The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13

The Sign of Jonah

Today’s is a short passage from Matthew and Mark, with a somewhat obscure reference to the prophet Jonah.  It provides a glimpse into the duplicity of human hearts, Jesus’ call for sincerity, and what our Lord considered his greatest sign of all.

The Pharisees come to Jesus arguing with him and demanding a sign.  Perhaps you have been in a similar situation, at least as that pertains to argument.  An unbeliever or skeptic comes to you arguing certain points of the Bible, of which he knows just enough to be ignorant.  When I say ignorant, I mean he is ignorant of the Bible as a whole.  He has more than likely read or heard of something in it that he thought was strange, perhaps something about clothing or diet in the Pentateuch.  He knows that you don’t observe that rule, and then interrogates you according to some method he has strategized for weeks.  No matter what you say, he has anticipated your response and answers accordingly.  You see the glee in his eyes as he catches you off-guard on some obscure biblical point.  He feigns sincerity as he only wishes to know more about the Bible, which is, of course, hogwash, and you both know it but can’t say it.  (I speak like a man of experience, don’t I?)

Well, Jesus refuses to engage such people, knowing that it is quite pointless to cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).  He sighs deeply, indicts the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in knowing weather-related signs but not the “signs of the times,” and tells them that the only sign their “evil and adulterous” generation would receive is the “sign of Jonah.”  Jesus referred to Jonah on another occasion when addressing the Pharisees saying, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).  This, of course, is a reference to our Lord’s death and resurrection, his time in the tomb bodily and among the dead spiritually, until his resurrection, both bodily and spiritually, on the third day.

And it is this sign that conquers death, the grave, and hell, a sign that no unbeliever can understand until he comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  No amount of argument will convince anybody, especially someone who just wants to argue for the sake of argument.  We do live among an evil and adulterous generation; keep your hearts pure and be careful before whom you cast your pearls.  When sincere, this sign can conquer the hardest heart.

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