Wednesday 26 October 2022

Bible Book:

'….no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' (v. 4)

Matthew 16:1-12 Wednesday 26 October 2022

Psalm 92


There are puzzles in today’s passage, which is made up of two episodes. In the first (verses 1-4) Jesus is placed under pressure. The Pharisees and the Sadducees had deep differences, but they both viewed Jesus as a threat and therefore combined to test him. Their request is not that of a genuine seeker who would value reassurance. Rather they planned to trap Jesus.

We might recall that one of the temptations placed before Jesus earlier in Matthew's Gospel was that he should jump from the top of the Temple to prove he really was the Messiah. Then, as now, Jesus refused, but offers an exception in “the sign of Jonah” (v. 4). What did he mean? There are at least two possibilities. Jonah’s message, offered to the foreign city of Nineveh, was that they should repent, and when they did so God forgave them, somewhat to Jonah’s displeasure (Jonah 3). Thus the sign of Jonah might be another hint that God’s grace extends beyond the limits of Israel –limits that the Pharisees and Sadducees sought zealously to guard. It's more likely though that "the sign of Jonah" refers to the fact that Jonah was presumed dead in the belly of the big fish for three days, but then came back to life (Jonah1:17). So in due course the sign that Jesus will give to prove that he is Messiah and Lord is his own resurrection.

 It was the disciples’ turn to be puzzled when, in the second part of our reading (Matthew 16:5-12) Jesus spoke about yeast. When they wonder if Jesus is referring to earthly bread, he reminds them of how he had met people's physical needs – providing enough bread to feed 5000 people.

Yeast, that tiny living organism that can make so much difference, was often used as a metaphor for harmful influence. The wrong sort of yeast can do a lot of damage. Therefore Jesus warned his disciples "to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees", meaning the exclusiveness of the Pharisees and the political cynicism of the Sadducees.

The Church of every age has faced similar temptations.


To Ponder:

  •  What are the religious attitudes that we need to avoid?
  •  What do you think are the signs of the times today, and what have they to say about God’s kingdom?

Loving God, please forgive me for those times when I’ve missed what you are doing. Help me to discern your ways. Amen.

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