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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : XLIX. Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.

The Four-fold Gospel by J. W. McGarvey

XLIX. Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.

(Galilee on the Same Day as the Last Section.)

^A Matt. XII.38-45; ^C Luke XI.24-36.

^c 29 And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, ^a 38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. [Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought a miracle, so that their request shows that they wanted something different. We learn from Mark (Mark viii.11) that they wanted a sign, not coming from him, but from heaven, such a sign as other prophets and leaders had given (Ex. ix.22-24; xvi.4; Josh. x.12; I. Sam. vii.9, 10; xii.16-18; I. Kings xviii.36-38; II. Kings i.10; Isa. xxxviii.8). |In Jewish superstition it was held that demons and false gods could give signs on earth, but only the true God signs from heaven| (Alford ). The request was the renewal of the one which had assailed him at the beginning of his ministry (John ii.18 ), and re-echoed the wilderness temptation to advance himself by vulgar display rather than by the power of a life of divine holiness.] 39 But he answered and said unto them, { ^c he began to say,} This generation is an evil generation: it seeketh after a sign; ^a An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign [While the Jews of that generation could well be accused literally of adultery, Jesus here evidently uses it in its symbolic sense as used by the prophets. They represented Israel as being married to God and as being untrue to him -- Ex. xxxiv.15; Jer. iii.14, 20]; and there shall no sign be given to it, ^c but the sign of Jonah. ^a the prophet [They did not accept miracles of healing as a sign, and only one other kind of sign was given; viz.: that of Jonah. Jonah was shown to be a true prophet of God, and Nineveh received him as such because he was rescued from the fish's belly, and Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead -- Rom. i.4]: 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights. [Jesus was one full day, two full nights, and parts of two other days in the grave. But, as the Jews reckoned a part of a day as a whole day when it occurred at the beginning or end of a series, he was correctly spoken of as being three days in the grave. The Jews had three phrases, viz.: |on the third day,| |after three days,| and |three days and three nights,| which all meant the same thing; that is, three days, two of which might be fractional days. With them three full days and nights would be counted as four days unless the count began at sundown, the exact beginning of a day (Acts x.1-30). For instances of Jewish computation of days, see Gen. xlii.17, 18; I. Kings xii.5, 12; Esth. iv.16; v.1; Matt. xxvii.63, 64. The Greek word here translated |whale| is |sea monster.| It is called in Jonah |a great fish| (Jonah i.17). Because of the supposed smallness of the whale's throat, many think that it was the white shark, which is still plentiful in the Mediterranean, and which sometimes measures sixty feet in length, and is large enough to swallow a man whole. But it is now a well-established fact that whales can swallow a man, and there are many instances of such swallowings on record. The expression |heart of the earth| does not mean its center. The Jews used the word |heart| to denote the interior of anything (Ezek. xxviii.2). The phrase is here used as one which would emphatically indicate the actual burial of Christ.] ^c 30 For even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. [Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, situated on the Tigris River, and in its day the greatest city of the world. Jonah's preservation was a sign from heaven, because wrought without human instrumentality. The resurrection of Christ was such a sign to the Jews, but rejecting it, they continued to seek other signs -- I. Cor. i.22.] ^a 41 The men of Nineveh shall stand up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here. [Literally, repented into the teaching of Jonah. The meaning is that they repented so that they followed the course of life which the preaching prescribed. The phrase, |stand up,| refers to the Jewish and Roman custom which required the witness to stand up while testifying in a criminal case. The idea here is that the Ninevites, having improved the lesser advantage or privilege, would condemn the Jews for having neglected the greater. Nineveh's privilege may be counted thus: a sign-accredited prophet preaching without accompanying miracles, and a forty-day period of repentance. In contrast to this the Jewish privileges ran thus: the sign-accredited Son of God preaching, accompanied by miracles, in which many apostles and evangelists participated, a forty-year period in which to repent.] 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: { ^c with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them:} for she came from the ends of the earth [a Hebraism, indicating a great distance] to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. [The queen of Sheba is supposed to have been queen of Sabæa, or Arabia Felix, which lies in the southern part of the peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. But Josephus says she was from Ethiopia in Africa. Her testimony will also be based on the compared privileges, which stand thus: notwithstanding the dangers and inconveniences, she came a great distance to be taught of Solomon, but the Jews rejected the teaching of the Son of God, though he brought it to them. The teaching of Solomon related largely to this world, but Christ taught as to the world to come.] ^a 43 But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places [places which are as cheerless to him as deserts are to man], seeking rest, and findeth it not. [Rest is the desire of every creature. Jesus here gives us a graphic description of utter wretchedness.] ^c and finding none, ^a 44 Then he saith, I will return into { ^c turn back unto} my house [he still claimed it as his property] whence I came out.25 And when he is come, he findeth it ^a empty, swept, and garnished. [It was empty, having no indwelling Spirit, swept of all righteous impressions and good influences, and garnished with things inviting to an evil spirit.] 45 Then [seeing this inviting condition] goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits [to reinforce and entrench himself] more evil than himself [while all demons are wicked they are not equally so], and they enter in and dwell there [take up their permanent abode there]: and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation. [In the application of this parable, we should bear in mind that it tells of two states or conditions experienced by one man, and the comparison is between these two states or conditions and not between the condition of the man and other men. Such being the parable, the application of it is plain, for Jesus says, |Even so shall it be unto this evil generation.| We are not, therefore, to compare that generation with any previous one, as many do; for such would be contrary to the terms of the parable. It is simply an assertion that the last state of that generation would be worse than the first. The reference is to the continually increasing wickedness of the Jews, which culminated in the dreadful scenes which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. They were now like a man with one evil spirit; they would then be like a man with seven more demons added, each of which was worse than the original occupant.] ^c 27 And it came to pass, as he said these things, a certain woman out of the multitude lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts which thou didst suck. [This woman is the first on record to fulfill Mary's prediction (Luke i.48). It is the only passage in the New Testament which even suggests the idolatry of Mariolatry, but it was far enough from it, being merely a womanly way of expressing admiration for the son by pronouncing blessings upon the mother who was so fortunate as to bear him.] 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. [Jesus does not deny the fact that Mary was blessed, but corrects any false idea with regard to her by pointing to the higher honor of being a disciple which was attainable by every one. Mary's blessing as a disciple was greater than her blessing as a mother; her moral and spiritual relation to Jesus was more precious than her maternal. Mary's blessings came through believing God's word (Luke i.45). To know Christ after the Spirit is more blessed than to know him after the flesh -- II. Cor. v.15, 16; John xvi.7.] 33 No man, when he hath lighted a lamp, putteth it in a cellar, neither under a bushel, but on the stand, that they which come in may see the light.34 The lamp of thy body is thine eye: when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when it is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.35 Look therefore whether the light that is in thee be not darkness.36 If therefore thy whole body be full of light, as when the lamp with its bright shining doth give thee light. [This passage given in a slightly varying form is found in the Sermon on the Mount. See page 256. It is here addressed to the Pharisees and reproves them for not using the light (his miracles) which was given to them. If they had had an eye single to goodness, Christ's light would have enlightened their souls. But their eye was double; they desired wonders and spectacular signs.]

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