Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: Matt 12:38-42
Summary: Jonah was a living sign who survived being in the belly of a fish three days and three nights and his preaching led to the repentance of all of Nineveh. Someothing greater than Jonah is here and He, too, is a living sign who was raised from the belly of the earth after three days and three nights. Yet, why don’t we repent and turn to Jesus?
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Father, we want to learn today from these few verses why everything in Scripture points to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a correction for us because we chase after the wrong people, the wrong sources, wrong things when You make it so simple. All we need to do is repent and turn to the Lord Jesus and seek Him forever. That’s all that You ask of us. I pray that You would seal this truth in our hearts today. Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen
I want to teach you today how to read the Bible and explain to you again why we are abiding in the teaching of Christ. I think if we read from cover to cover, we may walk away with wrong emphases or wrong focuses. If you start with the life of Jesus and you abide in His teaching, you will see how everything in Scripture points to Him.
I was told by a seminary Old Testament professor, and he was dead wrong on this one, but he said, why don’t you just read the Old Testament as if Jesus didn’t come. You guys know what seminary I went to and that is just so wrong.
He of course as a scholar wants to understand the Old Testament and locate the people like Jonah in its context. There’s some value in that, but it is wrong to not know what the destination is, that the destination is Jesus. Matthew 12 highlights what we are supposed to take away from the entire Jonah story.
I was meditating on Jonah and there are so many secondary teachings that you can pull from his story, such as Jonah was a disobedient prophet. God tells him to go to Nineveh, but he goes the opposite way to Tarshish. We could discuss disobedience and how serious that is. We could talk about how he’s on a ship and there’s a great storm. We know that’s because Jonah is running away from God’s assignment. They cast lots and the lot falls to Jonah and everybody aboard is looking at Jonah and saying, you’re the reason why we are about to drown at sea. Jonah is the first one to say, yes it is because of me — throw me overboard.
We could talk about his near-death experience of three days and three nights in the belly of a fish. I can’t even imagine what that was like. We could talk about how God the Father disciplines His prophet to get him back in line. We could talk about that as a takeaway from Jonah’s story.
We could talk about how God in His mercy causes the fish to vomit out the prophet and how the word of the Lord comes again to Jonah. And this time because Jonah made a vow in the belly of the fish, he’s going to follow through with his vow. He’s going to Nineveh and he preaches.
Jonah is the sign. You have to wonder why did everybody in Nineveh repent? He’s just a preacher. Nobody really knows him and he just preaches and everybody repents, even the king, all the way from top to bottom. It is because Jonah is the sign. He himself is the sign. He says, I was in the belly of a fish. Here, look at my skin. Look at all the stomach acid. Look how it has burned me. He has a testimony of seeing the consequences of unbelief and sin.
Jonah is a sign and he preaches not just the word. He preaches his testimony as a living sign and the entire city repents. You could say, okay, this is a message about fulfilling God’s assignment and seeing God at work. This is an evangelistic theme from Jonah’s life.
Or you could talk about the fact that when the entire city repents, oddly Jonah does not rejoice. What kind of evangelist goes to a city, preaches, the entire city is saved and the evangelist is angry with God? What’s going on with Jonah? We could talk about Jonah’s personal salvation and what it took. How his anger needed to be overcome.
We could talk about how God may have certain assignments and if you are disobedient, there could be discipline. Or there are certain things that God asks you to do and it’s the last thing on earth you want to do. Jonah is so angry with these Ninevites, there must be something personal in Jonah’s story. We can only speculate but there’s something in Jonah’s life which makes him utterly detest the Ninevites. Maybe they wronged him. Maybe they did something barbaric to his family members. There are certain things that God may ask us to do and just the thought of it brings anger to us.
Seeing that person who you’re angry with turning and receiving salvation. We think it’s so unfair. Jonah’s reaction is that he says to God, I knew You are this merciful. I knew they would turn. I knew You would save them. We could talk about Jonah overcoming his personal anger. There are all these sub-themes that we can focus on. God’s discipline. Disobedience versus obedience. Overcoming anger. Showing mercy. God is merciful. Jonah’s personal overcoming of his anger.
But none of these are the main takeaway from Jonah’s life. All of what I just said falls short of the main point of Jonah’s life. In Matthew 12, Jesus Himself, He is the Teacher. He is the word of God and He explains exactly what we’re supposed to take away from Jonah’s life. It is about repentance and belief.
Throughout the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is speaking to Scribes, Pharisees, religious leaders and people with a lot of head knowledge. All throughout, Jesus is giving these people little assignments, such as, go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’
The Pharisees, Scribes and religious leaders know sacrifice. They know the minutiae of the law and how to prepare a sacrifice, but they know nothing about mercy. And Jesus the Savior is standing right in front of them and they don’t believe in Him. They’re trying to kill Him.
Jesus is the point of the life story of Jonah. Jonah preached and he was a sign to the Ninevites and they all repented. Now Someone greater than Jonah is here. So what should our reaction be when we see King Jesus? We should also repent and believe on the name of Jesus and turn to Him.
It sounds so simple. If we need to repent of anything this morning, it is how hard it is for us to turn to Jesus and believe. It is so hard. If someone like Jonah rolled into the city and we knew this preacher has an amazing testimony and wherever he goes, thousands of people are saved and he’s visiting your city and he invited you to come, I bet you we would go there.
If he invited you to dinner at his hotel, I bet you would visit. If he gave you and me an invitation to follow him on his journey and on his mission trips, to see behind the scenes what it looks like to be a prophet of God and to be mentored by him, I bet many of us would gladly jump at the chance to be mentored by a prophet as great as Jonah.
I bet if someone as wise as Solomon rolled into our town and he gave you a personal invitation to come and speak with him to ask whatever questions you want, I bet many of us would jump at the chance. The Queen of Sheba was at the end of the earth and she traveled hundreds of miles or maybe thousands of miles to get an audience with King Solomon even for just a short time. But someone greater than Solomon is here.
We are so man-centered. We gladly spend hours of our time getting to know whoever you deem to be wise in your eyes in your field or in spiritual life, a pastor or someone with spiritual gifts. You just gravitate to these people. You want to be mentored by these people. You want to hear from these people, and Jesus is saying, how come you’re not coming to Me?
That’s a simple takeaway of Jonah’s story. Jonah was a living testimony. He was in the belly of a fish. He has the the shriveled hands to prove that he was there. He has a stomach acid on his skin. He has a testimony of how he was fainting and he saw what Sheol looks like. He’s preaching to the Ninevites as a living testimony and everybody repents.
And if someone like Jonah showed up, we would gladly want to pick his brain and learn everything from him. Yet someone greater than Jonah is here. Someone wiser than Solomon is here. Someone greater than the temple is here. Yet why don’t we believe in Him? Why don’t we turn to Him?
We’ll turn to our friend. We’ll turn to our spouse. We’ll turn to everybody else, but we will not turn to Jesus. Aren’t we like the Pharisees? Jesus is standing right there and we’re busy talking about how great Jonah is and trying to pick at the sub points of Jonah’s life when the main takeaway from Jonah is everybody repented when Jonah showed up, so how come nobody repents when Someone greater than Jonah is here?
When two or three are gathered, Jesus promises He’ll be with us but why don’t we repent in His presence? Our main repentance should be, Jesus, You’re right there with me, but why do I not turn to You? Why don’t I believe in You? Help me to overcome my unbelief. Why am I just spinning in my own thoughts? Why don’t I just simply come to You? Why don’t I just come?
That is the takeaway from Jonah’s story, that if Someone greater than Jonah shows up, shouldn’t the amount of repentance be that much greater? Yet the Pharisees are standing and looking at Jesus but they are not repenting at all.
Ask the Lord today to increase your spiritual hunger for Him. We need more hunger for Him. How much did you turn to Him this past week? Can you count it on one hand the amount of minutes you turned to Him and really connected with Him? There’s a reason why we are so critical and judgmental. There’s a reason why our lips are unclean. There’s a reason why we’re lacking mercy when we look at other people that Jesus is saving. It’s masked by our anger, our temper, our criticism, our judgment, our gossip.
These are all clues that we are very much like the Pharisees and the only thing that Jesus is telling the Pharisees is, you need to repent and come to Me. Someone greater than the temple is here. Someone greater than Jonah is here. Someone greater than Solomon is here. If John Piper were here, many of us would gladly spend all day with John Piper. Would we spend all day with Jesus?
God is teaching us how to read Scripture when you look at Jonah’s life. You can see many sub-themes about obedience to God’s assignment. You see the Father’s discipline against a disobedient prophet. You see how God is so merciful toward the Ninevites because Jonah was a living sign. They didn’t just hear his words. They saw the person of Jonah and everybody repented.
There’s a theme of Jonah overcoming his anger toward the Ninevites and God showing incredible mercy to the Ninevites despite using an angry and disobedient prophet. Yet, all of those just miserably fall short of the main takeaway from Jonah’s life. The takeaway from Jonah’s life is what Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew chapter 12. That in the presence of a far inferior prophet who is disobedient, who is angry, who doesn’t have mercy but everybody in Nineveh repented. And Jesus is a greater Prophet. He is the obedient Son. He is not angry with us. He is full of mercy and yet we don’t repent.
He’s so much greater than Jonah in every way and yet we don’t go to Him. We spend all of our days just carrying our own burdens or a spinning in our own thoughts and unbelief. We lack spiritual hunger. We spend time with all different kinds of people and different kinds of activities and yet the one thing that Jesus asks, is repent and come to Me. But we don’t do it.
It’s so simple and yet if we are like the Pharisee it is the most impossible thing to do. May the Lord cast out every religious spirit from us that tries to analyze things in God’s word and misses the whole point.
Help us, Jesus. Help us, Jesus. Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus. You are greater than Solomon. You are greater than the temple. You are greater than Jonah and Your sign was greater than Jonah coming out miraculously from a belly of a fish. You descended to the belly of the earth. You conquered sin death and proclaimed victory in Hades and Sheol.
You are the living testimony and sign and yet we don’t believe. What more can You do for us, Lord? You don’t have to do anything. That’s all that we need. We have enough evidence to believe upon You and to turn to You. Forgive us, Lord, for lacking spiritual hunger to turn. We turn to all different people and things. We don’t turn to You. We repent of our unbelief and of our lack of spiritual hunger, of seeing people as much greater than You, when You are greater than people.
Whenever we open up Scripture, we just want to see You, Lord Jesus. Every page of Scripture is a pointer to You. Everything in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is about You, Lord Jesus. We pray that You would meet us as we partake in the Lord’s Supper, remembering Your death, burial and resurrection. We take this with a heart that proclaims Your return. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha. We want to see You.
Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen