29 As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. 30 What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.
31 “The queen of Sheba will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 32 The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.
As we know from earlier records in Luke, crowds were following Jesus. Charles W. Swindoll says in his commentary, Living Insights: Luke: “Jesus shined brighter than any prophet. He fed multitudes with abundance taken from virtually nothing. He worked hundreds, perhaps thousands of miracles. He cleansed lepers. He raised the dead. He cast out demons. He commanded nature.” (pg. 328) No wonder crowds followed Jesus around.
Yet some, especially the Pharisees, rejected Jesus. Others just weren’t sure, and wanted more proof. Jesus gives them two examples of situations where people believed in God with much less evidence. Jonah went to a Gentile nation known for its barbaric practices, and preached about their need for repentance. They listened to this Jewish preacher.
“The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.” (Jonah 3: 5 – 6)
The Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem because she had heard about Solomon’s wisdom and his immense wealth. After talking with Solomon, she said: ”How happy your people[a] must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10: 8 – 9)
Jesus has shown much greater evidence of being sent from God than Jonah and Solomon, yet the people reject him – especially the religious Pharisees.
Receiving the Light
33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.
34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
Jesus told them if they received God’s true message, that Jesus was the Messiah, their lives would be “radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” We can certainly see that in the gospel accounts of the 12 disciples, and in Acts as we see them make such a difference on God’s behalf. But you fool yourself if you think you know what is important, but reject Jesus. Then you are actually filled with darkness. Again, Jesus is telling us there is no in-between. You are either for God or against him.
Intervarsity Press’ online commentary has some excellent comments on these verses and how they apply to us today:
“It is popular in our day to be neutral. In a culture where tolerance is highly valued, nonpartisanship is attractive. In religious discussions we try to avoid stepping on toes, for in Western cultures religious views are generally considered private. We want to avoid offending others in a culture that is diverse. But neutrality is not always a good thing, and neither is polite disengagement. Some issues are important enough to require our considered choices. That is Jesus’ premise in this passage.
If God exists, should we think of him as having a laissez-faire attitude, not interested in how we relate to him? Jesus argues that is not the case. Religion by its very nature is a public affair, since it deals with how people relate to reality and to others. Though religious coercion such as marred European history in the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War is wrong, so is our culture’s tendency to relegate religious concerns to the fringe world of private reflection. The issues are too important to be kept peripheral. Ultimately, we must ask each other: What centers our lives, what do we accept as truth, what defines our character? And so, in this short passage Jesus calls us to consider what directs our lives.”
Our song for today is You Never Let Go by Matt Redman.