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In Luke 11:29 we have Jesus saying:

"...no sign will be given to [this generation] except the sign of Jonah."

Yet Jesus had just cast out a demon. Did He say this because the people in His midst were "seeking from Him a sign from heaven" and He felt his present miracles should be sufficient? In that case, why weren't his current miracles enough? Jesus also mentions "your sons cast them out." Was this common practice in His day? Is that why the casting out of demons wasn't enough for the crowd in order to prove He was the Christ?

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    The 'sign of Jonah' may have referred to the fact that Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish and He would spend three days in the grave then both returned to life. – BYE Jun 14 '16 at 11:17
  • This is my best guess. – Matt Cremeens Jun 14 '16 at 11:57
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To the question as to why casting out demons was not enough to prove to some that he was the Christ, some believed that such power was not from God:

33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." 34 But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons." - Matthew 9:33-34 ESV

While the Pharisees witnessed these miracles, they did not believe that they came from God. He of course also multiplied bread, walked on water, healed deformities, and resurrected the dead, but there were still many who refused to believe. The understanding of who is and who is not able to truly believe is debated among Calvanists and Arminians, and is beyond the scope of your question, but the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man provides some additional context as to why no sign would be given:

27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house- 28 for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" - Luke 16:27-31 ESV

The sign that the Pharisees wanted was one from heaven. They simply did not see Jesus's own miracles as being divine. Much like Jonah, Jesus is delivering a message from the Father, rather than the Father sending a sign.

In short, no sign would have changed the minds of the Pharisees, and none would be given because all that is necessary for true faith was already being provided, as the disciples and followers demonstrated.

  • I probably should have narrowed the question down asking for a particular perspective because I'm still perplexed as to how so many signs were provided, yet none proved to be weighty enough for some. To a finer point, can you answer why Jesus said no sign would be given in spite of the fact that we know several were? – Matt Cremeens Jun 13 '16 at 12:49
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    Maybe I should clarify my response, but the distinction is that Jesus performed miracles, but the sign they wanted was from heaven certifying or justifying Jesus's authority. Hence the sign from Jonah. Jonah was a messenger, and the message was enough. God did not appear directly to the people of Nineva. – Jon the Architect Jun 13 '16 at 15:20
  • That clears it up and is consistent with what I have been contemplating today. I appreciate your response. The Bible has many instances that appear mysterious to me at first glance and this is one such situation. As a lover of truth and a lover of the Word, understanding things like these are important to me, so I greatly appreciate insights like these. – Matt Cremeens Jun 13 '16 at 15:33
  • Thanks, and thanks for the feedback on improving my answer! I added that clarification that you pointed out. – Jon the Architect Jun 13 '16 at 15:55
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The short answer is human nature. The people of Jesus' time knew they needed help: Roman oppression, poverty, misery, religious confusion, division. Many false prophets and revolutionaries had arisen and failed to deliver. From their standpoint, any Jewish person would want proof that this new person promising help can deliver on his promise and not disappoint them or get them in worse trouble with the empire. That is why the people ask for a sign. The tricky question is why Jesus appears to refuse their seemingly honest, legitimate request.

Compare Luke 11:29-36 with a parallel passage in Matthew 6:19-24 that also speaks about eyes, seeing and light. When speaking of the Queen of the South and the people of Nineveh being more receptive to the words of the prophets than they are, he is shaming them, because those people, though they were pagan, yet recognized the light of God's wisdom and obeyed it. They acted in faith given much smaller demonstrations - signs - of God's power than Jesus had already performed.

Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

The Matthew passage helps explain what is meant by "the light within". It is greed and materialism. It is a hunger for earthly treasures, not heavenly ones. Jesus is telling them that healthy eyes - eyes looking for heavenly treasures - already had enough evidence that he was a prophet and more. He was telling them that their problem was not his failure to present a sign, it was their spiritual blindness brought on by their sinful hearts.

Now returning to Luke 11:29-36

29 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. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 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. 32 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.

The Lamp of the Body 33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

To the people demanding a sign, Jesus is saying that the ball is really in their court. It is not he who has to prove his authority, it is they who have to "see to it" that they purge the darkness from their hearts so that they can see what is already in front of them.

It is also interesting that Jesus is telling them to believe now based on a sign he will perform at a later date - namely his own resurrection. Recall Exodus 3, when Moses argued with God before the burning bush over his unworthiness.

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”

The greatest of the signs that God promised to Moses was what would happen if he obeyed, and would only come after he obeyed. That is what Jesus is offering, and unlike Moses who obeyed despite his initial reluctance, they are determined to refuse.

  • I especially like your point about God asking us to believe in miracles yet to come. – Matt Cremeens Jun 13 '16 at 12:46
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    It occurs to me now - Jesus IS the sign. They asked for a sign, and he was standing in front of them. – Paul Chernoch Jun 13 '16 at 17:04

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