The Son of Man will be the Sign to this Generation
Key Verse 11:30
30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.
In the final verse of last week’s passage, we found out from Jesus that the most blessed people are those who hear the Word of God and obey it. A woman had praised Jesus’ mother for raising such a wonderful son but Jesus clarified what was more important in Luke 11:28. 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” This theme continues into today’s passage. There is a childlike theme to this passage as we will talk about Jonah, the Queen of the south, and a lamp on a stand. Though these are stories we’ve heard about as kids, Jesus has a serious message to this generation. We will come to know that Jesus came to be the light for those lost in darkness and a sign of God’s eternal love for us. He is the sign of Jonah for this generation.
- The Sign of Jonah
To begin, let’s read verse 29 of today’s passage. 29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. The author Luke does not go into detail about the nature of the wickedness in his generation but Matthew adds that it was an adulterous generation. There are many ways in which the generation was evil but the one Jesus’ addressed was their unbelief. Jesus was frustrated by their desire to see a sign because he knew their hearts. They were not asking for a sign by faith, but rather asking to test Jesus. The Pharisees had no intention of putting their faith in this man Jesus. And Jesus knew this so he refused to give them any more signs. There was already more than enough evidence for them to believe, especially since Jesus had just driven out a mute demon from a man who then began to speak. With all the evidence before them, they still failed to believe in Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus then tried to help them by referencing the sign of Jonah, something they were surely familiar with.
What is the sign of Jonah that Jesus is talking about? We have to look to the Old Testament to refresh our minds about the sign of Jonah. Let’s read Jonah 1:1-2 together. The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” The people of Nineveh were a great and mighty people, likely Assyrian. They were also wealthy and not Jewish. When God called Jonah to go and preach a message of repentance to these Gentile people, we might understand his reluctance to obey. Jonah then proceeded to try and run away by boarding a ship heading in the other direction. God sent a storm to intercept Jonah and this led Jonah to sacrifice himself for the sake of the others on the ship. The storm calmed and God sent a giant fish to swallow up Jonah. I have racked my brain trying to figure out a way for Jonah to survive in the belly of a fish for three days. Maybe the fish surfaced every few minutes and allowed Jonah to breathe. Maybe it had a chamber within its belly that had no digestive enzymes to encase Jonah with that happened to have a pocket of oxygen for him to breathe in. Or maybe Jonah got spit out in intervals and then re-engulfed again. Also, how could Jonah get food or water? No matter which way I reason, there is no logical or scientific way for a man to survive in the belly of a fish for 3 days. It could only occur by the finger and power of God. Jonah was essentially considered by the world to be dead for 3 days. Yet we see him re-surface after those 3 days. Covered in fishy juices and smelling as such, he marched for 3 days through the streets of Nineveh to deliver the message of salvation to the wicked people there. News got all the way to the king and he accepted Jonah’s message of repentance. He declared that every person in the city put on sackcloth and repent of their sinful ways so that God would have compassion on them, according to Jonah’s message. Let’s read Jonah 3:10 to see God’s reaction. 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s message led to the people of Nineveh being saved from destruction. So I ask again, what is the sign of Jonah? The sign of Jonah is that God is merciful and loving to people who repent and believe. God doesn’t want to destroy a wicked and evil generation. He is in the business of saving people not destroying them. Do you know the meaning of the name Jonah? Dove. According to dictionary.com, a dove can be a person who advocates peaceful or conciliatory policies, especially in foreign affairs. Jonah advocated for peace between Nineveh and God. God loved the pagan Ninevites. They deserved to be destroyed for their wickedness, yet God sent a dove, Jonah, to send a peace offering that could come through repentance. And we see the result. They were all saved from destruction. God also sent the greatest peacemaker of all time in his Son Jesus Christ, which we will get to shortly.
Transitioning back to the Pharisees and the wicked generation in Jesus’ time, what could they learn from Jonah? Let’s read verse 30. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. Standing right before them was Jesus who came to deliver the message from God. They needed to hear God’s word and obey it. The kingdom of God was upon them manifested in Jesus. Here they had the Messiah who would sacrifice himself for their sins and go to hell for 3 days. He would then rise to save them from the power of sin and death. Now, he was in their presence and they had to make a decision to repent and believe or be condemned to hell and destruction. As great as Jonah was in eventually obeying God’s direction, Jesus is so much greater. He was the most previous dove sent to negotiate peace between God and man. He was committed to his mission of bringing the gospel to us. He is the Word of God and the answer to their wickedness. All the miracles Jesus performed were amazing. But the key step was for them to believe and have faith in Jesus as the Messiah, not to ask for more signs and thereby confirm their unbelief.
What about today’s generation? We live in the time of Gen Y or the Millennials. We use this term a lot so I want to make sure we all understand what we’re talking about here. According to Investopedia.com, millennials are those born from 1982-2004. They were named so because of their birth being close to the change to the 21st century. Highlights from the characteristics described on the website include: Being digital natives: technology has always been a part their everyday lives. It’s been estimated that they check their phones as many as 43 times a day. It is the most ethnically and racially diverse group. Political and voting habits tend to be progressive. They tend to be less religious than their predecessors. Economically, they have been labeled as spoiled by their baby boomer parents and materialistic. Due to growing up in economic turmoil, plus increased debt accumulated through school loans mostly, they feel doubtful about achieving their goals of finding the dream job, buying a house, or retiring at an appropriate age. Does this sound like anyone you know? Welcome to Millennialism. And what follows Millennialism? Following this Gen Y is Gen Z which has already been labeled the post-millenial or iGeneration which includes my children and other CBF/JBF kids. They are even more tech savvy and great multi taskers given their ability to Facetime with friends while typing up a report for school on the couch as Star Wars plays on the TV in front of them, meanwhile the doorbell is ringing because the pizza delivery guy is at the front door with the order they just placed online for pizza and wings through their Papa Johns’ app. What do we say to this generation, including our young Shining Stars team? Remember the sign of Jonah. We must carry the word of God to these people and introduce them to the sign of Jonah which is Jesus Christ. He came to save them from their dark world. For those of you who have yet to believe in Jesus as your Savior, don’t ask God for a sign but believe in the sign that is already here… that is Jesus Christ! Hear his Word and then obey.
Let’s read verse 31-32 to see how the Queen of the South responded to the wisdom of God. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South recognized God’s infinite wisdom manifested in the wisdom of King Solomon. She was so amazed that she traveled great distances and brought gifts to worship this awesome God. When she arrived, the power of God was even more impressive than she imagined. Also mentioned is the Ninevites repentance after hearing Jonah’s message. Both responded to the Word of God presented to them. Both were Gentile, not Jewish. They were not God’s chosen people yet Jesus says they will rise at the judgment to condemn the unrepentant generation. In Luke 11:23 we were reminded that there is a dividing line for those who are saved and not, for whoever is not with Jesus is against him. To stay on Jesus’ side is not a matter of race or heritage, but a matter of obeying his words and repenting. At the judgment day, Jesus will point to the Queen of the south and the Ninevites as an example of people who listened and believed. If this generation doesn’t repent, then Jesus will pass over to the next. Let’s continue to pray for this generation to rise up as a forgiven generation that recognizes the sign of Jonah… which is Jesus Christ.
- The Lamp on a Stand
Jesus is the Light of the world. This is undisputable and has been established in multiple passages throughout the Bible. We often sing “Light of the world” by Matt Redman which reminds us of who Jesus is and how we need to worship him. Let’s read verse 33. 33 No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. The purpose of a lamp is to shine light so one can see around the house and anyone who enters the house can see. In our former house, we had dimmable lights. Our new house doesn’t have any. In the old place, my wife would hate it because I would always crank them up as to be as bright as possible. I loved having good lighting and brightness throughout the house so I could see everything clearly. She would often come behind me and dim the lights to a lower setting to save energy and electricity. It must be a Korean thing, or a wise thing. Simply put, the purpose of the lamp is to light the way so we can see clearly. Let’s read verse 34, 35. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Our eyes are very important to our health. By looking into your eyes, a doctor can tell whether you have high blood pressure or even diabetes. They can therefore get a general sense of your health just by looking into your eyes. Then there are more obvious things like cataracts which you can tell just by looking at someone’s eyes from a distance. A person with cataracts will notice that images are cloudy and blurry. Their view of the world is different from those who have don’t have this disease. In this passage, when your eyes are healthy, your whole body is healthy. The way you perceive the world around you is based on the health of your eyes. The Easy to read version of the Bible helps us to understand this principle. When you look at people and want to help them, you are full of light. But when you look at them in a selfish way, you are full of darkness. How did the Good Samaritan view the injured man on the side of the road compared to the priests who just passed by? He had compassion whereas the priests saw something that was not their problem and quickly moved on. How do you look at this current generation or the students on your campus or your neighbor? Do you see them with compassion which leads to a broken heart for their sinfulness? Do you seem them as a sheep without a shepherd? Or do you see them like the Pharisees, as a burden or an opportunity which can give your personal gain? The Pharisees and their diseased eyes looked at Jesus but the image was cloudy and dark, though Jesus was shining as bright as the sun. Just like the images displayed, there are two ways to view the same object, in this case Jesus. For those who recognized the sign of Jonah and simply believed in him, they could see Jesus as the light, rather than ask for more signs. The Pharisees and experts in the law couldn’t see Jesus for he who was because of the darkness that was inside them, a result of their unhealthy eyes. They needed to be humble enough to repent of their sinfulness and then acknowledge Jesus as the sign of Jonah, and the sign of salvation. Then, and only then, could their eyes be healed and thus allow Jesus’ light to enter their entire body to eliminate all darkness. First, light must go into your body in order for light to then come out. We must first see Jesus as the Light, in order to, then, reflect him in our own life and to others. This gives us 20/20 spiritual vision. Then we can see clearly and have compassion on those around us. It will be like a whole house lit up with the dimmable lights turned up to the maximum. Otherwise, we continue in our self-centered, Pharisee-like way of viewing this world we live in. Luke 11:36 reads “36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.” Let’s pray for this generation to be a people full of the light that Jesus provides which eliminates all darkness. With our healthy eyes, let’s look upon this generation and have compassion to bring them Jesus, the far greater sign of Jonah.
- Woe to the Pharisees and Experts in the Law
As if the previous condemnations, including their unhealthy eyes, wasn’t enough, Jesus goes on to rebuke them more specifically in the following 6 woes. He divides them right down the middle, 3 for the Pharisees and 3 for the experts in the Law. This was all precipitated by a Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner but then criticized Jesus for not washing up prior to the meal at his house. Let’s read verse 38. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. In case they were confused about who Jesus was referring to in the previous section, he makes it very clear who he is talking to and what he is talking about now. Let’s look at verse 39-41. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. Their greed and wickedness was that which caused their eyes to be unhealthy. Jesus goes on to tell them to be generous to the poor. With surgical precision, Jesus got right to the root of their problem which was matters of the heart. Though they performed many duties in the church, their hearts were not full of love but contaminated with greed and selfishness. There was no compassion in their heart. Let’s quickly read through the remaining woes, and you can follow along shouting “Woe!” every time you hear a woe. 42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” The experts of the law were feeling left out by Jesus’ attack on the Pharisees so they interjected their 2 cents in verse 45. 45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” So Jesus rewarded their request with their own set of woes in verse 46-52. Let’s look at those together. 46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” The supposed religious leaders of the time were put on notice by Jesus. Rather than lead people to heaven, they were standing in the doorway to heaven, preventing others from entering in. The lived as hypocrites saying one thing but were like dead bones on the inside, full of selfishness and corruption. Their unhealthy eyes led to their unhealthy bodies which would ultimately lead to their death and destruction. This may be the most obvious portion of today’s message which is to say that we should learn from their mistakes. As we lead people to the kingdom of God, we should not become legalistic and hypocritical. But we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To sum it all up, “Don’t be like them!”
In conclusion, Jesus is the sign of Jonah. Jesus is greater than Jonah and greater than King Solomon. He is God’s word and came to provide a way to salvation, not destruction. The sign of God’s love for all people is Jesus. He desires our salvation not our destruction. Jesus is the kingdom of God and He is here. Let’s pray that this generation can see the sign of Jonah that is Jesus Christ. Secondly, we should be obedient to God’s word like Jonah and Jesus, being sent like doves to preach grace and salvation. We should listen to the Word of God and obey it. As God calls us to carry the message to this millennial generation, we should not run away from our mission but obey it. God has called us to be witnesses like Jonah so we must respond to his Word. Then God can use us, like he did Jonah, to help a nation come to repentance. As we remember those who served our country through the military on Memorial Day, let us also remember the roots of this country which was based in Christianity so that we can pray for its spiritual heritage to be restored as well. Lastly, don’t be like the Pharisees who lived in darkness. We need to repent so that our eyes can become healthy and the light can enter us to eliminate all darkness within us. The light of the world is Jesus Christ. Let’s fill our lives and this world with His light.