– which is by faith.
    5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. (1 Tim. 1:3-6 NIV)

    So while you are right that in regards to scripture properly understood and properly explained that then “there is no excuse to not believe in the first place” — we need to be very careful to be ready to engage in spiritual battle to remove obstacles to belief.

    Paul wrote:

    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister (Rom. 14:13 NIV)

    Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor. 8:9 NIV)

    We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. (2 Cor. 6:3 NIV)

    Peter said to the church, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10 NIV)

    James said, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19 NIV)

    So sure a simple explanation of Genesis 1 leads someone to believe the earth is young. Several others scriptures though will probably be better embraced by scientifically minded people on this matter.

    The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed– but he marches on forever. (Hab. 3:6 NIV)

    the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; (Deut. 33:15 NIV)

    Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. (Gen. 49:26 NIV)

    My point isn’t to convince people who are determined to believe in a young earth that the earth is old. (I’d like to do that … but not at the expense of ruining people’s faith, for some have such a deep emotional connection to certain creationist ministers and their teaching that they have claimed their faith would be destroyed if their viewpoint was proved wrong.)

    I am though saying that the perception out there that the bible teaches that the earth is young doesn’t tend to lend itself to making scientifically minded people immediately embrace scripture.

    Paul gave a piece of advice: “21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
    22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”
    (Rom. 14:21-22 NIV)

    While talking about food and wine, this passage has some bearing on other controversies where people have deep emotional connections. That includes age of the earth controversies, “endless genealogies” (which can also pertain to controversies of our deep ancestry …)

    One man might say that he evolved from a monkey-like primate, another thinks God made him out of the dirt of the ground, and yet another might think that God made him as a child of Abraham out of a rock. — “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” said Jesus. (Matt. 3:9 NIV)

    And how often it seems like our hearts are too rocky, that we lack sensitivity or love, or lack wisdom …

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