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.
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!