Teachings of Jesus — Matthew 12:38-50

We can easily see how most religions in this world seek to make converts. The adherents consider it their duty to share what they regard as the ultimate universal religion for all humanity. The Hebrew Scriptures are loaded with prophetic commands to live so as to demonstrate God’s revelation to the world, to expect that a miraculous life of shalom would see the world beating a path to the doors of the Temple. But the prophetic messages also warned this would not work if the nation was not consistent in their faithfulness.

Israel failed this mission. They were too busy scrabbling for what they felt God owed them to worry about enlightening the Gentiles. And it didn’t wait until Jesus’ day to consider it treason to bear the message to foreigners. The prophet Jonah refused God’s call to preach in the Assyrian capital; he wanted them to die and go to Hell. In this, Jonah was typical of his nation. If anything, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were even more hostile to the Gentiles. One of their false Messianic Expectations was seeing the Gentiles come submissively to be their slaves, bringing all the treasures of their nations with them as an offering to the Hebrew God. They were in no hurry to convert Gentiles and dilute their mythical inheritance.

So when yet another delegation of Pharisees came to Him asking to see one of His miracle signs so they could evaluate His claims, Jesus flatly refused. His generation was incapable of recognizing a genuine sign because they were morally degenerate and adulterous — another way of saying idolatrous, worshiping just about anything except Jehovah. Instead, He told them they would see no miracles until they understood the message of Jonah. They didn’t get to pick and choose upon whom God would have mercy; that was God’s prerogative alone.

And just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the beast, so the Messiah would be three days and nights in the grave. Jonah was thrown into the sea as a ransom for those on the ship he had wrongly involved in his rebellion. Jesus would be thrown into the earth as a ransom for all of humanity. Like Jonah, Jesus would then return from His prison alive and prepared to spread His message in ways Jonah could not have imagined.

Jesus wasn’t shy about warning them. The Ninevites repented at the word of a foreign prophet; the Jews rejected the message of their own Messiah. The Queen of Sheba traveled far in her own discomfort without waiting for an invitation to meet with Solomon; the Jews couldn’t be bothered to recognize their new King born in their midst.

Then Jesus refers to something poorly understood in the modern West. Demons would occasionally leave their victims just to play with their minds. We saw it with Saul, for example, or the Gadarene Demoniac. When Jesus got involved, they were evicted permanently, but when the Pharisees claimed to have driven one out, it was likely just a case of short respite. They would recognize the situation Jesus described here, where a demon would leave, then come back with a vengeance. He was saying here that the Jewish leaders were still at the mercy of demons, unable to free themselves permanently because they had no moral authority in the first place. Bear in mind that walking faithfully in the Covenant is what kept demons out, and it was the failure of Jewish leadership to keep the Covenant that saw so many demons infesting Jewish people in the first place.

Apparently He was somewhere indoors during this exchange, because we see someone outside trying to get His attention. He was told it was His mother and siblings. In general terms, they did not follow His teaching, and certainly didn’t take seriously His claims to be Messiah. Jesus pointed to those inside the room who did follow Him. They couldn’t bring themselves to step inside, in an atmosphere where the presence of His disciples would prevent them treating Him as someone needing their guidance. Jesus said, “This is my real family. These are the people who are faithful to my Father in Heaven.”

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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