The Sufficiency of the Sign of Jonah

The following is my notes from a sermon I preached at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C on June 5, 2011.  Click HERE for the sermon audio.

What If Satan Took Control?

Have you ever thought about what it would look like if Satan really took control of an entire city? Maybe it would look like Sodom and Gomorrah? Or what about the city of Nineveh that we heard about in the sermon this morning? But are these heinous crimes really the only signs that Satan is at work?

 Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took an entire city then…

“All the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy and polite pedestrians who always smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. All the children would say “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches…. Well they would be full every Sunday…and Christ would not be preached.”

What do you think about Barnhouse’s speculation?

Before you conclude that he was just trying to be provocative open your Bibles to Luke chapter 11:29-30 and we will see who Jesus called a wicked generation.

Luke 11:29-30

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

What do you think Jesus is teaching us in this passage? I have three questions I want to answer.

First of all, why does he say that these people are wicked?

Secondly, what exactly is the sign of Jonah?

And lastly, what does any of this have to do with us today, in our church and in our generation?

These questions form the three points of my outline:

  1. The Wicked Generation
  2. The Sign of Jonah
  3. The Capitol Hill Baptist Church

1.    The Wicked Generation

QUESTION: So why does Jesus say these people are wicked?

ANSWER: Unbelief.

Jesus is teaching that the people in the crowds are spiritually blind.

Verse 29 – “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign”

Look down at verse 16 you can see their problem was not that they were simply asking for a sign.

“Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.”

Their problem was their hearts behind their asking.

Picture this scene. They had just seen Jesus cast a demon out of a man who could not speak at all. They had all seen him miraculously healed, but they are demanding for more evidence.

Now, if we look up to chapter 11 and get to verses 34-35 Jesus uses an illustration to tell them exactly what their problem is.

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.

Their spiritual eyes were bad. They failed to see in Jesus’ miracles and character sufficient signs of his truth.

Oh I hope you all realize how radically different this teaching about Jesus is from all other world religions?

Our Biggest Problem

The bad news in Christianity about your sin is far worse than you think.

Jesus just said that the difference between a righteous person and wicked person is not their outward behavior, but their spiritual eyes.

In other words, he is saying whether you have raped and murdered people like the men of Nineveh or your like one of the people that Dr. Barnhouse described and you go to church, are really kind and polite to everyone you know, you will not be considered righteous before a Holy God until your eyes get fixed.

If you are here tonight and you would not consider yourself a Christian. The scriptures could not be clearer that your biggest problem is not some deep dark sin that you have hiding in your past. Your biggest problem is that you are blind!

2 Corinthians 4:4 says the God of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The reason why you have not believed thus far in your life is NOT because God has not provided you with sufficient evidence…as if God’s signs are lacking in some way. The source of light has always been good, but your receiver that has always been bad and damaged from your sin.

In fact, your sin is so deep that it would not matter even if Jesus performed a miracle on this stage right now.

That is what Jesus is trying to teach us when he is talking about the sign of Jonah.

2.    The Sign of Jonah

 “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

QUESTION: What exactly is the sign of Jonah?

ANSWER: Resurrection.

More specifically, Jesus uses Jonah’s resurrection from near death to teach and predict his own death and resurrection.

Look closely again at verse 30.

For as Jonah was a sign” – I think Jesus makes it really clear what the sign is. He says Jonah is the sign. The very fact that he was still alive was a miraculous sign to the Ninevites that proved he really was a prophet sent by God.

And did the Ninevites believe Jonah? Did they accept this sign?

They did. Great revival broke out. Look at verse 32.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

What Jesus is teaching us here is that if the sign of Jonah was sufficient for the Ninevites to repent and believe, then HOW MUCH MORE should the son of God, Jesus Christ, be sufficient for them…and for us?

We now have in Jesus one who is infinitely greater than Jonah.

Jesus, the Greater Sign of Jonah!

The bad news about our sin might be worse than we think, but the good news of Jesus Christ is greater than our wildest dreams!

Jonah was unwilling servant…Jesus Christ was willing savior.

Jonah ran away from sinners to save his life…Jesus Christ ran towards sinners at the cost of his life.

Jonah was a prophet who could only warn the people of Nineveh to repent and flee from the wrath to come…Jesus Christ was our substitute who took on all the full weight of God’s wrath so that it would be possible for any of us to flee the wrath to come.

Jonah was filled with hatred toward his enemies and God still used him to bring hope and salvation to Nineveh…Jesus Christ was filled with love for his enemies and is was precisely because of that love that God used him to bring hope and salvation to the whole world.

Jonah was just a picture…Jesus Christ is the real thing.

And the crazy thing is that the Ninevites repented and all they saw was a shadow of the real thing, what excuse do we have if God has given us so much more in Jesus?

Is it starting to make more sense why Jesus called these people wicked? Can you imagine how insulting it must have been to Jesus (the King of the Universe) to have these people see all that they did and still demand he give them a sign?

What would be a proper response to this teaching for the members of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church?

Which brings us now to our last point and last question.

3.    The Capitol Hill Baptist Church

QUESTION: What does all this mean for us today?

ANSWER: Believe!

We should repent of all our unbelief and fully trust in God who has sufficiently provided all that we need for both saving and sustaining faith.

In just a moment we are going to be taking communion and we will all have some extra time to be meditating on these truths, but before we do I want to suggest a couple things for you to be thinking about.

To My Christian Brothers and Sisters….

Spend time praising God for the grace and mercy that he has shown you to open your eyes from your spiritual blindness. Do you really think it was because you figured it out? Oh no, it was because of his mercy in our life. As we pass the bread and the cup around we should be in awe that there is a room full of people who were all rescued from their spiritual blindness.

My prayer is that this confidence and joy in the sufficiency of the gospel will encourage you to share it boldly this week. Oh, I hope we hear stories next Sunday night of God giving even the most timid and fearful of us a mighty boost of confidence in the power of his gospel.

I know that we get scared. I know we think we are not smart enough or eloquent enough. It’s true that there are some preachers that are better than we are, but do not fooled to think that they will ever have a better gospel than we do. They can never improve our gospel!

I think a great way to honor Christ during this time of communion could be to pray for the people that God has put in your life that you can share the gospel with. When you are done praying for them….PRAY FOR MORE!!!

If nothing else spend this time praising and thanking God for how sufficiently he has revealed himself in Christ.

When you receive the bread and the cup be filled with gratitude and thanks for even giving us this regular reminder…this sign that points us to his death and resurrection.

Isn’t it awesome to think about how for 2,000 years the preaching of the gospel and the bread and the cup have been all that the church has needed to persevere their faith in Christ?

To My Non-Christian Friend…

There were many in the crowds that saw his miracles and doubted.

He told them the truth but they did not listen. He even told them that he was going to die and be buried in the grave for three days and three nights just like Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights.

But even his closest friends and followers didn’t get it.

For as many times as predicted his own death and resurrection you would have thought everyone would have been expecting it. Read through the gospels sometime. That is not what happened at all.

Even while he was performing the very sign that would save them there were still doubters who demanded a sign and mocked him on the cross. The scriptures say there people in the crowds who yelled at him “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.”

The evidence is all there. What you need is to see that there is a holy God that you have offended, but because of his great love there is a suffering savior who died in your place if you would repent and believe in him.

Years ago one Christian author named John Bunyan actually described what it was like to have his eyes of his soul opened to Jesus.

This is from his book called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Listen and pray that God might do this for you tonight.

“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. And I said, ‘There is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.

I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ!!!…Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.”

Friends if you want peace with God tonight then repent of your unbelief and put your faith in this Jesus and his righteousness will be yours!


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Filed under Jonah, Luke, Preaching, Sermons, The Gospel

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