What does Matthew 12:41 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
NASB: The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
CSB: The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's preaching; and look--something greater than Jonah is here.
NLT: The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here — but you refuse to repent.
KJV: The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
NKJV: The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has declared that this generation, His generation, is evil and spiritually unfaithful to God. The only sign they will receive from God to validate that He is the messiah is what Jesus as called "the sign of Jonah." As Jonah was in the great fish for three days and nights, Jesus, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights (Matthew 12:39–40). This is a prophecy about Christ's death and resurrection, however difficult that would have been to understand before it happened (John 2:19–22).

Earlier, Jesus referred to a day when all people would face judgment by God (Matthew 12:36). This statement might not mean that everyone will literally see the judgment of all other people. Jesus' greater point in referring to Nineveh is that those people—wicked as they were—properly responded to the preaching of Jonah. On that day of judgment, the people of Nineveh will righteously criticize the generation of Israelites who lived at the time of Jesus. When the people of Nineveh heard about God's coming judgment, they repented of their great evil, from the king down. They turned from their sin and began to pray to God.

The generation of Israelites during the time of Jesus, however, had not repented. They did not turn from their sin, including the sin of not believing Jesus to be the Messiah. This was despite Jesus, as the Messiah, being far greater than the reluctant prophet Jonah.

Proud Pharisees and other faithful Jews would have been stung to hear this. The reason Jonah was so reluctant to go to Nineveh was probably anger over the terrible things that culture had done to his own Jewish people. It would have been painful for an ancient Israelite to be condemned by formerly wicked, antagonistic Gentiles. The key difference between the two groups was repentance—so those who ignore Christ's message have no excuse.
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 5/26/2024 10:46:37 AM
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