Three Signs of Man-Centeredness
The Jews of the 1st century demanded a sign from Jesus, and in this passage, Jesus exposes their shallow thinking as well as their external religiosity. How can we avoid the same mindset of faithlessness?
v29 – Increasing crowds… see also 12.1 for “thousands.”
Seeking for a sign (they were doing so to test him, according to v16. It was not a sign for belief, because He had already performed multiple miracles. That’s why the crowd was there. But no sign will be given to it… except the sign of Jonah.
v30 – How was Jonah a sign to the people of Ninevah? He simply preached. Or did he? They knew his story. They saw the effects of being inside the fish.
Three days and three nights (from Matthew 12.40) (Interesting resource for further reading)
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. (Matthew 12:40 ESV)
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. (Jonah 3:3-5 ESV)
And he [the king of Ninevah] issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:7-9; Jonah 3:10 ESV)
The sign of Jonah was that Jesus too would be in the earth three days. It would be the greatest and only sign that they would receive in response to their unbelieving demands.
v31 – Queen of the South
And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.
And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices and precious stones. Never again came such an abundance of spices as these that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. (1 Kings 10:4-10 ESV)
v32 – Something greater than Solomon… Jonah is here.
v33-36 – The eye is the lamp of the body. Healthy eye = body full of light; bad eye = body full of darkness.
2 Corinthians 4:4 – “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
What you look at or focus on will impact the directions of your life. Your heart impacts your vision.
“There are many bright things in the world that keep us from seeing the true light of Christ—just like city lights keep you from seeing the stars… Be careful what you regard as bright and attractive and compelling. If it is not Christ, you will be filled with darkness—no matter how bright it seems for a season. Candles seem bright until the sun comes out. Then they are useless and put away.” John Piper (Source)
Jesus & the Pharisees v37-53
v37-41 – the foolishness of externality.
Myth: God doesn’t care about your motives or your hearts as long as you do what is right.
And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7 ESV)
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:6-8 ESV; Isaiah 29.13)
v42 – Legalism without love.
Myth: If you give to the Lord, even from the smallest portions of your resources, you will receive blessing. They tithed alright, but theirs was a checkbook ministry.
v43 – Position without grace.
Myth: Serving God brings worldly recognition and honor. They craved it.
v44 – “like unmarked graves” – made a person unclean. The Pharisees were landmines of spiritual corruption.
Myth: How you live affects only you.
v45 – The lawyers retort…
v46 – Jesus pulls no punches… He lights into the lawyers.
v46 – Loading without lightening…
Myth: It’s not our responsibility to love people, only tell them the truth.
v47-48 – Build ornate tombs to honor the prophets that were killed by their fathers! How ridiculous! And though their fathers refused to repent, they recognized the messages as right. Neither they nor their fathers was willing to change their hearts in response to piercing truth.
Myth: You can go to great lengths to honor the message and not be repentant.
v49-51 – The accumulated evidence is that they’ve had numerous opportunities to repent and be transformed. The overwhelming weight of history demonstrates their love affair with religion and their refusal to embrace a love relationship with their God.
Abel to Zechariah (from Genesis to 2 Chron 42) In Hebrew canon (Tanakh: an acronym based on three parts: Torah/Instruction, Nevi’im/Prophets, Ketuvim/Writings) (Source) At the time, Chronicles was the last book. In essence, Jesus was saying from the beginning to the end…
v52 – “the key of knowledge” That unlocks salvation for all peoples. It’s the information of the Messiah! On the road to Emmaus:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24)
Myth: I don’t have to have a relationship with Jesus to please God, nor do I have to tell others.
In today’s passage, we’ve seen that Jesus is unconcerned with numbers. His popularity did not alter His message. He was unconcerned with impressing people. We also see some hard, powerful words of Jesus to those who are consumed with religion. Three signs of being man-centered rather than God-centered:
— Demanding a sign…
— Not fully surrendering to King Jesus and trusting His Word and message
An unsurrendered heart and mind
— Revealed by what you focus on.
Religion without relationship
— Focus on the externals without love.
— Reveals lack of internal submission and humility