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Jan 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Day Thirty-nine – Matthew 12:38-45

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you

. . . no sign will be given to [this generation] but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for 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. Matthew 12:39-40

Jesus used words in a way that both revealed and concealed his meaning. When asked for a sign, he referred to himself in the third person as “the Son of Man.” He did not say he would be crucified and laid in a tomb, but that he would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Nor did he mention his resurrection even though it is implied in the short span of time that he would be under ground.

Jesus’ words were more poetic than precise. He sometimes left people with more questions than answers. I believe there are at least two reasons why he taught this way and one of them was to make people struggle with what he said until they discovered his meaning for themselves. We tend to own what we learn on our own.

You might notice how verses 38-45 set Jesus’ short speech apart from the rest of the chapter by beginning and ending with the term “evil generation” (vv. 39 & 45).  Think of that term like book ends that create an envelope around this passage and reveal what is in the center of it.

The small elite group that stood before Jesus, asking for a sign, represented a “generation.” In scripture, a generation does not necessarily refer to an age group or people living in a particular time, but rather a group that can be identified by certain characteristics. These particular folks were “evil,” because they resisted the good that Jesus did for others and accused him of being in league with “the ruler of demons” (v. 24). They were “adulterous,” because they refused to accept what God had handed to them and “craved’ something else; namely, a miraculous proof.

They were in a precarious state, for the spirit driven out of them had gone away to recruit seven more spirits to re-enter them, making their last state worse than the first (vv. 43-45). They needed someone to descend into the depths of the earth for them, to face evil on its own turf, and destroy it. Jesus would be the One to descend into death and hell to break their power and so bring the dead to life.

The scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign, but what they wanted was a spectacle. A spectacle does not require a response–it certainly does not call for repentance. Jesus was the sign, the miracle. He was right in front of them in all of his life-giving glory, and they were asking for something else.

O Jesus, our Savior, enter and illuminate the tomb of our heart and the death that lies in its depths. You are our miracle, our hope, our life. We thank You for not turning Your back on the corruption hidden within us. Instead, You fearlessly go into it to free us from its grasp and raise us up to life in God. We praise and thank You, now and forever.


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