Understand the Times
Standard; Mt 16:1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said to 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 foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
4 "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed.
A little backdrop here from Chapter 15. Jesus had just fed the 4,000 and now He hops in a boat to the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Lo and behold a group of Pharisees and Sadducees meet up with Him and purpose to put Him to their litmus test to prove He is the Messiah.
First of all, these Pharisees and Sadducees are strange bedfellows. Think of the most legalistic, hypocritical, ceremonial branch of Christianity you know of and unite it with the most liberal, loose living, rationalistic Christianity you know of. Now imagine them coming together in a united front for anything!
This is an Obama Reagan ticket! A Packers Bears love in. It's Neenah/Menasha playing a game just for fun!
Yet these Pharisees and Sadducees had a common cause. They saw this Jesus as a threat to both of them, and so they sought to expose this man they felt was luring people away from their brand of religion.
Jesus is a threat to the liberal rationalist Sadducee because of His insistence upon faith, and He is a threat to the legalist Pharisee because of His insistence upon grace.
So they come to challenge the claims of Jesus by demanding a sign in the heavens. Never mind the “earthy” miracles, like turning water into wine, or feeding 4,000, or healing of bodily ailments, or spiritual ailments, or raising someone from the dead. That's earthly stuff....we want fireworks!
C'mon Messiah! Joshua made the sun and moon stand still! Aren't You greater than he?
Elijah caused fire to fall from heaven! Aren't You greater than he. Isaiiah turned the sun back 10 degrees on the sundial. Aren't You greater than he? The logic seems impeccable doesn't it? “Just one sign in the heavens Jesus and we will believe you!”
Oh, if these people only understood what they were asking. Heavenly signs are usually reserved for judgment,
In Joshua's case the sun and moon were stopped until “the people had revenge upon their enemies.” Elijah's “fire” licked up 400 prophets of Baal. In Isaiah's case the sign seemed to be a good thing. The sign was given to show that the clock would be turned back for Hezekiah and he would be given 15 more years of life. So what did he do with those 15 years? He showed off all the treasures of the house of the Lord to the Babylonians, and the Lord judged Israel and turned Hezekiah's sons over to the Babylonians.
These people didn't know what they were asking for! Jesus in His mercy did not grant them their wish.
James and John made the same mistake when they asked for a heavenly sign from Jesus:
Lu 9:54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.
You see, Jesus is here the first time around for grace and mercy, and deliverance, and salvation. All of His signs were and are used for these purposes! They pointed to grace, mercy, deliverance, and salvation. Not so the next time He comes. The next time we see a sign from heaven it will be the Son of Man coming on the clouds to judge the living and the dead!
In Mt 24:29 Jesus speaks of that day as a day when the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” These heavenly bodies will become undone simply by the awesome holiness of the righteous Judge re-enters our universe!
Believe me, you don't want heavenly signs unless you are ready to meet your Maker, and you are only ready to meet your Maker through faith in Jesus Christ.
“He answered and said to them, “You guys know how to read physical signs, “red sky in the morning sailors take warning, red sky at night sailors delight! (No Dramamine needed!) But you can't see the plain spiritual signs right before your eyes!
When John the Baptist had doubts about Jesus being the Messiah, Jesus pointed him to the signs given by Isaiah: Mt 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. John interpreted the signs correctly, the Sadduphars didn't.
Actors! You act as the spiritual leaders of Israel, but neither one of you can see the spiritual significance of the signs that I have performed, None of you have been able to see their connection with mercy, grace, deliverance, or salvation!
(Bible reading hint) As you come across the miracles of Jesus, look for the traits of grace, mercy, deliverance, and salvation. These miracles were done so that you may believe that He by His mercy and through His grace is able to save and deliver you from the Judgment to come!
But what about us? What about the signs of our times? Are we capable of reading them? Do we have a sense of urgency for the late hour? Are we fervently praying for the salvation of souls? Friends, the end is near! It could come at any time!
Jesus, speaking of the end said in Mt 24:14, “And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” Well, that's pretty much been accomplished.
In Revelation 6:10,11, the martyrs who have been slain for their witness to the faith cry out from under the altar, “How long Lord?” And the reply was, “rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who would be killed as they were, was completed.”
With every slain martyr, we are that much closer to the end!
Another sign of the end given by Jesus in Mt 24:12 "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Lawlessness, (the blatant ignoring of the commands of God!) Love of God and love of neighbor growing cold!
The Lutheran commentator Lenski mentions other signs such as the spread of Christless altars, (all roads lead to heaven!) Open attacks on the Bible. (Whole synods have said the Bible is just a collection of stories with valuable moral lessons.) The Apostle Paul spoke of the latter times being earmarked by itchy ears, only desiring what they want to hear and not the truth.
Now, here's the thing. If all we are going to do is talk about the signs....then we are no better than the Sadduphars. Read the signs! Believe the signs! Act on the signs! The signs point to a soon coming King!
When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth. Faith that is not taken for granted but hotly pursued through daily time in the prayer closet, locked up with Him and the Word, interceding on behalf of the lost, passionately pleading with Him for souls. Then leaving the prayer closet prepared to act on what He has wrought in your heart with His Word.
The Sadduphars wanted signs in order to believe. Jesus called such people wicked and adulterers! But not only them, He labeled all who seek signs as wicked and adulterous. Are we living in a sign seeking, wicked and adulterous generation? What do you think?
Oh, how our faith wavers when the Lord doesn't move favorably on our behalf. Oh how quick we are to turn away from Him when our miracle doesn't come. What have You done for me lately Jesus?
Hear the reply of Jesus. The only sign that a such a sign seeking generation will receive is the sign of Jonah, which is the sign of the resurrection. Do with it what you will. That sign stands from the moment it happened and will last until He comes again. Only this time His glorified resurrected body will be seen by all, not just the Apostles and the other 500 plus eyewitnesses.
He rose from the dead! A sign that there will one day be a bodily resurrection for all. Some to eternal bliss, and to those who deny even that sign.......eternal damnation.
Now, does that mean that there will be no further signs? Is the age of miracles over? Hardly. God still performs miracles and answers prayer, and every answer is a reminder, a pointer to His mercy, grace, deliverance, and salvation.
But to the one who sneers at such a notion and demands something more spectacular might as well not hold their breath waiting for a sign, they wouldn't recognize it if it hit them in the face anyway, and the only sign they will ever get from God is that nagging empty tomb. Do with it what you will.
Friends, the hour is near. Will He find you in the faith when He returns? Do you find your faith wavering? May I suggest that you go back to the sign of Jonah....the empty tomb and all that it means. It is our blessed hope. This one sign is enough to save even the sadduphars....it can save you.
The neat thing is that when you believe in the resurrected Christ, you open the door of possibilities for further signs and wonders.
And this sign alone should send you to the prayer closet, driving you into God's Word and allowing Him to drive it into you, because the empty tomb means that He will come again, and if he comes again, we need to be ready, and as we have already pointed out all the signs of the times point to a soon return.
Church of Jesus Christ! Prepare for His return. Stop slacking off. That doesn't mean that we need to go to the mount of Olives with our mouths open and gaping to the sky. It simply means live life in the power of the Spirit, and the power of the Spirit is found through prayer, and prayer is a two way conversation with God that can only be enriched as you get to know Him better, and you get to know Him better by getting into His Word.