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…
There are many indications of the persistency with which our Lord was worried and hindered by a hostile party from among the Pharisees. They were ever trying new devices for entangling him. They hoped to nonplus him; or to get him to try something in which he would fail, or to say something which they could turn into an accusation. On this occasion the Pharisaic party united with the Galilaean Sadducees (who may be the same as the Herodians) in what seemed a clever scheme. They were to plead that such miracles as he wrought could not prove his Divine claim, because they were all susceptible of natural explanations. They were to say that, if he meant them to believe in him, he must do some really wonderful firing - make thunder in a clear sky, as Samuel did (1 Samuel 12:18), or bring fire from heaven, as Elijah did (1 Kings 18:38). Of course, they intended the people to hear them put this test, and they would make use of his refusal as proof of his inability. Our Lord did refuse. He understood the temper and needs of his time far better than they did; and if they wanted manifest signs from heaven, the people did not; or if they did, such signs were not really best for them. What would most help to awaken men was the mystery of his death and resurrection. That was the true sign of his spiritual being and mission. These Pharisees might take that sign. It was foreshadowed in the story of Jonah. It was all they would get. They must do the best they could with it.
1. THE SIGN OF JONAS WAS INTENDED TO PUZZLE. Those who knew nothing of the spiritual nature of Christ, or of his redemption by suffering and sacrifice, could make nothing of this sign. It is a good way in which to treat malicious questioners, to answer them by giving them something to puzzle over, a "hard nut to crack." Can we imagine how these Pharisees, who were so clever at "splitting hairs" in argument, discussed this "sign of Jonas"? The people must have smiled when they saw them so answered and so discomfited.
II. THE SIGN OF JONAS WAS INTENDED TO SUGGEST. For us it suggests what was then the special burden on the mind of Christ. He was anticipating the time of his suffering and death. For them the sign seemed to say, "Your prejudiced opposition to me will grow until it consummates in securing my death. You will throw me overboard, as Jonas was thrown over. But you will be baffled even then. Like Jonas, I shall rise again."
III. THE SIGN OF JONAS WAS INTENDED TO TEACH. Only one point in the story is recalled by Christ. The only likeness between Jonas and Christ is that "rising again." The sign of the Divine origin, Divine mission, and Divine nature of Christ is his resurrection from the dead. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.