The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
 "But you cannot interpret the signs of the times"

Scripture:  Matthew 16:1-4

1 And the Pharisees and Sad'ducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.' 3 And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed.
Meditation: How good are you at reading warning signs?  Jesus expects his disciples to accurately read the signs of the times! Farmers and seafarers know the importance of spotting weather conditions for safe travel and planting. A lot of effort is made today, with the help of science and technology, to discern potential natural dangers, such as tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earth quakes, and erupting volcanoes, so that people can be warned to take shelter before disaster hits. Our need for accurately discerning spiritual danger is even more necessary if we want to avoid moral and spiritual crisis and disaster.

Why did the religious leaders ask Jesus for a sign? It was characteristic of the Jews that they demanded "signs" from God's messengers to authenticate their claims. Jesus calls them an "evil and adulterous generation." The kind of adultery Jesus had in mind here was very like "spiritual" adultery. The image of adultery was often used in the scriptures for describing apostasy or infidelity towards God. When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims he says in so many words that he is God's sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. The Ninevites recognized God's warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented. And the Queen of Sheba recognized God's wisdom in Solomon. Jonah was God's sign and his message was the message of God for the people of Nineveh. Unfortunately the religious leaders in the time of Jesus were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God's Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message. Simeon had prophesied at Jesus' birth that he was "destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed" (Luke 2:34- 35).

Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all his resurrection on the third day. The Lord Jesus through the gift of his Holy Spirit offers us freedom from sin and deception, and he gives us wisdom for our lives, if we are willing to listen. Do you thirst for God's wisdom? James says that "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity" (James 3:17). A double-minded person cannot receive this kind of wisdom. The single of heart and mind desire one thing alone   God who is the source of all goodness, truth, beauty, wisdom and holiness. Ask the Lord to renew your mind and to increase your thirst for his truth and wisdom.

"Lord Jesus, may I wholly desire your truth and wisdom for my life. Help me to discern truth from error and to recognize your good will and plan for my life."


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(c) 2007 Don Schwager