Matthew 12:39 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 12:39, NIV: He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 12:39, ESV: But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 12:39, KJV: But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

Matthew 12:39, NASB: But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves asign; and so nosign will be given to it except thesign of Jonah the prophet;

Matthew 12:39, NLT: But Jesus replied, 'Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 12:39, CSB: He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

What does Matthew 12:39 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Some scribes and Pharisees have asked Jesus for a sign. Presumably, they wanted to see Him do some specific miracle, different from those He has already done, in order to convince them He was the Messiah. Jesus instantly and flatly refuses them.

The reason for this rejection is that Christ has already performed countless miracles right in front of these skeptics. They've chosen to reject the enormous evidence in front of them (John 5:39–40), no matter how ridiculous the excuse (Matthew 12:22–24). Based on how they have responded to those displays of God's power in Him, why would Jesus give them more (Matthew 7:6)? Instead, Jesus declares these hecklers part of an evil and adulterous generation.

Asking for "even more" signs from God, when He has provided so much already, is evidence of hard-hearted and obstinate disbelief (Romans 1:18–20; Psalm 19:1). God does not give signs on demand to prove Himself, but only out of His own grace and in His own timing. And what He gives is more than enough. The claim "if God would do this exact thing, then I would believe" is nothing more than a deceptive excuse.

Jesus doesn't merely condemn the Pharisees, but also the wider culture of His day. Overall, the people of Israel, both in that era and today, have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He calls the nation around Him "adulterous," using the Old Testament metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness to God. Since Jesus is the Son of God, the true Messiah, rejecting Him is similar in a way to rejecting one's own spouse for another (John 3:36; Ezekiel 16:32).

To those with such a deliberately resistant view, Jesus says no sign will be given. The only further sign these skeptical people—specifically meaning those of Jesus' era—will be shown is the sign of the prophet Jonah. Reading His words after His resurrection from the dead (John 2:18–22), the meaning becomes clear. Christ's impending resurrection is the sign this generation of Israelites should take notice of for evidence that Jesus is truly the Son of God.