What does Matthew 12:38 mean?
ESV: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
NIV: Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.'
NASB: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'
CSB: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."
NLT: One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, 'Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.'
KJV: Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous section, Jesus harshly condemned the Pharisees who accused Him of using Satan's power to cast out demons. He called them a brood of vipers and talked about the evil in them that came out in the words they spoke. He warned them of His coming judgment (Matthew 12:24–37).

It's not clear if the passage beginning here is a direct continuation of those prior conversations. It might have taken place at another time. In either case, certain scribes and Pharisees respectfully address Jesus as "Teacher." Then they tell Jesus that they wish to see a sign from Him. Some commentators believe this group of religious leaders was trying to set Jesus up for another accusation about His power. Demanding miraculous credentials was not an uncommon response to Jesus' actions (John 2:18–19).

If we suppose this group of skeptics is being sincere, this request is puzzling. Jesus has already performed countless signs by healing, raising the dead, and casting out demons. Pharisees had been present for several of those, at least. If this is a continuation of prior conversation, Jesus had—only moments before—removed a demon from a blind and mute man. Why ask for yet another sign?

The most likely answer is that the Pharisees were not being sincere. They were scrambling for any way to ignore the clear evidence in front of them. Though Jesus has provided miracles, they demand something else. Of course, even when a miracle is undeniable, they are likely to reject it, anyway (Matthew 12:24). They certainly want to seem sincere, as if they are being open-minded and willing to consider evidence.

In truth, they're telling Christ "we will decide what counts as evidence, and what does not. No matter how potent a sign is, we won't believe unless it fits our criteria." That's an all-too-common attitude in modern skeptics, as well. Unbelievers in the modern world, just as much as the Pharisees, tend to summarily dismiss all existing evidence, and then demand even more—all the while acting as if such a request is entirely reasonable.

Whatever specific sign these Pharisees are looking for, Jesus will refuse to give it to them. Not because He couldn't provide it, but because it would be a waste of time (Matthew 7:6).
Verse Context:
Matthew 12:38–42 starts with a request from some of the scribes and Pharisees. They want Jesus to provide an on-demand miracle. Of course, Jesus has very recently performed two (Matthew 12:9–13; 22)! In other words, Jesus' critics are saying they want "different" miracles, which is just an excuse to reject what they've already seen. Christ responds by calling such an attitude evil and adulterous. Instead, they will only receive the sign of Jonah, whose experience in a sea creature is compared to how the Son of Man will be buried for three days. Those who correctly respond to God's call for repentance and submission will rightly condemn those who are obstinate and refuse to believe.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 12 features confrontations between the Pharisees and Jesus over several issues. Among these are working on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath, and the source of His power to cast out demons. Jesus counters each argument and rebukes the Pharisees sharply for their obstinate unbelief. He even notes that those who maliciously ascribe His miracles to demons are unforgivable. He warns them, and the rest of their current generation, about the judgment to come. Jesus calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers and rejects their demand for another miracle. All they'll be promised is the sign of Jonah. The Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days. Jesus also states that all who do His Father's will are His family.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 11 depicted Jesus preaching and teaching after sending out His chosen disciples in pairs in chapter 10. Chapter 12 immediately picks up with more confrontation with the Pharisees. Jesus responds to those criticisms and rebukes their evil hearts as the source of their evil words. In the following chapter, Matthew will shift His focus onto Jesus' parables.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 4/17/2024 9:08:59 PM
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