- Sermon Notes
Receiving and Responding
It’s been several weeks since we have been in the book of Matthew, so it would be good for us to take a running start at our study today by reviewing what has been happening so far. “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.” This of course is our favorite verse, John 3:16.
When God sent His Son into the world, He demonstrated the authority of God on Jesus in many ways. He spoke with such authority that the crowds were amazed for they had never heard anyone speak with the authority of God. He had the authority of God over the physical realm; He had authority over the wind and the waves when He rebuked them to silence when they were going through a storm on the Sea of Galilee. He demonstrated authority over the demonic realm when he cast out a legion of demons from a man on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in the area of the Gadarenes.
God sent His Son so that we might believe and in believing find life in His name. But we must receive the Son that God has sent; not only receive, but also respond.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12
But not everyone received God's Son or His offer of life. In particular, the Jewish leaders, the Sadducees and Pharisees, would not receive Him and in fact had the audacity to even accuse Jesus of casting out demons, not by the power and authority of God, but by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.
So we continue our study in Matthew 12 where the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for some kind of sign to prove who He was. Jesus's answer to them is filled with insights and wisdom as we will see; it will apply to us as well.
I. What will You do with the Sign of Jonah?
- The scribes and Pharisees, in verse 38, asked Jesus for a sign, some kind of miracle, so that He might prove who He is to them.
- Jesus responded by saying two things. Firstly, that an evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign. And secondly, that no sign would be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet.
- Each part of his answer is important for us to understand and so let's take them each separately.
A. A sign is for those who lack faith
- First of all, it's important to understand that in the scriptures, a sign is some kind of miracle to prove or confirm what God is saying; or it can be something to remind them of God’s power and presence.
- This is important to understand because there are people today who seek for some kind of sign from God to direct their lives. But that would be more like seeking God for an omen, which God does not do either.
- Let's understand how God has used signs to strengthen faith in the scriptures.
- When Moses was being called by God to deliver the people of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt, Moses said, “What if they will not believe me and what if they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’?” God then gave Moses signs to bear witness that it was God who had spoken.
Exodus 4:8, “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile…”
- In the book of Judges, when Gideon was called to be a deliverer for the nation of Israel, he lacked faith and so he asked for a sign.
Judges 6:17, So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.”
- When we look at the events of Matthew 12, it's important to see that the Pharisees were not honest in their request. The suggestion seems to be, “If you will give us a strong enough proof, then we will believe.”
- But they were not looking for a reason to believe, they were looking for a reason not to believe; they were looking for a reason to accuse Him.
- The problem was that Jesus had already given great evidences, powerful witnesses, to demonstrate who He was to them and instead of receiving and responding, they accused him of being of the devil.
- The problem also is that they demanded a sign by their choosing and rejected the signs of God's choosing.
- Do people do this today? Yes, there are some who come up with tests of their choosing that demand God to prove who He is to them
Illus - Some people say, “God, if you're real, then…
- Do such and such a thing and then I'll believe,
- give me the winning numbers of the lottery, and then I'll believe,
- heal me of this sickness, and then I'll believe,
- get me out of this mess, and then I'll believe.
- There are some great scriptures that give us insight into this issue…
Habakkuk 3:17-19, Though the fig tree should not blossom and there being no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength…
B. The greatest sign is the sign of Jonah
- In verse 39 Jesus said, “No sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet…”
- Jesus then went on to explain that as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.
- In other words, Jonah’s experience pointed to the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the evidence and proof that God gives to the world so that we might believe in His name and have everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 15:14, … and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
1 Corinthians 15:17, … and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:20, But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
1 Peter 1:21, … who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
- The question of the day is this, what will you do with the sign that God provided? All the Old Testament books are a shadow of the reality of God’s sign - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- God sent His Son so that we might have life, but first we must receive and then respond.
C. Consider those who did respond
- Jesus brings up two examples for us to consider of those who did receive the evidence of God's Word and responded.
- The first example is that of Nineveh. They repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah was there before them.
- Jonah was a lesser prophet with a lesser message and yet they repented at the hearing of it.
- The Assyrians of Nineveh were a wicked people and God sent Jonah to them with a message of repentance, but He also sent with that message evidence of God's power when Jonah was delivered to them from the belly of the great fish.
- The Queen of the South heard of the God of Israel just as the other kings and queens of her era had heard the same. But when she heard that God had given wisdom to Solomon, the king of Israel, she did something about it; she responded. She traveled a great distance, she humbled herself, and she sat and received the wisdom of God as Solomon spoke to her and answered her questions.
- Solomon was a lesser man with a lesser message and yet the Queen of the South responded. Jesus was greater than Solomon with a greater message and came to them and yet they would not receive it.
Colossians 2:2, … attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
- “Behold,” Jesus said, “something greater than Solomon is here.” The question is straightforward; will you receive it and will you respond to it with your life?
II. What God Offers is Worth Receiving
- The next two sections are absolutely important for us to understand. At first, they may not appear to be related at all, but they are absolutely relevant to the message Jesus is giving.
- He begins by relating what happens when an unclean spirit goes out of a man, but nothing comes in to replace it. Jesus said that the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
A. We need personal revival
- Here's the point of what Jesus is teaching, the Pharisees wanted reform on their own terms. They wanted a reform of their choosing and refused to receive the life that God was offering through His Son.
John 1:4, In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
- They were concerned with the appearance of righteousness, so as to impress men, but they did not desire true personal revival, which is the transformation of the heart. Since the heart was empty, it left the door open for every evil desire to creep in and find a home.
Matthew 23:28, “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
- It's as if they are saying, “I will go thus far and no more. I want God only on my own terms.”
- No, true transformation has two parts; not just avoiding sin, it's also nearness to God.
Illus – You can’t just say, “I will avoid junk food,” you must also say, “I will be satisfied with all the good things at God’s table.”
- It's not enough to say, “You're right God, I need to sweep out my life.” You also need to say, “O God, fill me with your Holy Spirit and with newness of life.”
- Without the filling of the Holy Spirit, there is no spiritual power for victory, or the joy of the Lord, which is our strength.
B. We need a full on relationship to God
- The last few verses of this chapter are about those whom Jesus calls brothers. When he calls them brothers, He is speaking of the intimacy of a relationship that brings the fullness of God's love.
- In other words, we're not just receiving truth; we are receiving relationship with God Himself.
- With that relationship comes the fullness of God's love and all that it means in our lives.
Psalm 127:2, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.
Ephesians 3:16-21 “I pray that He would strengthen you in the inner man through His Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 12:38-50 NASB