(Jan Bruegel Jonah and the Whale 1600)
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 (Matthew 12:39-40).
To the Church of God at St. Paul Lutheran Church – called to be saints – grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, just like unbelievers, we seek signs of God’s goodness in success, wealth, and health. Joel Osteen has seven million listeners a week. He preaches a message of success, self-fulfillment, and empowerment. Your dreams will all come true if you follow the right path. All you have to do is obey God, follow these steps and pray hard enough. His book titled “your best life” has sold millions of copies.
Martin Luther warned of this sort of preaching. He called it a ‘theology of glory’ rather than a ‘theology of the cross.’ The Pharisees and unbelievers who rejected Christ were looking for the same thing. They were looking for success, good health, and wealth. They wanted a real savior, one who would help them achieve their dreams and make life better – more prosperous.
There is a little theologian in all of us who thinks that God should reward us for our spirituality. We think God should drop us a little success, some good luck, get rid of our problems, no doubt more money. And why? Because we’re good people. We deserve it. We go to church, surely we can butter God up a bit and he should throw us a bone once and a while.
When the scribes and Pharisses approach Jesus in tonight’s reading they demand a sign. And so do we. Like us, they were not that interested in a bleeding, suffering, dying God on a cross. They wanted a life-coach or inspirational speaker to make them feel better, feel more fulfilled. They wanted more control over their enemies and more control over their own lives. From God they wanted a sign – they wanted proof – that he was who he said he was.
What sort of proof are you looking for? Why are you so discontent? What sign are you looking for from God?
Jesus answers us “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 a whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth.
Jonah was thrown overboard into the sea. Jesus was thrown overboard into the depth of the earth. Jonah was spit out on the third day from the belly of the whale. Jesus was spit up on the third day from the bowls of the earth. Fresh from the grave, Jesus appeared to his disciples, not preaching fire and brimstone, but speaking of his love for sinners. He showed his disciples his pierced hands and feet. He showed his pierced side, which flowed with baptismal water and life-giving blood.
Stop looking for glory, stop fantasizing about success. Your best life is in Christ and in Christ alone. Leave behind your hopes of glory and pick up your cross and follow him. God is not what we expect. Jesus is the farthest thing we would expect from a Savior. He was weak, He didn’t defend himself, he was lonely. He’s not the Savior we expect but he is the man we need. He was picked on, made fun of, and beaten up. Why? Because he loved God His Father and trusted in him. Why should we expect our lives to be different than his.
And yet he sacrificed Himself for us. He believed perfectly. And gives us everything that He has, which we so desperately need. His holiness, His obedience, His loveliness.
Live your lives as ones who have been redeemed. Your time in the belly of the whale will be rather short too. Your humiliation someday will turn to glory. And someday you too will be transferred through the holy cross to the realms of glory. But await your time with patience and trust, humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
If you are seeking a sign. Forget about the vanities of this world which will all soon pass. And seek His sign written in the blood of His last will and testament. This is my body given for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Come receive the sure and certain sign and pledge of God’s love. Here is proof that God will never leave you or forsake you. Proof that you are His and He is yours. In Jesus name.