Journal Matt 16 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
(Jesus) answered them, “When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today for the sky is red and threatening.”
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So, he left them and departed.” Matt 16:1-4
Observation: Sounds innocent, except it is not. “Give me a sign, please.” Jesus replied, “Check out Jonah for the answer to your request…”
Analysis: This is where many folk skips to the next section of Matthew 16 because of the reference to read (and understand) Jonah. “He got swallowed by a whale and spit out later; what kind of sign is that?”
Why ask for a sign? What did the Pharisees and Sadducees want of a sign? Why does anyone want a sign?
This is not theological at all, but what do I use a sign for? Information, direction, and authorization. Take Stop signs for instance: Everyone is supposed to heed Stop signs on the road. Everyone stops when they are supposed to—all do it the same way—note: no character change is involved; it is just outward compliance. All signs are like that. Put any sign into this word equation and a similar answer pops out. Why obey/pay attention to signs? Because they are the physical manifestation of a power and authority greater than me.
What was the question of the Pharisees/Sadducees? Could it have been as simple as “Show me your authorization for the stuff you do and the demands you make by showing me a Sign?” Basically: “Who are You to tell me what to do? You aren’t my Boss; you aren’t my Daddy…”
That rebellion, which lives in me, is on full display in the religious Pharisee and Sadducee. They want to bow to an outward sign.
But what is the sign of Jonah? Repent. Repent from my wicked ways. Everything that is in opposition to the rule and reign of God is the definition of wicked. Wicked can be an action; it also encompasses my thoughts. Bowing to God isn’t an, “Ok, you win this one”, it is the attitude of surrender in every portion of my being.
Prayer: Father, sin is easy to define. Sin is harder to recognize. Open my eyes to see the sin in my life, courage in my heart to confess it openly, and determination to actually effect repentance—and, if need be, over and over and over again until You drive it out, O Spirit.
Walking hand in hand for sanctification, AMEN