There is so much about the days that we have been walking through in the past month that leave us wanting more.
More freedom, more opportunities, and more face to face connections just to name a few. Most churches usually swell to their highest attendance on Easter Sunday, yet today we look at the same familiar walls at home while churches all over the world are experiencing their lowest Easter attendance ever.
Who could blame us for feeling cheated or disappointed right now?
In Matthew 12:38-42, what looks like a “not-exactly-an-Easter-passage” passage, Jesus was approached by some Pharisees who felt that they were missing out. They wanted more. Jesus’ signs and miracles resumé was getting pretty extensive by the 12th chapter of Matthew and doubtless they had heard many miraculous accounts, but they wanted to see something impressive in person. They approached Jesus with the request, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
Jesus was not very accommodating to their question. He not only emphatically denied their request for a shiny new sign in the moment, but he called them “a wicked and adulterous generation.” If they didn’t feel disappointed enough, they likely felt extremely cheated (and insulted) now, especially as Jesus tells them the only sign they will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. When the Pharisees demanded to see something new and sensational why would Jesus refer them to this very old sign, one I’m sure felt like an account that they had heard enough times to understand it from every angle?
But Jesus did not cheat them.
Remember, our God does not give a serpent when we ask for a fish or a scorpion when we ask for bread (Luke 11:11-13). Jesus gave them a sign that pointed to the fulfilment of the gospel. He opened the story of Jonah to them in a way that they had never heard. This familiar ancient sign of God’s provision was all they needed because it foreshadowed the penultimate sign of God’s provision.
Jonah emerged after three days of darkness in the fish, which led to a pouring out of mercy and deliverance for the Ninevites who repented and received that mercy. Jesus would emerge from three days in darkness in “the heart of the earth,” which would lead to deliverance for all who repent and trust him. The whispers of merciful deliverance that still echoed from the sign of Jonah would reach a resounding roar of merciful deliverance at cross and the empty tomb. God still desires that we look into the series of signs (like the deliverance of Jonah and of the Ninevites) he has provided so that we may know and receive the greatest sign and miracle of all time. He is risen.
He is risen indeed.