English blog

The definitive sign

16-03-2016 - Posted by Andre Piet


39 Yet He, answering, said to them, “A generation, wicked and an adulteress, for a sign is seeking, and a sign will not be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 40 For even as Jonah was in the bowel of the sea monster three days and three nights, thus will the Son of Mankind be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. -Matthew 12-

These words are a response to the request of the scribes and Pharisees for a sign. Till that moment Jesus’ entire ministry was characterized by performing miracles. But the orthodox, religious leaders were not open minded and they even reached the point of ascribing the miracles to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. That was not primarily a slander of the “Son of Man” (Ben Adam), but it was slandering the Spirit of God who did this through Him.

An adulteress

Jesus denounces their request sharply and calls them a generation, wicked and “an adulteress”. This phrase reminds us to what was said to the people of Israel during their journey through the wilderness. When they did not listen to the words of Joshua (!), one of the men who had explored the promised land, they were told that their generation would die in the wilderness because of their prostitutions. (Numbers 14:33)

Buried in the middle of the sea

Jesus here foretells that his generation would be given only one sign: the sign of Jonah the prophet. Jonah was buried in the middle of the sea and swallowed up by a “big fish” and he was in it for three days and three nights. Now, in the same way also “the Ben Adam” would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The heart of the land

“The heart of the earth” can also be shown as “the heart of the land”. Earth and land are identical concepts both in Hebrew and in Greek. The term refers to the center, the heart of the land: the city of Jerusalem. That is surely the place where Jesus was placed in the tomb (Unveiling 11:8), even though it was outside the gates. In that tomb He stayed for three days and three nights.

Three days and three nights

According to the prevailing view Jesus died on a Friday and He arose on the Sunday morning, but the problem with that view is that we indeed can count three days (pars pro toto – a part is counted as a whole), but we cannot count three nights. Elsewhere on this site I explained that in my opinion Jesus was not crucified on Friday, but on Thursday and that He was in the tomb for two consecutive Sabbaths: the annual Sabbath of Nissan/Aviv 15th on Friday and the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. Therefore the Greek text of Matthew 28:1 speaks of “the evening of the Sabbaths” (plural).

After three nights the tomb was empty

However that may be: as Jonah was buried in the sea for three days and three nights, so would “the Ben Adam” be in the heart of the land for three days and three nights. That is the definitive sign that “this generation” would receive. Please note that it is not said that subsequently they would be witnesses to the resurrection. Indeed that did not happen. In his resurrection Jesus explicitly did not show himself to the people, but only to the witnesses who were designated in advance (Acts 10:41). Just before his death, he had declared in the upper room:

19 Still a little and the world is beholding Me no longer, yet you are beholding Me. Seeing that I am living, you also will be living. -John 14:19-

The only definitive sign to Jesus’ generation was his stay in the tomb in “the heart of the land” for “three days and three nights”. Thereafter Jesus’ tomb was empty. Friend and foe were to agree. The empty tomb had to be ‘explained away’ by the religious leaders and they did it by accusing Jesus’ disciples of stealing. But how evil this statement may be, it only puts the undeniable fact of the empty tomb in the spotlights! 1_blog_13MB