The Problem with Signs

Matthew ch 16 part 1 vs. 1-4

1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. (King James Version)

Here come the two major religious groups to confront Jesus. They want him to prove that he is someone special, sent by God, to teach men the way of God. They want to see a sign from heaven. An impressive sign would be like that of the manna God fed the children of Israel during their sojourn through the wilderness. Yet there are many problems with seeking a sign for proof of standing with God. And as far as Jesus is concerned it isn't even necessary.


In Daniel's time-line of events the Messiah needs to appear during their current generation. This prophet will walk with the power of God and the authority of Moses. They are commanded to obey him. There are many prophecies concerning this messiah. Some are obvious and others are hidden behind a veil. There are signs of the time and there are signs done by the hand of Jesus. This should be enough for anyone to see that Jesus is the predicted messiah.

These teachers of the law, these leaders of Israel, couldn't discern the fulfillment of prophecies unfolding before them. They needed a sign from Jesus so that they could see who he really is. Now God does give signs to his people. The rod, leprous hand and water turned to blood that Moses performed for the elders of Israel to prove Moses was sent by "I AM." Gideon asked for a sign of the fleece. Other signs were performed by God. Signs are not the problem. They show will be and is at work. The problem with these Pharisees and Sadducees is that there are plenty of signs already and they won't accept them. They want more. Something special just for them.

In some ways I can't blame them. After all, no one, even the disciples of Jesus, could understand the parables, how then can these teachers understand the fulfillment of prophecy and the signs talked about in scripture. Even today a veil covers their collective hearts. Yet today God is calling a remnant of Israel to join him in the new covenant.

The Dilemma

Their hearts were setting them up for betrayal. Truly these leaders were not interested in knowing that Jesus was their Messiah. They wanted him to fail so that they could retain their power and influence over the people. I can hear them saying, "If you can't show us a sign then you can't be the Messiah." Yet what would happen if Jesus did decide to show them a sign from heaven? Would they change their minds? No, they would not! They would invoke the passage from:

Deuteronomy 13 vs. 1If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. 5And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. (King James Version)

Whether Jesus would show them a sign from heaven or not they would not accept him. When Jesus was being interrogated before the Sanhedrin on the day he died it wasn't for any sign or miracle he performed but his word that he was the Son of God. Dilemma... Don't perform the sign and they would choose evil by rejecting him. Perform the sign and they would choose evil by claiming he was leading them astray. A dilemma they chose by choice. Jesus could not win either way. Is it because of this evil intent for asking a sign that he calls them a wicked and adulterous generation?

A Sign

After all this talk about signs and seeking after them Jesus then states that they are to receive a sign. It is the sign of Jonas as he told them earlier, Matt. 12.40 "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The sign is not that he was in the earth three days and nights but that like Jonah he would be there only three days and nights. This sign, this resurrection from the dead, is given to the whole world. It shouts, "Pay attention, I'm talking to you!" This is a sign the leaders feared. They set guards about the tomb to prevent a hoax by the disciples. Yet there was no hoax...and he did rise from the grave.


Today we have the testimony of those who were there. Some of us have accepted their word and others will not. Know this, that where the Word of God is preached there are signs and wonders being performed. We also read scripture and it tells us of the signs preceeding his return. We are in our day, and like the Jew of Jesus' time, waiting for the Messiah to appear. We see the sign of the times. Will our current generation of leaders look for an additional sign that the gospels are true? Or will they be setting a trap for their own souls? Only God knows. As for us who are the called? We patiently wait for his appearing.

Author: Joseph A Raymond
25 January 2011

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Website administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada