Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-nine through fifty-four of the eleventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find it beginning and opening up with a great crowd and multitude of people gathering before and around Jesus. In fact, when the chapter opens it does so by referencing the crowd and multitude being thick before Jesus—something which Jesus the Christ was used to during and throughout His public ministry within the land of Judaea and the surrounding region. This passage of scripture opens with a great crowd of people gathering before Jesus and Jesus using this opportunity to speak forth and declare something very specific. What’s more, is that that which we find taking place within this passage is one of at least two specific instances and occurrences when the subject of that generation seeking a sign from Jesus. As you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that there were two specific instances when Jesus spoke unto that generation concerning their interest and desire in seeking after a sign. What we find here in this passage of scripture is the first of such two occurrences within the gospels, and one that doesn’t necessarily speak of that generation demanding of and seeking after Jesus for a sign, but rather Jesus uobraiding and rebuking them for their interest in seeking signs. A closer reading of this passage will bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus rebuking that generation for seeking after and demanding a sign—particularly and especially when seeking after a sign does not produce belief in the person and works of Jesus the Christ. In all reality, that which I find to be so incredibly unique is the fact that the generation which was alive and present during the days of Jesus witnessed the many mighty works which He performed among them, and yet despite all of these works they still sought after and demanded a sign.
SIGNS WITHOUT BELIEF! SEEKING SIGNS IN THE PLACE OF WORKS! That which I find to be truly remarkable when reading this passage of scripture is how the Jews could live during such a time of great authority and power demonstrated and manifested among men, and yet in the midst of that place of authority and power they demanded a sign. ARE NOT MY WORKS ENOUGH? ARE NOT THE WORKS SUFFICIENT? I am completely and utterly convinced that there is a great danger in living in the midst of such great works within your generation, and yet for whatever reason the works themselves aren’t enough, for you still demand and expect a sign to be performed before you in your midst. There is not a doubt in my mind that the reason Jesus rebuked this generation was because even in the midst of the great and mighty works He performed among them, they still demanded a sign from heaven. It’s almost as if the works themselves weren’t enough for this generation and they required further proof and further convincing. I can’t help but look at these times and consider how this generation has the Word become flesh among them in their midst, and yet the Word becoming flesh was not enough. Present within this generation was the very Son of God who demonstrated and exercised the divine authority and power of God among men, and yet they still demanded and sought after a sign from Him. Perhaps the single greatest question is why—why this generation sought after a sign. Why would this generation which had the many mighty works of Jesus Christ present before and among them demand and require of sign in addition to those works. There is not a doubt in my mind that we play a dangerous game with the living God and in His presence when He demonstrates and manifests His work in our midst, and yet the works themselves aren’t enough and we still demand a sign. I would dare say that their desire and request for a sign was a demonstration and manifestation of the hardness of their hearts coupled together with unbelief. It’s this attitude and mindset of wanting to believe in the person of Jesus the Christ, yet only being able to do so if He does something and shows something unto and before us. It’s this attitude of wanting to believe in Jesus the Christ, however, we are unwilling to do so without and apart from His catering to our needs and our whims.
SINCE WHEN DID GOD NEED TO CATER TO YOU? WHEN DID YOU START THINKING AND BELIEVING THAT GOD WAS OBLIGATED TO CATER TO YOUR DEMANDS OF HIM? If there is one thing we find present within this generation it’s an unwillingness to believe in Jesus the Christ, and to believe in His words and works, and to demand of Him something additional—something He doesn’t owe you. Oh as I sit here this morning I can’t help but read this passage and consider the tremendous sense of entitlement that was found within this generation—a sense of entitlement that demanded Jesus show them some type of sign before and in order that they might believe. This generation had the divine representation of the glory and presence of the living God among them in their midst, and yet they still demanded a sign from Him, and even a sign from heaven before and in order that they might believe. This generation witnessed the many mighty works which Jesus the Christ performed among them in their midst, and yet even in the midst of, and even in spite of those works, they still asked for and demanded a sign from heaven and a sign from Jesus the Christ. I am trying to imagine being alive and present within this generation and witnessing and beholding the mighty works of Jesus Christ and the demonstration and manifestation of the power of God, and yet that not being enough for them. I am trying to think about and consider being present during these days and asking for and demanding a sign from Jesus the Christ—a sign from heaven—before and in order that they might believe in Him, and in the One who sent Him. The words and language we find within this passage of Scripture is absolutely and incredibly unique and challenging, for what we find here strikes at the very foundation of the condition of our heart before and in the presence of the living God, and before and in the presence of Jesus the Christ. What we find in the opening verses of this passage brings us face to face with the condition of our heart and whether or not we believe in Jesus Christ because of who He is, or whether or not we need additional convincing in order that we might believe. Within this passage we are confronted with the tremendous reality of what we need additionally from the living God and from the person of Jesus the Christ before we are going to believe in Him, and before we believe in His person. There was within this generation the very embodiment of the glory and presence of the living God, and the power of the living God was on full display before them in their midst, and yet the works which Jesus the Christ performed among them in their midst wasn’t enough, for they desired and demanded a sign from heaven. It’s almost as if the works which Jesus performed and manifested among them in their midst required additional proof before and in order that they might believe in His person, and even in the One who sent Him.
There is a passage which is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John which helps shine a tremendous amount of light on this unbelief in the works of Jesus the Christ—those works which demonstrate and manifest the mighty power of God among them in their midst. In the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we find Jesus healing a man the man who was one of the many who were beside and before the pool of Bethesda seeking to be healed of their infirmity and illness which plagued their body. On one particular day there was a man who was lame lying at the pool of Bethesda, and because he could not make it to the waters when the angel came down and stirred them up, he would not experience healing within His physical body. On this particular day, however, Jesus the Christ would come unto Him and heal Him, and then instruct Him to take up His mat and go forth from that place. What makes this particular event so incredibly unique is the fact that this healing was done on the Sabbath, which the Pharisees, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel took great issue and great offense with. What’s more, is that the Jews on this particular occasion didn’t just take offense with Jesus healing on the sabbath day, but they also took offense to this man carrying the evidence of his healing with him as he walked forth from that place. If you continue reading in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find that the Jews did persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day. What we find within and throughout the rest of the chapter is Jesus’ response to the hardness of their heart, their unbelief, and their offense in and with the person of Jesus Christ because He operated outside of their parameters and limitations. That which is found in the remaining portion of this chapter is Jesus speaking directly unto them concerning the works which His Father was doing—works which He Himself would carry out among men within and upon the earth. Consider if you will Jesus’ response to the Jews’ persecution of Him, their intent to kill Him, and their offense with His willingness to operate outside their rules, outside their guidelines, outside their traditions, and outside their parameters. Beginning with the eighteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find the following words written concerning Jesus’ response to the Jews on this particular occasion:
“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father liveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hearth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I k now that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and He bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were wiling for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father Himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, Him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye mighty have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in His own name, Him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, the would have believed me: for he wrote of m. But if ye believe not His writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:18-47).
The words and language we find within this passage of Scripture is absolutely and truly remarkable and unique when you take the time to think about and consider it, for what begins with the Jews taking offense with Jesus—not only because He healed and worked on the Sabbath, but also because He claimed God as His Father, thus making Himself equal with God—would eventually culminate in Jesus responding to them concerning His Father working, and His need to work the works which He saw His Father do. In response to the Jews’ desire to kill Him, Jesus spoke of that which bore witness to the Light—first and foremost John the Baptist and the word which he brought forth within that generation—and then the works which He Himself performed among men within and upon the earth. What I find to be so utterly and completely fascinating within this passage of Scripture is how Jesus called attention to the works which He performed and manifested among men during that time, and how the works demanded belief and response. If we are being truly honest with ourselves when we read the four gospels—and even the New Testament book of Acts—we must recognize and understand the works which Jesus the Christ performs among us in our midst demand and require belief within our hearts. We must acknowledge that the works which Jesus the Christ performs among us within our lives and within our midst demands and requires belief—not only belief in Him, but also belief in the Father who sent Him. That which was so incredibly dangerous about what we find within this passage of Scripture is that despite the many mighty works which Jesus the Christ performed before and among the Jews during that time and during those days, they refused to believe in Him, and even in the works which He did. During those days Jesus the Christ worked the works of the Father—the works which He saw the Father do, and yet the works which He performed among them in their midst was not enough for them to believe on Him, and to believe on His Father who sent Him. Despite the many works which Jesus the Christ did before and among them in their midst, those works were not enough for the Jews to believe on Him, and to believe on the One who sent Him. In responding to their offense and hardness of heart, Jesus spoke unto them concerning their not believing on Him, and invited them to believe the works which He Himself worked and performed among them during those days. In all reality, if we are to understand this need for a sign and its direct connection to the works which Jesus the Christ performed among men, it is absolutely necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the tenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel of John, for it is within this chapter where Jesus would go on to speak even further concerning the works which He performed among men upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found beginning with the twenty-second verse:
“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any many pluck them out of my hand. MY Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I sad, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him” (John 10:22-38).
Please make note of what is written and contained within this passage of Scripture, for what we find written within it is a wonderful and powerful invitation to those who would seek to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. With these words Jesus called and drew attention to the tremendous fact that those who were present during that generation not only did not believe in Him, but they also did not believe in the works which He performed among them. Perhaps one of the most tremendous tragedies that is found within this passage of Scripture is the fact that the Jews during that generation would and could not believe in and believe upon the works which Jesus the Christ did and performed among them. Despite the fact that Jesus did many mighty works among them in their midst, and despite the fact that Jesus worked the work of the Father before them in their midst, they would and could not believe in those works. Both the events which we find and read in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, as well as that which we find in the tenth chapter point to the tremendous reality of Jesus working the works of the Father upon the earth, and yet men not believing the works which He performed before and among them. I find that which is written and recorded within this passage of Scripture to be truly remarkable and astonishing, for within this passage of Scripture we find Jesus not only speaking concerning the works which He performed among men upon the earth, but also indicting that generation for not believing on the works which He did. Jesus emphatically declared that the works which He did among them on the earth testified of Him, and even testified of the Father, and yet they would and could not believe on those works. Instead of and rather than believing in the works which Jesus the Christ worked before and among them during those days, the Jews took great offense to Jesus, even demanded that He tell them plainly whether or not He was the Christ. I can’t help but find that which is written in this passage of Scripture to incredibly unique and challenging, for within this passage of Scripture we find the Jews witnessing and beholding the many mighty works which Jesus performed among them in their midst, and yet they still demanded Him to declare unto them plainly whether or not He was the Christ. In all reality, this bear strong similarity to that which is found concerning John the Baptist while he was in prison, for both Matthew and Luke write and record how while John was in prison, he sent two of his disciples unto Jesus to ask whether or not He was the Christ, or whether they should look for another. Consider if you will the account of John the Baptist in prison, and the sending of two of his disciples unto Jesus to question whether or not He was indeed the Messiah and the Christ—first in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and next in the New Testament gospel of Luke:
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, He sent two of His disciples, and said unto Him, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:1-6).
“And the disciples of John shewed Him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples ent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou He that should come? Or look we for another? When the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou He that should come? Or look we for another? And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind gave He sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning John” (Luke 7:18-24).
Within the gospels you will find the Jews themselves asking Jesus to declare unto them plainly whether or not He was the Christ, and while John the Baptist was in prison, we find him sending forth two of his disciples unto Jesus in order that he might inquire whether or not He was indeed and was in fact the Christ. This is actually quite interesting and intriguing when you think about, for this John the Baptist was the same one who declared of Jesus Christ—not once, but twice—that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This was the same man who baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River, and upon coming out of the waters was present when the heavens were opened, the Father spoke from heaven and declared that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased, and even beheld the Spirit descending and lighting upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Here we are however long after the events at the Jordan River, and we find John the Baptist in prison and struggling with His own belief in Jesus the Christ. It would be there in prison where John the Baptist would hear of the works which Jesus the Christ performed among men within and upon the earth, and yet despite the fact that he heard those works which were performed among men upon the earth, he still struggle with offense in God, and perhaps even offense in the person of Jesus the Christ. It would be there in prison where John the Baptist would truly wrestle with his own belief and confidence in the person of Jesus the Christ, and whether or not Jesus was the One whom they should look for, or if they should look for another. What we find in each of these passages is actually quite remarkable, for not only did John the Baptist hear of the works which Jesus performed among men upon the earth, but we also find that when Jesus sent the disciples of John back to him—not only did He perform works before the disciples whom He did send, but we also find Jesus sending them back with a declaration concerning the many mighty works which He performed among men. When Jesus sent the disciples of John back to him, He sent them with a firsthand witness of the works which He had performed among men upon the earth, as well as with a declaration concerning those works—namely, that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleanse, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them. When Jesus spoke unto the offense—and perhaps even the doubt and confusion—within the heart of John the Baptist, He did not declare unto His disciples that He was the Christ. In all reality, Jesus didn’t even answer John’s question—at least not the way we would have thought He would have answered it. Jesus didn’t respond to John’s question by declaring that He was the Christ, but rather, He responded to it by doing the works which he had heard while in prison before his disciples, and even sending his disciples back to him with a statement and testimony of those works which Jesus did.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand what is taking place on this particular occasion, for it brings us face to face with what is written in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke. It is in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke that we find Jesus declaring unto the crowd of people which had gathered before and around him that that generation was an evil generation. What’s more, is that Jesus went on to declare the reason it was an evil generation—namely, that they sought after a sign in order that they might believe in Jesus, and even believe on the One who sent Him. What’s unique about the words which Jesus spoke and declared unto them is that not only did He declare that that generation sought after and demanded a sign, but He also declared unto them that no sign would be given unto it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. The sign of Jonas the prophet, you will recall, was that he was three days and three nights in the belly of a fish in the heart of the sea before the Lord commanding that the fish should spit Jonas up upon the shore of the sea. The sign of Jonas would be unique and similar to the sign Jesus would give that generation—as well as generations to come—for just as Jonas was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so also would Jesus be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth in a borrowed tomb. On the one hand Jesus declared that no sign would be given unto that generation, however, on the other hand He would declare unto them that there would be a sign given unto it, yet that sign would be the sign of burial and resurrection. The only sign which Jesus the Christ would give unto that unfaithful, unbelieving and perverse generation would be the sign of resurrection, for on the third day He would rise from the dead after being buried in a borrowed tomb. What I find to be so incredibly unique about all of this is the reason the Jews demanded a sign was because the works which Jesus performed among them was not sufficient enough for them. They witnessed and beheld the works which Jesus did among and before them, and yet those works were not enough for them in order that they might believe in Jesus, and believe on the One who had sent Him. Jesus worked the works of the living God among men upon the earth, and yet those words were not enough to convince them that He was in fact who He said He was. What’s more, is that the works which Jesus performed among men upon the earth did not operate within their clearly defined parameters, rules, and guidelines. The works which Jesus the Christ did among men upon the earth did not take place within the rules and traditions of the elders of the Jews, but more often than not contradicted them, and operated in a manner that was offensive to their traditions. What we find within this passage of Scripture is in fact a sign of the hardness of heart among the Jews, and the works themselves not being sufficient enough for them to believe in the person of Jesus the Christ. The Jews demanded a sign from Jesus the Christ because they were unwilling to believe and accept the works which Jesus did before and among them. Despite the great many mighty works which Jesus performed among them in their midst, they still demanded a sign from Him because of the hardness of their heart, and because of their offense in Him.
Perhaps the single greatest question we need to ask ourselves when reading this passage of Scripture is whether or not we have enough evidence to truly believe that Jesus is who He said He was, and who Jesus actually is in our lives. In continuing to speak unto the Jews, Jesus not only spoke of the queen of the south, but also went on to further speak of Jonas the prophet. In relation to the queen of the south, Jesus declared how she came a great distance in order that she might hear and behold the wisdom of Solomon which was reported unto her. As it pertains to Jonas, Jesus declared that the entire city of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, and how the entire city gave themselves to sackcloth and ashes because of the strong and powerful warning which Jonah delivered unto them. Building upon these two events which took place centuries earlier, Jesus declared how one greater than Solomon, and one greater than Jonas was present among them, and yet they did not and would not believe in Him. Furthermore, Jesus declared that the queen of the south, as well as the people of Nineveh will rise up with that generation and both will condemn it because of the hardness of their heart, as well as their unbelief. The queen of the south came a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah the prophet, and both would rise up with the generation which existed during the days of Jesus in judgment and condemnation because they not only beheld Jesus the Christ, but they also witnessed the mighty works which He performed among them in their midst. This brings us face to face with whether or not we truly believe that Jesus Christ is in fact who He said He was, and whether or not the works which He has performed in the past, and even the works which He is performing even now are sufficient enough for us to believe in Him, and in the One who sent Him. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign—particularly and especially when that generation refuses to believe in the words and works which Jesus the Christ manifests and demonstrates among them in their midst. Oh that we would read the words which are written and found within this passage of Scripture, and that we would truly come to terms with the condition of our heart, and whether or not we believe in the person of Jesus the Christ, and whether or not we believe in the words and works which He performs among us in our midst.