Sunday 08 November 2015

Bible Book:

Matthew 12:38-44 Sunday 8 November 2015

Psalm: Psalm 146


These verses open with the scribes and Pharisees asking Jesusfor a sign, presumably to prove to them who Jesus was. Jesus' replysuggests that it is worth having a read of the bookof Jonah in consideration of this passage; it is only fourchapters long. The book of Jonah has been seen as a reworking ofthe story of Noah in which the implacabledestruction wrought by God is transformed into a desire for mercyby God in Jonah's story. Yet in the new story, that lack of mercypreviously found in God is found in Jonah's desire for judgement onthe Ninevites.

When Jesus speaks of the evil and adulterous generation he isprobably speaking of the hard-heartedness of his questioners,similar to that of Jonah. But also, we are reminded that the God ofJonah is no longer interested in destroying the whole world as hedid in Noah's time but is instead interested in offering mercy tothe whole world. This is Jesus' mission too and there is no roomfor national pride or complacency.

At the heart of this discussion is the very profound metaphor ofgoing down and coming up again transformed. For Jonah this would bea descent into the watery abyss inside the giant fish before beingunceremoniously spewed onto dry land (Jonah1:17 - 2:20). For Jesus, this descent would be into the bowelsof the earth before being raised from the dead.  As Christianswe believe that this is a metaphor for transformation in this lifebut also the hope of eternal life after death.

Verses 43 and 44 are curious verses that use the imagery ofwaterless regions in contrast to Jonah's watery story. But what isJesus talking about here? The departure of the unclean spirit andits subsequent return seems to be about the problem of compromiseor half-hearted measures. The fact that the scribes and Phariseescontinued to ask for a sign even when plenty had been performedalready angered Jesus because to keep on asking for signs was tohedge your bets. It was time for a decision.

To Ponder

  • Is it ever okay to ask for a sign or should we just have faith?Why?
  • Have there been times when you have 'gone down' and 'risen up'in this life? What effect did it have on you, if any?
  • What does it mean to you to be completely committed to Christtoday?
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