The Cry for a Sign
Matthew 16:4
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas…

It strikes us as somewhat remarkable that the contemporaries of our Lord should be inquiring a sign; for was not his work teeming with signs and wonders? Plainly the demand of the sceptical people, and the response with which Christ met it, give us another view of miracles and their relation to the evidences of Christianity from that commonly held by apologists.

I. MEN DESIRE A CONVINCING SIGN OF THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY. This desire is not in itself wrong or unreasonable. To believe without sufficient evidence is a symptom of weakness, and such a faith is only a superstition. It is not a mark of pride, but a simple consequence of loyalty to truth, that we should seek for good grounds on which to establish our convictions. If this were all that the people demanded, our Lord could not have met the cry for a sign with the auger which we see he displayed against it. But it is evident that the Jews were not satisfied with the signs Christ offered. They wanted a "sign from heaven" - some flaring portent that would compel conviction. Is there not a tendency in the present day to look away from the only sources of truth that are available, and to demand impossible grounds of conviction?

II. THE DEMAND FOR A SIGN MAY SPRING FROM AN UNWORTHY CHARACTER. It is most unjust to accuse doubters of exceptional wickedness. Many people have no doubts simply because they dare not face truth. They would be sceptics if they were not cowards. On the other hand, it cannot be maintained that scepticism is in itself an indication of sanctity. Now, Jesus tells us that the pure in heart are they who shall see God. But all men - doubters included - have lost the vision of God by their sin. Thus the whole faculty of discerning the spiritual has become dim. Further, an age of self-indulgence must be an age of aggravated spiritual blindness.


1. He cannot. With all reverence this must be affirmed. No portent can prove a spiritual truth to one who has not spiritual sight. You might as well expect the blare of a trumpet to reveal the beauty of a landscape to a blind man.

2. He would not if he could. Forced faith has no moral worth. Truth revealed to unprepared hearts is but as pearls cast before swine. Abraham refuses the prayer of Dives that Lazarus, risen from the dead, should be sent to his brothers, telling the miserable man that no good would come of such an errand.

IV. CHRIST GIVES THE SIGN THAT IS REALLY NEEDED. He never disappoints the honest seeker after truth, although he does not always lead to truth by the expected path. The only truth of value is that which touches our hearts and consciences, and this is not thrust upon us by sheer authority, with threats of punishment if we will not accept it blindfold. That insolent and tyrannic ecclesiastical method is quite abhorrent to "the sweet reasonableness" of Jesus. His way is to bring a genuine proof to the awakened soul, and he compares this to the sign of Jonah. The preaching of Jonah convinced by reaching the consciences of the Ninevites. Christ's teaching, his life - above all, his death and resurrection - speak to our consciences. When these are responsive, they can perceive the weight of his claims. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah." He left them, and departed.

The Signs of the Times
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