Looking for signs

Luke 2:12 – “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Out driving this week I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town looking for a recording studio that one of my daughters had a recording session at. I was busy trying to drive as well as look for the studio in what was a pretty poorly lit area. As I was driving I turned onto a road and felt an uncomfortable feeling as I noticed all of the cars that were parked on the side of the road all pointing towards me. I was filled with dread thinking that I must have turned the wrong way onto a one-way road. The only thing I could do was to frantically look for an indication that I was ok! Well, a few seconds later (although it seemed like I’d been driving for ever!) I noticed a sign pointing towards me, reassuring me that the road I was on was a two way road and I wasn’t about to be the cause of a nasty collision.

The sign reassured me that I was ok. It pointed out to me the the truth that the road was a two way road. The important thing was not the sign – the sign didn’t say anything about itself – it only pointed to the road.

In the Bible signs are objects that point to the truth. Signs are not important if the truth has already been established. They might reassure us of the truth, but they are not the reason the sign exists. Signs are not for signs. Signs show us the truth and say nothing of themselves. The angels, in the above Bible passage, proclaim to the shepherds that the sign of the truth of the previous verses that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’. The sign that will prove this to be true is that “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”.

What is the lesson we learn from this? Well as I was contemplating the issue of signs I was reminded of the time when some of the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, and asked “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38). Jesus response is informative:

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

Here are three main things Jesus says about signs:

1. Sign seeking – and not Christ seeking – is evil

The scribes and Pharisees are saying “show us a sign to prove Jesus was the Saviour”. Jesus’ response: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign (v39). How often we can get caught in that trap. Here’s the solution: God wants us to be more interested in Him, than what we can get from Him. What damage we do when all we have is a shopping list of things that we want God to do? Jesus said, “if that’s all you’re seeking me for? Thats evil”

2. No other sign apart from the resurrection of Jesus

No sign will be given except the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection would be a “sign” to Israel, just as Jonah’s “coming forth from the fish” was a sign to Ninevah. 

3. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Jesus said in verse 41 that people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, and yet someone greater than Jonah was standing in front of them (and they wanted a sign). In the story of Jonah, Jonah had lots of information about God and hardened his heart. The scribes and Pharisees (and by extension, us), should not be like Jonah but like Nineveh. Quick to repent. Earnest in keep our relationship hot. 

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