In our text last week, we saw that some doubters...
Luke 11:16 ...were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.
"Show us something miraculous that will convince us!" I used to think this same way. "Well, if God would just do something miraculous, then I would believe in Him." But you know what? I wouldn't have believed in Him! Time and time again, we see that miraculous signs and wonders do not bring people into relationship with God.
Look at the Israelites. God hit Egypt with 10 plagues, parted the Red Sea, led the Jews by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, fed them food from the sky, and water from a rock, and yet they still fell into unbelief.
Signs and wonders do not make followers. Miracles do not make disciples. The Lord wants your faith unconditionally, not because He performed some parlor tricks to entertain you. He says that it is a wicked generation that seeks signs and wonders. And, as the book of Hebrews says,
Hebr. 11:6 ...Without faith it is impossible to please Him...
He had cast out demons, caused limbs to grow back, made the lame to walk, and the blind to see. And they still refused to believe. So He refused to give them a sign. Except one...
The sign of Jonah. Jonah? Jonah and the big fish Jonah? What kind of sign was he? Maybe we should look.
You remember the story: Jonah was called by the Lord to go to Nineveh, and warn them to repent or perish. But the Ninevites were infamous for their murderous actions and merciless cruelty. Jonah wanted nothing to do with them - he hated the Ninevites, and would've rather seen them suffer judgment than repent and be spared. God had said, "Go to Nineveh", so Jonah went the opposite direction to Tarshish. At least he tried to get to Tarshish...
While he was on the way, the Lord hurled a huge storm at the ship he was on. Everyone was going to die. Jonah said to them, "Look, this is my fault - throw me overboard, and you'll all be okay." They did, and the storm stopped.
And as we've all heard, the Lord appointed a great fish (not a whale) to swallow Jonah. After 3 days and nights, Jonah prayed, and the fish vomited Jonah up onto the shore. He walked to Nineveh, told them to repent, and they did.
Now, the interesting part is something they never taught you in Sunday School... The Scripture says:
Jonah 1:17-2:1 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish...
What had happened for those three days? Could Jonah breathe inside that fish? Why hadn't he prayed earlier? Was he just like Pinocchio's dad Geppetto, living in the belly of this fish? I don't think so. As a matter of fact, I don't believe he was living at all - In chapter two, he prays,
Jonah 2:2 ...I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice.
Sheol is the abode of the dead. So, although it is not stated plainly in Scripture, I personally believe that Jonah was dead for three days and three nights. Jesus clarifies what He meant by "the sign of the prophet Jonah" in Matthew 12:
Matt. 12:40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The only sign that Jesus gave an unbelieving generation demanding a sign was dying, being in the the belly of the earth for 3 days, and rising again from the dead. You want signs and wonders? That's the only one that matters.
Why will the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South be justified in condemning the generation Jesus came to?
When Jonah showed up an Nineveh, he still hated the Ninevites. Jesus loved the people of that generation. Jonah preached a message of repentance without hope. Jesus preached a message with hope. And yet the Ninevites repented at Jonah's message, but this generation rebelled at Jesus' message.
Most of us have heard of Jonah. But who was "The Queen of the South"? In 1Kings 10, we read:
1Kgs. 10:1-3 Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with difficult questions. So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue... (and) when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. And Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her.
After seeing the wisdom of the Lord and the blessing of the Lord in Solomon, she said:
1Kgs. 10:9 "Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness."
The Queen of the South traveled a great distance to seek the knowledge of God. The people of this generation had Jesus come right to their front door, and didn't believe. The Queen of the South was conviced by Solomon's wisdom. The people of this generation demanded signs and wonders. Again, we see that the Word of God and wisdom of God is far and above the wonders of God.
This is admittedly a difficult passage to understand. We should review a bit. When Jesus walked the earth, He said
John 9:5 "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
But then He told the disciples,
Matt. 5:14 "You are the light of the world."
Now He is talking about the light shining and other such things. As Christians, we hear and read that term a lot - light. What does it mean? Paul defines it very simply for us in 2Cor 4:
2Cor. 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
What is the light? It is Jesus Christ - and we are commissioned to do is shine the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So Jesus instructs us here not to hide Jesus Christ in our life, but to proclaim Him, to shine Him to the world. That everyone who enters into your life sees that light in your life.
Now, what does He mean by "the lamp of your body is your eye"? There is an old expression based on the Bible's teaching: "The eyes are the windows to the soul." What we let enter in through our eyes affects us inside. And what is inside of us is revealed through our eyes. The light of Jesus is inside of us, and if we only focused in on the Lord, we would only shine out the light of the Lord. But instead, we allow all of this garbage in through our eyes. And because we allow it in, it reflects out. When David was repenting for his sin, he said to the Lord
Ps. 38:10 ...The light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.
Garbage in makes the light grow dim. That is why it is so important to be constantly and continually aware of what takes our eyes off of the Lord, of what makes the light of our eyes stop shining! Following the declaration of Psalm 101...
Ps. 101:3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes...
insures that we will be heeding Jesus' warning:
Luke 11:35 "...Watch out that the light in you may not be darkness."
Your light will only shine brightly out if you're not allowing the darkness of worldliness in.
After being invited to dinner, they begin to hassle Jesus for not ceremonially washing before the meal. The Jews believed that a demon sat upon unwashed hands. If you ate before ceremonially cleansing them, they thought, the demon would enter your body through your mouth. So, they believed that the ceremonial cleasing was very necessary.
The washing was very detailed and elaborate. As you pressed your hands together and held them upright, 1 1/2 eggshells of water would be poured over your hands. But, the water had to drip down, for if it ran down past your wrists, then your arm would be ceremonially unclean. Then, you had to flip your hands over pointing downward and have another 1 1/2 eggshells of water poured on them, making sure that the water dripped off and not down your arm. Then there was a washing sort of motion - rubbing your palms against your fists. They did this before every meal and between every course!
What an uneccesary pain! Jesus refused to do it. Now remember, He is not breaking the Mosaic Law, but the Jews' tradition - the extra rules, regulations, and requirements that they heaped upon the people. He refuses to participate in man's religion, and begins to rebuke the Pharisees.
Jesus is really getting in the religious legalists' faces now. They had spent so much time on their outward appearance - looking so religious, acting so pious. But inside, they were wicked - prideful, immoral, hypocritical, and judgmental.
People, we are constantly in danger of doing the same thing. Making rules and regulations, and actually convincing ourselves that we are righteous and religious. We can so easily become legalists - looking down our noses at people, judging them, feeling superior to them. But when we do that, we commit the worst sin of all - PRIDE. The Bible has much to say about it:
Prov. 8:13 ...Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate.
Prov. 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.
Prov. 15:25 The LORD will tear down the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.
Prov. 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
Prov. 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
1Pet. 5:5 ...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
How easy it is to fall into legalism, and how dangerous is the pride that accompanies it. Let us examine our hearts daily to see if they have become legalistic and prideful.
When yo're preaching grace, legalists get angry. Not only do they refuse to repent, but they become very hostile. They question everything you say, looking for a way to catch you in something.
Don't worry - just because you're encountering opposition doesn't mean you're on the wrong track. As a matter of fact, it means that you're on the right track - the closer to home you're hitting the kingdom of darkness, the closer you are to the front lines of the battle, the fiercer the fighting gets.