What does Matthew 16:4 mean?
ESV: An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
NIV: A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.' Jesus then left them and went away.
NASB: An evil and adulterous generation wants a sign; and so a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah.' And He left them and went away.
CSB: An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." Then he left them and went away.
NLT: 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. ' Then Jesus left them and went away.
KJV: A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
NKJV: A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is reacting to a request from some Pharisees and Sadducees; they have demanded a miraculous sign to validate the claims that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah of Israel (Matthew 16:1–3). They are asking this, apparently, to trip Him up, to test Him, to catch Him doing something they can use to discredit Him and stop His ministry (Matthew 12:9–10).

Rather than agree, Jesus points out they have missed all the "signs of the times" which already played in front of their eyes. In prior verses, Jesus made a comparison to signs of weather: clear and obvious things which could easily be understood. Ignoring the miracles of Jesus means these critics have seen the signs and refused to believe (John 5:39–40). The one who heals the lame and gives sight to the blind, Jesus, has been fulfilling prophecies (Isaiah 35:5–6; 61:1–2), and they ought to know as much. The truth is, they have not missed the truth, but ignored it.

As with a similar request in Matthew 12:38, Jesus refuses to comply. Instead, He notes that it's a sign of a depraved culture to ignore evidence while demanding even more. In this, Christ condemns not just the men standing before Him but the people they represent: the generation of His day. He calls the people evil and adulterous for wanting more and more evidence that He is the Messiah. They are evil in their refusal to believe the obvious truth. Jesus uses the metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness from the Old Testament, adultery, which God so often used for Israel's worship of false gods. Like them, Jesus says, His generation wants religious experiences and miraculous entertainment despite being offered the truth, which is Christ, the Son of God, Himself (John 14:6).

Jesus declares that His generation will receive no additional signs, except for one: the sign of Jonah. What is the sign of Jonah? Jesus gave more detail about it when answering the same request once before, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40). It will become clear after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection that the most powerful sign He can offer to those who are asking is to return from dead on the third day as Jonah returned from the "dead" after three days' "burial" in the sea. If that sign cannot convince these religious leaders, nothing can (Luke 16:31).
Verse Context:
Matthew 16:1–4 describes Jesus' confrontation with a group of Pharisees and Sadducees asking for a sign from heaven—a miracle. He points out that they can read the signs of the weather, but stubbornly won't recognize the signs He has already performed. The demand for even more evidence, when so much is already provided, is the sign of a spiritually bankrupt approach. The only sign Jesus tells such people to expect is the sign of Jonah. This is a reference to His impending death, followed three days later by resurrection.
Chapter Summary:
A group of Pharisees and Sadducees demand a miracle from Jesus, though He has already performed many. Jesus refuses and warns the disciples to beware of the teachings of these religious leaders. Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is, as well as their own opinion. Peter says Jesus is the Christ, and is commended for that statement. Jesus begins to reveal that He must suffer and be killed before being raised on the third day. Peter's attempt to scold Jesus results in a devastating rebuke. Jesus then says all who would follow Him must take up crosses of self-denial.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 16 finds Jesus returned from the Gentile regions, only to be immediately confronted by another group of Jewish religious leaders. Yet again, these men prove they are insincere: no amount of evidence will ever be enough for them. After a dramatic discussion about Jesus' role as Messiah, Jesus indicates that those who would come after Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. His references to some seeing the Son of Man coming in His kingdom will be fulfilled at the beginning of chapter 17, in an event known as the transfiguration.
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 5/29/2024 1:56:45 PM
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