Thursday 06 October 2016

Bible Book:

“Teacher we wish to see a sign from you.” (v. 38)

Matthew 12:38-45 Thursday 6 October 2016

Psalm: Psalm 22:1-21


When we read these verses we might think Jesus' words areextremely negative and even perhaps fearsome, not fitting with theterm 'good news' at all. However by looking at the background wecan start to see the reason behind the words.

Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees who have been socritical of him. They are still trying to discredit him by askingfor a sign to prove whether or not those in the crowd who aredeclaring that he is the Son of David are right. Jesus pointsdirectly to the book of Jonah, a book which was very popular andsignificant in the faith which the Pharisees shared. Jonahhas a message of both hope and warning and in contrast to theway in which many of the other prophets of the Old Testament hadmet resistance and even rejection, it seems that the peoplelistened to Jonah. The message he had brought to the people ofNineveh was that repentance was always possible and God wouldreward the person who repented. The whole city of Nineveh hadheeded Jonah's words. Here was the hope in the message, the stingin the tail being that Nineveh was a gentile (non-Jewish) city. Itis to this story that Jesus is pointing when he speaks to thePharisees and those listening to him.

Making the connection between Jonah in the belly of the whaleand his own three day entombment which is to come, Jesus says thatthe people of Nineveh will appear against it. And then we come tothe crunch as Jesus begins to speak about the casting out of evilspirits (in those times the belief in spirit possession was quitecommon). Jesus reminds his audience that removing the negativeunbelieving spirit from a person is of little value if the spaceleft behind is not filled with something positive, Matthew tellsthis as a short parable. In Luke's Gospel (Luke11:24-26) the words are perhaps easier to understand: 'when theunclean spirit has gone out of a person it wonders throughwaterless regions looking for a resting place but not finding any,it says, I will return to my house from which I came ... then itgoes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself and thelast state of that person is worse than the first." In other wordscasting out the negative is worthless unless the positive of truefaith is put in its place.

To Ponder

  • To what extent is the Church in danger of calling people torepentance and then leaving the person concerned to get on with it,without nurturing them and helping them to turn their livesaround?
  • Is the message of the people of Nineveh applicable today? Wheredo we see God more at work - outside or inside the church?
  • How can we engage with the hard parts of Scripture and allowour minds to wrestle with the words before us?
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