Matthew 12: 38–42: 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 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. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Over forty years ago, I had a conversation with a graduate from a liberal Lutheran seminary. We argued about things like creation and miracles being real. I said to him, “If Jesus compared his resurrection from the grave to Jonah’s coming out of the belly of the fish, and that story is just a myth, then how can we be sure Jesus rose from the dead?” And he said, “We can’t.” I was aghast. “Then how can we be sure we will be saved?” I asked. He said, “We can’t be sure about that either.” I always wondered what he preached on Easter Sunday!
We have something greater than Jonah and greater than Solomon. We have Jesus, who died for our sins and who rose again for our justification. There is no message more powerful than the message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The more I study the details of the story, the more I am convinced that these were not “cleverly devised stories,” as Peter said in his letter. They were eyewitnesses of what happened on that Easter Sunday. I really happened. And so did the atonement for our sins really happen. And so will our own resurrection really happen. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, my prayer today is that your resurrection message to us yesterday will not be just a yearly celebration, but a daily reminder in our lives. Just as you died and you came alive, so we die with you and rise with you every day in the newness of life. I pray that I will not only believe in your resurrection, but live it! Amen.
Matthew 12: 43-45: 43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
Here is how I understand these verses. You have to be filled with something. Your heart will never be an empty vessel. In our life of repentance, if we throw out the evil thing that is occupying our mind and heart, something has to take its place. That something or someone is Jesus. If we focus on Jesus, our heart will be filled with joy and peace and goodness and kindness. Evil won’t have room to set up house.
Without Jesus, we would go from bad to worse, like the Pharisees. First we would work hard to change our lives, and we might actually accomplish that. But then, if we do not have Jesus, we will think that we are very good and godly people, just like the Pharisees, and think that we must certainly have earned God’s favor. Self-righteous is not better than wicked, it is worse than wicked.
That’s why we cannot get enough of Jesus. Only Jesus can give us the “full life” of a child of God. Only Jesus can make us godly people without becoming self-righteous people. Remember that your heart and mind must be filled with something. What will you fill your heart and mind with today?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, You are my all in all, my everything. When my heart is full of thoughts of you, then I am content. I am at peace. I am fulfilled. Keep me from dwelling on anything that would take my eyes off of your! Amen.
Matthew 12: 46-50: 46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
“Nothing is stronger than blood.” Maybe you have heard people say that. Friends are important, but nothing is stronger than blood (family). There is some truth to that statement. Your family is important, and often more important than friends.
But Jesus reminds us of a bond that is even stronger than blood. It’s the bond of faith that we have in Jesus as our Savior. He calls us his family – his brothers and sisters and parents. When you are in desperate need, your friends may not be there for you. Your family may not rise up to help you. But there is one to whom we can turn who will never fail us, and that is Jesus.
Just to make it clear that this is what Jesus meant, we need to understand what it means to do the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus told us in John 6:40. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Trust in Jesus because he is the Friend who will never let you down.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, who have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing that I desire besides you. You are the Strength of my life and my portion forever! Thank you for being my dearest friend, one who is even closer than a brother. Amen.