THE SON OF MAN WILL BE THE SIGN TO THIS GENERATION
Luke 11:29-54, Key verse 30
“For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
Through last week message, we learned that Jesus’ work is done by the finger of God. He is the strongest man who rescues us from Satan. When we are not with this Jesus, we are against him. We should fill our empty heart with him and His words so as not to be occupied with impure spirits but to be truly blessed and victorious. May God help each one of us to be on the side of Jesus through filling our hearts with His words so that we may be an instrument of the Holy Spirit every day. Amen!
Today’s passage is Jesus’ response to 11:16 and the extension of verse 28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” There are two kinds of people in this passage; the crowds who were asking Jesus for a sign from heaven, and the religious leaders of the time who hear the word of God but do not obey it. There are three parts in this passage.
Jesus the Sign of Jonah
Look at verse 29, “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” In the previous passage, when Jesus drove out a mute demon, some people tested Jesus asking him for a sign from heaven. The more people gathered, asking Jesus for a sign again. Jesus called them a wicked generation because they were asking for a sign. In fact, Jesus gave them enough sign that he is the Promised Messiah. He preached the gospel, drove out demons and heal the sick everywhere, but they were not believing in him but asking more signs from heaven.
What would Jesus do for such people? Look at verse 30, “For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.” Jesus would not give any more miracles but only the sign of Jonah. What is the sign of Jonah? It is God’s love for all sinners, not only the people of Israel but all peoples on earth. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, the enemy of Israel who conquered them and killed innumerable Israelites and even deported them. God told Jonah to go and give them the message of God’s judgment. Jonah refused to go because they were evil gentiles to Jonah, and he also knew that God is gracious and compassionate to all sinners. So he was going to Tarshish in Spain on a ship, the opposite side of Nineveh, but God brought a storm and people found that Jonah was the cause of the storm and threw him into the sea. As soon as he was thrown into the sea, the storm subsided and God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah who stayed for 3 nights in it. The fish vomited him to a shore and God told him again to go to Nineveh. Jonah went there and reluctantly gave the message of God’s judgement to the Ninevites, who repented in sackcloth and ashes. Jonah was angry at God who forgave them, but God gave him the message, saying, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals.”
Just as Jonah was the sign of God’s love to the Ninevites, Jesus is also the sign of God’s love and mercy to the people of Israel. God brought Jesus to the sinful Israelites in order to give them the message of God’s love and judgement. Jesus will die and will be at the bottom of the earth for three days just as Jonah was and rise again from the dead to open the door of the kingdom of heaven through faith, repentance, forgiveness and love of God.
Jesus went further in comparing them with the Queen of the South and the Ninevites. Look at verses 31-32. Solomon was the wisest man ever lived on earth. In order to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, the Queen of Sheva, Yemen today, traveled long distance with great gift of spices, gold and precious stones. When she heard his wisdom, she praised him and the God of Israel. But Jesus is greater than Solomon because Jesus has not only earthly wisdom but also heavenly one, leading people to the kingdom of God.
Jonah was a prophet who was chosen to preach God’s message to the Ninevites, but he refused to obey God’s mission because he was a narrow-minded patriotic prophet. But Jesus was a humble obedient to God’s mission. Even though he is the Son of God, he disowned his power and glory of the heaven in order to come down to the sinful world in order to fulfill God’s mission to die as a ransom sacrifice for all sinners to be saved. Praise Jesus!
At the judgement time, the people of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will rise and condemn the people of Israel. It is because the Queen she came from faraway because she desired to hear the wisdom of Solomon more than gold and found the God of Israel. It is because the Ninevites repented at the message of God’s judgment given by the narrow-minded prophet. But the people of Israel rejected this compassionate God’s messenger, Jesus who came to sacrifice his honor and glory in heaven and even his own life in order to save them from their sins.
The more I pray, I more I realized that this is a wicked and perverse generation. In Genesis 9, God gave rainbow after the rain as the sign of God’s covenant not to destroy the earth with the flood so that people may not live in fear but remember God’s promise in his judgment and salvation through Noah. These days; however, sinful people make use of God’s promise, rainbow, in order to justify their sinful way of life. They are like the crowds who blame Christians and church for everything, not performing miracles. Yes, we should be the light, reflecting Jesus to the world, healing the sick and driving out demons, helping the poor with compassionate heart. Yet, no miracles and helping hands will save them except Jesus. Therefore, we must share Jesus, the sign of Jonah, helping them to repent of their sins and accept Christ as their personal savior so that they may be forgiven, avoiding God’s judgment and receiving God’s eternal salvation. Amen!
The Light May Shine Brighter (33-36)
Look at verse 33, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” It is a common sense that no one is going to light a lamp and puts it under bowl or hide it. When we have the light, we would let it shine in every corner of our room. We would not hide it. Here the light is compared to Jesus as Jesus is the living word of God. When we have the word of God in our hearts, we would sing, “This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine!” Interestingly, Jesus is giving us the process of shining the light.
Look at verses 34-36. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye are healthy, you are full of light, freely moving around, but when they are unhealthy, you are full of darkness. One of my colleagues had healthy eyes, and went around many beautiful places but when he had diabetes, his eye sight became worse and finally lost his eye sight. He said that he felt his life was getting darker as time went by and now living in total darkness. Though he went to Iceland, his wife’s hometown, sadly he could not see anything but heard descriptions from his wife.
Likewise, when we are full of God’s word, our eyes are healthy and we are full of light. But when we have less and less word of God, the light will become dimmer and dimmer, and thus our spiritual eyes will become worse and worse. Look at verse 35 again, “35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” How is the light within you? Is it getting darker or brighter? We should let the light brighter with in us. How can we make the light brighter in our lives? Let the word of God shine brighter in our thoughts through memorizing it and learning Biblical values. Yet this is not enough because this is just listening the word of God and having knowledge. The next step is the real meat, obeying it; in other word, applying the Biblical values in our/my life. Let the word of God be the lamp unto our feet, shining in every corner of our lives!
There was one young man who wanted to get out of the darkness of sinful life, but he could not do it by himself even though he shaved his head. When he came to study the Bible, his sinful heart was fighting against the light until the light of Jesus on the cross shone in his heart, and he repented and then gave his life to Christ. He wanted to live a new life in Christ; no more sinful and dark life. Then, he began to not only study the Bible faithfully but also reflecting it and practically putting the word of God in his life. When he was full of God’s word, shining more light in every corner of his life, people could not but see the light in him and his family members who used to persecute him accepted the light and became Christ-followers. May the light of Christ shine through and through in each one of us until it shines so bright that people of the world may see it and believe in Jesus, the true light. Amen!
Woes on People who Do Not Obey
There are two kinds of religious leaders in this part, Pharisees and experts in the law, who had knowledge but did not obey it. Look at verses 37-38. A Pharisee invited Jesus as one of religious leaders. But Jesus did not wash his hands before a meal, which was violation of the ceremonial washing. The ceremony of washing is healthy choice. If the Pharisee asked me to wash my hands, I would do, saying, “I am sorry I forgot.” Maybe the Pharisee was germophobic but the real problem was unrepentant life according to Jesus.
In fact, Jesus exposed the fundamental problems of Pharisees. Look at verse 39-41. Their fundamental problem was that their showy life, cleaning outside only. Their problem was not about wearing clean clothes but trying to show their cleanliness of law keeping life. Jesus called them foolish people. It is because when we wash a cup, we would clean not only outside but inside. If we clean only outside, you would not use it because it is still dirty to use. Jesus gave them a clear direction to clean inside. How? How can we clean inside? First of all, we need to look inside of our hearts. What do you see? You may see good and evil, which I see in me. If you see only good, you may be better than Paul. Jesus challenged the Pharisees with a few things in order for them to check inside. Look at verses 42-44. 1) Be generous to the poor, which is opposite to being greedy. They might be stingy to the poor. Yet, what is the standard of generosity and stinginess? 2) Not only make a tithe but also practice justice and the love of God. They loved important seats and respectful greetings from others but did not love God and their neighbor. Through these challenges, Jesus hoped that they saw their sins. Jesus’ word shone the light in their darkness. It was the time for them to repent of their sins and accept God’s forgiveness in Christ so that their inside become clean.
Instead, Jesus’ words convicted one of the experts in the law who answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” When Jesus’ words convicted his sins, he hardened his heart instead of repenting. Then, Jesus helped him to find himself more. Look at verses 46-51. They burden people with laws and regulations but did not help them. What they were saying was probably right according to the law, but they did not help people to follow. It is because they did not know how because they might have never struggled to obey God. If we are not able to help others, we should never tell them what to do. Moreover, they would approve their ancestors’ wrongdoings by killing the prophets and making their tombs, instead of learning from their mistakes. Yet, Jesus saw it as the fulfillment of God’s prophecies. Anyone who wants to live a holy life in Christ will be persecuted. Therefore, they will be responsible for all the blood of the prophets who were killed by their ancestors as they will kill even God’s Promised Messiah, Jesus.
Jesus is also pointing their fundamental problem. Look at verse 52, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Basically they taught only superficial knowledge about the law of God, thus they did not enter and hinder others to enter into the true knowledge of God. They had the key but did not use it for themselves and for others. The key is the obedience to the word of God. The word of God is like a mirror, helping us to find ourselves before God and repent. Through struggling to obey the word of God, they should have reflected in their lives and repent first. Then, they could have helped others to obey with humble and compassionate heart. Instead of repenting, they opposed Jesus and trying to get him in his words.
How many times Jesus emphasized the importance of obedience to God’s word! It is the way to build a house of faith on the rock. It is the way to bear much fruit in our lives. It is the way to express our love to Christ. It is the way to know the truth and receive true freedom in Christ. Without action, our faith is dead. Therefore, we should shine the word of God in our hearts and apply it in our lives first so that we may have the key to the knowledge of God. Then, we can humbly help others to overcome their sins and grow in Christ prayerfully.
Through today’s passage we learned Jesus is the sign of Jonah to this wicked generation, who would not believe but seek signs and miracles. Jesus is the message of God’s judgment and salvation to this sinful world. Jesus is the light and we should let the light of Jesus brighter in every corner of our lives through putting the word of God into practice. When we do so, we may not be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law but be the light in this generation, sharing the key to the knowledge of God’s kingdom with others. Amen!