As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32 NASB)
By this point in His ministry, Jesus had done quite a few mind-boggling miracles. He'd raised a dead boy on his way to the grave, and a dead girl while the mourners wept. He'd fed a multitude, given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and healing to untold numbers of people. News had spread throughout the nation. Crowds had begun to gather and were increasing daily.
Jesus knew that the crowds were not there to hear His simple sermons with tough challenges. They had not come in search of ways to love their neighbor or forgive their enemies. They wanted to see a sign, a miracle that would prove His power.
Lest I seem to condemn the crowds, I have to admit that, if I had heard the news that Jesus did miracles, I'd have wanted to see a miracle, too. I'd prefer to console myself by saying that the miracle would have drawn me, but the truth would have kept me. The reality is that's pride talking.
I hate to confess this, but I would have been the one saying, "I thought they said He did miracles. All He's done so far is talk." Someone in the crowd might have whispered, "He does the miracles at the end." I might have waited to see. If there were no miracles, though, I would not have gone back. I want to see to believe, and it is a distinct disadvantage in matters of faith.
At last, Jesus confronted the crowds. "This generation is wicked... it seeks a sign. No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah." Jonah's ministry had been centuries earlier. It was "old news", and must have seemed like an odd sign.
What the crowds couldn't know was that Jesus would give them the most important sign of all. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, apparently lost forever, Jesus would be in the "belly of the earth" for three days. It would appear that He, too, was dead and gone, all hope lost.
At the point where despair was about to overtake all hope, Jesus would arise, conquering death and sin. The Sign of Jonah would become obvious. It hadn't happened yet, and Jesus didn't explain. Instead of words, He would show them the sign of a risen Savior.
Later, Jesus would say, "You believe in God, believe also in Me." When He walked out of the tomb, many did believe, but not everyone.
The crowds of Jesus' day wanted signs rather than truth. They wanted to be entertained, not challenged and changed. Are we any different? What is it that we want from Jesus? Do we want signs and entertainment or truth, challenge, and change?
Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Never once did He suggest we should stay the same. He said we were to be light in the darkness, and that begins by replacing our own darkness with His light.
Today, let us pray that the sign we seek would be that of a redeemed and transformed life, that we, too, might shine bright in the darkness that surrounds us.