“Show us a Sign!”

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.  For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 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 something greater than Jonah is here.

Luke 11:29-32

This passage continues without interruption from the last. Jesus is responding to the request for a sign in verse 16, and Jesus is telling them that they already have their sign: Jesus Himself is a sign.

Of course I must also add that He just dazzled them by driving out a demon…

Scholars offer two interpretations of “the sign of Jonah” and I will offer a third. The first interpretation is that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites by virtue of his preaching repentance: He preached, they responded. Jesus is preaching the Word of God, and that is the sign; they must respond to it. The second interpretation is that Jonah came out of the great fish after having been in its belly for 3 days, and that was a miraculous sign to the Ninevites. Jesus will be killed and buried, and then rise from the grave, and thus, He gives the ultimate sign. My third interpretation is both of the above. His preaching is the sign they got that day, if you don’t count driving out the demon, and they will get one more sign when He bursts from the tomb. If they don’t respond to one of these, they have a problem.

The “Queen of the South” refers to the Queen of Sheba who traveled so many miles to give acclaim and affirmation to Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13). For “this present generation” both the Queen of Sheba and the Ninevites will condemn them if they do not respond in repentance, when the Day of Judgment arrives.

Jesus is just getting warmed up, and will discuss lamps, light and the crowd next time!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to “Show us a Sign!”

  1. dwmartens says:

    The 3 days point I have long recognized, but as I was reading the text before reading your comments, I saw for the first time in this passage the point that when Jonah preached, the Ninevites repented. Jesus was always pleading with the people to repent (as had John the Baptist)! And, indeed your comments confirmed what I had been missing. Thanks. The “sign of Jonah” was certainly a much greater sign than may first catch our notice.

  2. dwmartens says:

    It occurs to me that the people of Jesus’ day asked for a sign that was already before their eyes that they might believe in HIM, while today so many that are carrying signs that essentially ask us to believe in THEM! If only they would look to the One who was the only valid sign pointing to their eternal life with Him.

  3. I think Jonah died in the fish. What do you think?

  4. Mel Wild says:

    A side note on the second reason. The people of Nineveh worshipped Nanshe, the fish goddess, the daughter of Ea, the goddess of fresh water, and Dagon, the fish god, represented as half man and half-fish. So, the Ninevites probably listened to Jonah instead what they usually did to foreigners (kill and dismember them).

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