Having uttered blasphemous words against Jesus, assuming He was driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24), those of adulterous generation pretended to be good to Him. They addressed Him as Teacher, yet, obviously, not regarding Him as such, deep inside their hearts:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they rented at preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:38-42) (ESV).
Most people read such scriptures, without understanding their significance. This is because nothing appears wrong with asking for a sign, to be sure that Jesus wasn’t just another faker.
The inquisitors may have expected a sign like, even, causing fire to come down from heaven, or any other miracle, proving that Jesus was genuinely the Christ? But, compare this with what Jesus had confronted, in His encounter with the devil; “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6) (ESV).
Those scribes and Pharisees were being used by the devil, pursuing Satan’s agenda of Matthew 4:6. The only unfortunate thing is that the poor scribes and Pharisees thought they stood for God when the opposite was true.
Their denunciation of Jesus had been based on what they considered to be Jesus’ violation of God’s laws like Sabbath-keeping. They thought they were tactful in questioning Jesus, though according to Satan’s schemes. So, which side were they on? Their behavior is, obviously, no different from a woman with two husbands. They professed to belong to God. But they behaved like Satan.
However, one can understand the predicament of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus did not display acceptable credentials to prove that He could be their Messiah. To them, any of their famous scholars could easily qualify for the position of being the Christ. The Rabbi Gamaliel could have probably been top on the list, due to his authority in Jewish religion (Acts 5:34-39).
However, let us bear in mind that the purpose of recording these scriptures, was so that the well-meaning Christians could also avoid rejecting Jesus, unknowingly. It is a question of whether we take seriously what is recorded in scriptures, or not. Otherwise the behavior of those scribes and Pharisees is not different from how we also generally behave, even today.
It is common sense to desire a sign or proof before authenticating any value from anyone. Any person could have provable information with evidence of survival value. But as long as the person cannot provide necessary credentials, whatever is provided remains questionable [see here].
In the world we live in, nothing appears amiss with taking such kind of precautions. But, this is exactly what justifies this world in Satan’s authority. That behavior looks innocent and acceptable. But it certainly justifies reason for which Jesus castigated those scribes and Pharisees. It is one of the reasons why repentance is a requirement, as commanded by our Master, Jesus Christ.
What Jesus implied, as reason for causing God’s people to commit adultery with the devil, cannot be applicable under the conditions of the world we live in. This is why it is a grave mistake to assume that Christianity is as easy as getting into it without counting the costs (Luke 14:28).
This is why most Christians cannot even fathom what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:1-4:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (ESV).
What Jesus said was not for purposes of window-dressing. It should be taken as law, by those sincere in walking in the paths of Christianity. Jesus was talking the language of God’s Kingdom, which needs understanding before one can accept its principles.
In the world we live in, it is unreasonable to give treasures secretly, without checking whether properly utilized or abused. Naturally, I take interest on activities where I invest my monies. As far as this world is concerned, that is acceptable and reasonable. But it is against the principle of God’s Kingdom [See here]
The gospel of the Kingdom is basically the opposite of what sustains the current civilization. I suppose God is aware and is not worried about what prevails under the current conditions, until His second-coming. My only concern is for those who take comfort in pretending to be Christ’s followers, yet committing what Jesus likens to adultery.
In other words, if stuck with interests in current civilization, a wise person avoids pretending to appreciate Jesus’ principles, as highlighted in the gospel of God’s Kingdom. Jesus made this point very clear, in His parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14.
In that parable, Jesus ends by describing the misery, experienced by a person, later found to be without the acceptable wedding uniform. It is this pretence of being one thing and yet being another, which Jesus describes as adultery. I suppose a person who totally rejects the Bible, preferring to remain in his/her sinful condition is safer than a pretender.
A person living in sinfulness, without Jesus’ concept of God’s Kingdom, is not committing adultery. And I suppose Jesus understands that person, though living a sinful life-style and possibly reaping consequences. But, at least, the person would not be committing adultery.
This agrees with what John recorded in the book of Revelation: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16) (ESV).
The sign of the Prophet Jonah infers to the miracle of resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is the only sign that proves the Messiah-ship of Jesus, to the scheptical minds. Most of those scribes and Pharisees must have accepted Jesus, only after His resurrection. Most are Christians, today, because of the recorded proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
But it takes a person of understanding and faith to appreciate Jesus’ Messiah-ship, without necessarily being fascinated by His resurrection. This requires the ability to differentiate between God’s Kingdom and the Kingdom of this world.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99