We return with joy this morning to Matthew 12. I want us to look together at verses 38-42. We've titled this message 'Judgment on Christ-rejectors,' and that is clearly its theme as we examine these particular verses. To begin with, let me say that the Bible is abundantly clear that all men are sinners, separated from God, and on target for divine judgment. From the beginning of the Scripture to the end, this message is given repeatedly, that man is sinful and lost and separated from God.
It is not always apparent how lost man is to other men, it is not always easy to determine how sinful man is, because there is, in the world of men, a sort of relative goodness. There are religious, moral, good people who say they believe in God and do kind and good things to others. But ultimately, the sinfulness of man is always made manifest under one condition, and at this point it becomes unavoidable and explicit.
The sinfulness of man is clearly seen when a person comes face-to-face with Jesus Christ; at that point, there can be no hiding it. No matter what the life is like, it is unmasked for its sinful reality in confrontation with Jesus Christ. The sin issue becomes crystallized when a person is forced to face Christ. That is the crux of the revelation of man's sinfulness.
Before we look at Matthew 12, I want to read you John 15:22-25 to give you an understanding that will help elucidate the text in Matthew 12. Here, our Lord is meeting with His disciples in the upper room. The unbelief of the nation of Israel is already crystallized and made manifest; they have already set in motion the plot to kill Him. This is the night of His betrayal, the night before His arrest, only hours before His death. As He speaks in this upper room to His disciples, whose feet He has just washed, He gives them all kinds of insights that they might be held together by the truth when He is gone. One of the things He promises them is that there will be difficulty; that the world will hate them because it hated Him.
Then He moves to talk about the people who rejected Him. He says, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin." Here, He is referring to the Jewish leaders who appeared, on the surface, to be holy. They appeared to be righteous; they were certainly religious. They appeared to love and obey God, and to keep His laws, and to uphold His word. They were the most religious people in the world at that time, as far as their world was concerned, and no one really knew how utterly vile and sinful they were, because of the mask of religion, which they wore so well.
However, when Jesus came, and they were confronted with Him, immediately by their rejection of the living Son of God, no matter what else they pretended to be, it was clear how sinful they were. So the Lord calls them, "Whited sepulchers, a brood of snakes, evil, vile, perverted, wicked men with black hearts and poisoned mouths." He curses them again and again, as recorded in Matthew 23. The real evil of those hearts would never have come to the surface if Jesus hadn't shown up, but by what they did in rejecting Him, turning on Him, hating Him, and ultimately taking His life, they manifested the true character of their evil hearts.
In fact, in verse 23, Jesus says, "He who hates Me hates My Father also." The truth about them is now known; they don't love God, they hate God. Because if they loved God, they would have loved Jesus. Obviously, He is God. In verse 24, He said, "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father."
What that is saying is that when you come face-to-face with Jesus Christ, you may have hidden your sin well for a long time, but if you reject Jesus Christ, at that point, the mask is off and the truth is out. No matter what you appear to be on the surface, you are a vile, wretched sinner as manifest in your rejection of Jesus Christ. The heart of evil is unveiled in confrontation with Christ.
That is precisely what we have back in Matthew 12. the Pharisees had kept up the charade, the facade, the hypocrisy. The masquerade was very successful until Jesus showed up. That's true today in many ways; there are many religious people who seem to go along very well with their religious masquerade until someone confronts them with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and when they reject it, the real truth is made manifest. They don't love God at all.
Take the cults - the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and others - who appear so religious, so good, so holy, so righteous, and so obedient to the laws as they believe or proclaim God gives them. When you confront them with Jesus Christ, all of a sudden the hypocrisy is revealed, the mask is off. They don't love God; they hate God, despise Him, because they hate His Son. The same thing can even occur in the liberal churches, churches where people go to talk about the Bible at an arm's length, and politics, book reviews, social problems, and psychological solutions. When you walk in and introduce the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the mask is off; they don't love God. That is always the revealer.
So Jesus had effectively stripped the masked, disrobed, if you will, the Pharisees and the Jewish people, and showed them to be vile, wretched sinners. This didn't sit too well with them, as you can imagine. They weren't really thrilled about this. So by the time we reach Matthew 12, they are hardened in their rejection. They have seen Christ, heard Him teach, seen His miracles, seen the character and quality of His life, experienced His power, and their conclusion is that He is a Sabbath-breaker, and satanic. By that verdict, they reveal their evil hearts. They reveal that they don't love God. You can't reject Jesus Christ and love God; you hate both or love both, because they are one and the same. So they have already reveled their hearts.
Go back to in the chapter. They say that Jesus is a Sabbath-breaker, and they do this in public because they're trying to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. They want to hold their place; they are sitting at the top of the religious pile. They love the acclaim of men, to sit in the chief places and be called 'father' and all of that, as Matthew 23 says. They love to be on top, to have everyone's respect, and be thought of as holy, sanctimonious, pious. So they want to maintain their power, control, dominance, and hold it over the people. When the people begin to become attracted to Jesus, they feel they must discredit Him publicly before the people so that they can maintain the place of supremacy.
They accuse Jesus of being a Sabbath-breaker, and they do it publicly, but by the time the accusation is over, He literally attacks them. He says, "You don't understand your own Scriptures, You don't understand the Sabbath, and least of all, you don't understand that I am the Lord of the Sabbath." So they attack Him a second time in chapter 12; this time they say, "He is not only a Sabbath-breaker, but satanic."
He turns right back on them and says, "That kind of accusation is absurd, prejudiced, rebellious, and betrays your vile hearts. You will be damned for it, and you are beyond the point of forgiveness and repentance. You will never be forgiven." Each time they attack Him, they lose. But they have one final shot. They are trying to discredit Him in the face of the people, and they have one final attack at the end of Matthew 12.
I really believe that Matthew has reached a climax in the flow of his gospel. The Pharisees reach the pinnacle of their rejection in verse 24 when they say He is satanic; there is no hope for them to be redeemed because they have all the evidence they could possibly have and they have concluded the very opposite of the truth. They are hopeless and damned by their unbelief.
Matthew has reached a high point. This is the final, full-fledged rejection of Israel. As he comes to the conclusion of chapter 12, the words that Jesus speak become words of judgment. Especially from verse 38-45, Jesus speaks judgment on these who have rejected Him. The occasion is their last attack, and He turns it into a speech about judgment. By the way, He closes the chapter with an invitation in verses 46-50, which we'll see later on. They approach Jesus, then, with their final attack.
Keep in mind that they really aren't interested in anything He does or says; they are only trying to make Him look bad in the eyes of the people. That's why they accused Him of being a Sabbath-breaker, and being satanic, because they could see the people beginning to turn toward Him. Now they have one more shot to discredit Him, and it is in verse 38. "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'" I call this section from verse 38-40 'the last sign.' Verses 41-42 are 'the last sentence.'
Remember that they had been devastated by Jesus' attack; He had just said something to them that was beyond anything they had ever imagined that they would hear. In verses 31-32, He said they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and they would never be forgiven for that in this age or in any future age. He had just told them that they were rotten trees with rotten fruit, a generation of snakes, that they were speaking evil because they had evil hearts, and He told them that by their evil words they would be damned.
So He has really spoken strongly to them. He has spoken as strongly as could be possible. They are trying, at this point, to keep their cool, because if they blow it right here, they will lose their reputation with the people. So they apparently retreat at this point, and get together to try and figure out a strategy as to how they might come back with an attack that will ultimately discredit Christ. At this point, they look like the losers, and they have to give it one more shot, to get on top in this one-upsmanship approach.
Verse 38 says some of them came back. This was probably a specially-appointed committee who were prepared with the right approach and represented the whole snake pit of Pharisees and scribes. They were the lawyers. They had to have spent at least 30 years on the earth, and they have spent years and years of that time studying the law until finally they were granted the right to be a lawyer or an interpreter of the law. They took the chair, if you will, of the scribe. They were recognized as authorized experts in the law - those who were able to understand, interpret, and apply the law of God. Here they come, the recognized experts, the scribes and Pharisees with them.
They say, "Master," and this betrays their hypocrisy. They are trying to come off as pious, sanctimonious, and they want to keep their reputation in front of the people. So in their hypocrisy, for the peoples' sake, they acknowledge Jesus in a way that the people seem to perceive Him - as a master, a teacher, a rabbi. It is a title of great respect: one who knew the law, who could teach the law, was an authority in the law. So they call Him 'Master' and it just drips with hypocrisy; they did not respect Him at all, they despised Him. But they nonetheless try to keep up their reputation.
They ask this question, "We want to see a sign from You." The implication of the question is important, because the people would have perceived this differently than you would if you just read it. When a scribe came, in an official assembly of scribes and Pharisees, to ask a question like this of a man like Jesus, the question would carry tremendous weight. The people would feel that it was a question attached to the scribal understanding of the law. In other words, if they are asking this of Jesus, then this must be what the law requires of Him. So the assumption would be that the scribes must have determined from the law that if He is the Messiah, He should do a sign. That is probably what they thought; that this was some official question.
The people, then, were being told that this person Jesus had not yet sufficiently validated His claim to being the Messiah, that there was yet a sign that needed to be done. What kind of sign are they asking? He's done healing after healing, cast out demons, transformed lives, given salvation, and forgiven sin; what more could they want than the thousands and thousands of miracles that they had already seen? What else could they ask for? There is really a simple answer. In Matthew 16, there is a parallel situation where they come back with the same question again and get the same answer. We know it is parallel because the terms are all the same. This time we get a little more insight into what they were asking for.
In verse 1, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Him. They desired that He would show them a sign. What kind of sign? A sign from Heaven. So He talks about the heavens, the Heaven that they perceived. They were asking for a sign from Heaven, so He began to talk about the sky and all of that. In verse 4, He says, "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 then He left.
Go back to Matthew 12. In verse 38, they ask for a sign. He says, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." He gives the same answer, and I think it came again in chapter 16 because it was the same question.
What am I leading to? When they asked for a sign, I think they wanted a sign from Heaven. What does that mean? The Jews were always after a sign; they always wanted to see some supernatural verification of everything. In I Corinthians 1:22, the Apostle Paul says, "The Jews demand signs." It was characteristic of them to expect certain wonders to prove that a man was a messenger from God.
I think, in great measure, that's why the Lord gave the ability to the apostles and those who worked with them to do signs, wonders, and mighty deeds, because that was the expectation level of the Jews. "Prove yourself by doing something extraordinary!"
For example, when Rabbi Eliezer was challenged one time, he appealed to certain signs. The Jewish tradition says that the people were challenging the rabbi's teaching and authority, so first, a locust bean moved 400 cubits, if you believe their tradition. Next, the channels of water were made to flow backwards. Then, the walls of a certain building leaned forward and were only stopped by the bidding of another rabbi.
Finally, Rabbi Eliezer exclaimed, "If the law is as I teach, let it be proved from Heaven," and at that moment, a voice came out of the sky saying, "What have you to do with Rabbi Eliezer? For the instruction is as he teaches." What a lot of hocus-pocus, but that is typical of the Jewish mentality through history; if someone said he was from God, they wanted some kind of sign.
There is more to this than just that, because they had had sign upon sign upon sign, but they wanted one from Heaven, or in Heaven, really. They wanted a spectacular, sensual display of control over the celestial sphere. They would have liked to have seen Him rearrange the constellations, have the stars go rocketing all over the place, or have clouds gyrate into unique forms and come out spelling in Aramaic, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Messiah."
They would have loved to have seen Joel's prophecy come to pass and have Him turn the moon into blood, and black out the sun, to paint the sky with a wave of His hand in rainbow colors from one end to the other, causing the blue to disappear. They would have even liked if there had been an angel parade from the Milky Way to the temple; a long string of angels. They wanted a Fourth of July fireworks show in Heaven.
You know why they asked this question of Him? Because they believed He couldn't do it, and they wanted to discredit Him in front of the people when He didn't. That was their whole intent. They were saying, "If He is the Messiah, let Him do that." The implication was that that was what He was supposed to have done, although no such prophecy exists at all. They did it to embarrass Him and discredit Him.
They not only don't believe in Him, and blaspheme Him, they want to embarrass and discredit Him in front of everyone so that no one will believe Him. They have not only personally rejected and blasphemed Him, but they now take on the ministry of getting everyone else to reject Him. That is their ploy. They are impudent, insulting, and hypocritical. His reply is most interesting.
Verse 39. "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign." In other words, the only kind of people who want that kind of a show are evil and adulterous. The implication is that, "If you were really united to God in the way that you were originally to be united with Him, as His wife and the covenant; if you had been faithful to God, you wouldn't need that kind of thing. You manifest the adultery of your hearts in even seeking such." He characterizes the entire Jewish nation of His day, and says, "You're adulterous. You have created a breach in the covenant relationship to God, which is seen in the Old Testament as a marriage bond. You have violated your vows and followed after false deities."
They had had a period of their history in which they were idolatrous, and at that point, their harlotries were committed with idols. At this time, they were no longer idolatrous in the formal sense, since the Babylonian captivity. But they nonetheless were unfaithful to God and had committed harlotries with their legalism, traditions, self-righteousness, and their own egos. They had still abandoned God; their harlotries were no longer attached to the gods of the Canaanites, but to the gods of their own design and devising.
As Psalm 73:27 says, "They had played the harlot." Isaiah indicts them in chapters 50 and 57 in strong terms for their harlotries. In Jeremiah 3:6-10, he condemns them for their harlotries. He does it in Jeremiah 13:27, 31:32; and Ezekiel 16 is also an indictment of them.
They were carried away into Babylonian captivity because of their adultery; they had violated their covenant with God and gone after false gods, and committed spiritual adultery. Hosea writes of it. They had done this; they were the adulterers and adulteresses who had made friendships with the world and had become at enmity with God, as James 4:4 describes it. This was their history.
You say, "Was it true in Jesus' day?" They weren't idolaters after the Babylonian captivity in the sense of the formal, named gods of the Canaanites and other peoples, but they were just as idolatrous and adulterous here for their worship of their man-made, legalistic, traditional system of self-righteousness. By the way, isn't it obvious that they had no covenant with God if they would kill His Son? It's obvious.
So He says, "Anyone who seeks such a sign gives manifestation of being a part of those who have abandoned God and their covenant with Him. You are a nation of adulterers and adulteresses, and that is obvious because you seek a sign. You don't know God, or you would know you need no sign." Then He says this, "No sign will be given to it."
He couldn't do it; they were right. But He couldn't do it not for the reason they thought. It wasn't that He didn't have the ability - He had the ability. He was the one who had put it all there, He could have rearranged it any time He had wanted. If you wonder about that, look at the book of Revelation and read when He will, because He will. He could have done it from the power viewpoint, He couldn't have done it from the moral viewpoint because Christ is not in the business of bending to the whims of those who want no relationship with Him. It was morally impossible to grant such to those who hate Christ.
He then said this, and this is fascinating. "No sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." What is that? We all remember the story of Jonah, don't we? He took a short ride on a long fish. He was called by God to preach in Nineveh, he said, "I don't want to go to Nineveh," and took a boat the opposite direction. There was a storm, and he told the captain, "The problem is me. Throw me out." They threw him out, a great fish swallowed him up, he was in the fish three days. A disobedient prophet would make anything sick, so the fish vomited him up on the shore. He went to Nineveh and preached, the whole place repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God spared His judgment.
Jesus said, "This generation will be given no sign except the sign of the prophet Jonah." Look at verse 40 and it tells you. "For 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." That's the sign. It's a prophecy, beloved.
Keep this in mind; in the Old Testament, you have at least two types of prophecy. One is what I like to call verbally predictive prophecy, where a statement is made about something that is going to come to pass. Like, "A scepter shall come, a king will be on the scene, a greater Son of David, a virgin shall conceive. One shall come out of the Root of Jessee," all of those verbal prophecies pointed to Christ.
There is also a second kind of prophecy, and that is what I call typically predictive prophecy; not only verbally predictive, but typically. That is, it is a type or picture. Something in the Old Testament is a picture of something in the New Testament. The story of Jonah, while it doesn't verbally predict anything about Christ, typically predicts the most monumental thing about Christ, His resurrection. Throughout the Old Testament, we have those kinds of pictures. I believe the only time you have an Old Testament type is when it is so stated to be in the New Testament. In other words, if there is an Old Testament type, you can only know it to be a type if in fact the New Testament tells you that, and in this case, that's exactly what we have.
Jesus here says the story of Jonah was a prophecy; it was as much a prophecy as Isaiah 53. It was a predictive prophecy given in picture rather than in word, and as Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth. It looked like the end of Jonah, but it wasn't; it looked like the end of Jesus, but it wasn't. Jonah was buried in the depths; Jesus was buried in the depths. Jonah came out; Jesus came out. It was a picture of the resurrection. It was three days for Jonah; it was three days for Jesus. It was a perfect picture.
A couple of thoughts come to mind as I look at verse 40. One is that Jesus believed the story of Jonah. Isn't that good? Aren't you glad for that? I read a commentary this week that said, "Just because Jesus refers to Jonah doesn't mean that He really believed it was true." Well, you may want to believe Jonah was a liar, but it's awfully difficult to believe Jesus was a liar and in complicity with the lie of Jonah. If Jesus said this is the story, then this is the story. Jesus validates the authenticity of Jonah.
Another note is the term 'great fish.' Some people say it's a whale, but the term is simply a great fish. It's the same term used in Jonah in the Hebrew language. In whatever language, it just means 'great fish.' That's all. Homer used it in classical Greek to speak of a seal on one occasion, on another occasion to speak of a whale, and on another occasion to speak of a shark, so we don't really know what particular kind of fish it was. It may have been a special fish that God made and dropped down, had it do its thing, and that was the end of the species. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter, but whatever it was, it was big enough for Jonah to get all the way inside of.
Another thing is that it says three days and three nights. People always seem to have trouble with that because they say, "If Jonah was there three days and three nights, that's a 72-hour period, so Jesus has to be in the earth 72 hours. If He rises on Sunday morning, that puts the crucifixion all the way back to the middle of the week, not Friday. There goes the story!"
Well, we don't really have to do that because the phrase 'a day and a night' simply was a phrase referring to a 24-hour period or any part of that period. It was the only way you could refer to a 24-hour period unless you used the obscure term, which is used in II Corinthians 11:25, nuchthemeron, which is very rarely used, to refer to that. So when you refer to a period, the normal way to refer to it would be as a night and a day; that's what they called a 24-period. The Talmud says, "Any part of one is as the whole." So Jonah was in the fish some part of three days, as the Lord was in the earth some part of three days, not necessarily the whole 72 hours.
For example, you might even say, "I went to San Diego and was just there a day." Does that mean that you got there immediately when the sun rose and didn't leave until it set? No, if you say you were there a day, we could think you were there 24 hours, or you could have been there two; it could have been just for a part of the day. In other words, the day doesn't necessarily force you to the 24 hour period, and in this language, neither does the day and night force you to the 24-hour period. It simply is a term to designate any portion of the day.
So this is a picture of the resurrection; that is a sign. No sign will be given but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was the last sign, folks. After that, we don't read of Jesus doing any miracles. Oh, yes, in His glorified body He came and went with the apostles, and He could appear and seemingly disappear, but as far as actually performing miracles after the resurrection, Christ Himself does not do those. This was the last sign.
May I hasten to add, it didn't help the situation. It was clearly a sign from Heaven, for no one could raise the dead but God, yet Jesus was right. In Luke 16, when He said, "If they don't believe Moses and the prophets, they will not believe the one who rises from the dead." They didn't believe. In fact, the Jewish leaders actually paid the Roman soldiers to lie about what happened. They didn't believe Him. So this was the last sign, and when they rejected this, that was the coup de grace, it was over.
You see, when we are confronted with the living Christ and His death and resurrection from the dead, then the matter of destiny will be determined. If you turn your back then, no matter how religious you appear, or holy you try to be, you show yourself to be a vile sinner who hates God because of what you do with Christ. That was the only sign they would ever see, and they showed their true sinfulness in the face of that sign.
We live on this side of the resurrection; our whole society in America knows the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have Easter every year. The Western world knows that. So many people appear to be so good, so righteous, so holy, so religious, and so concerned about God, but they reject Christ and His resurrection, and they are showing themselves to be liars. They don't love God; they hate God. You see, when you come to Christ, then the cloak comes off, according to John 15. What you do with Him is the determiner.
From the last sign, we immediately see the last sentence in verses 41-42. By obvious association with Jonah, the Lord passes to speak of Nineveh, the city to which he went. He says this, "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."
What is this saying? Think back to the story of the Ninevites; they were Gentiles, pagans, idolaters, they had no law of God, they were outside the covenants and the promises, they were dark and alienated from God, without understanding. Into their midst comes a prophet by the name of Jonah. Do you know what his own testimony is? This is what he said about himself. "I am sinful, I am foolish, I am rebellious." Jonah 1 and 4 say that. I wouldn't say that is a great recommendation.
So there is a people with no advantages and a sinful, rebellious, foolish, disobedient man who was just vomited up by a big fish, doing something that he didn't want to do in the beginning. His whole message is one of doom; that's all he talks about - doom, devastation, destruction, damnation. He is talking to a people with no advantages. You know something else? He did no miracles either, so there were no signs. Yet do you know what happened when he preached?
Jonah 3:5. "So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them." From the leaders to the common folk. "Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes." That was the attitude, the oriental attitude of repentance.
"And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, 'Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.'" He even makes the animals fast. "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth," and he's putting sackcloth on the animals! "And cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way," which tells us that it was genuine; God said it was genuine and stamped it with genuineness. It wasn't though; 150 years later that city was destroyed. After this generation, it died away. This generation's repentance was true, "And God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it."
So a Gentile, pagan, idolatrous people, outside the covenants and the law of God got a half-baked, disobedient, foolish, rebellious, wicked prophet who came and preached nothing but doom to them, did no miracles, and the whole place repented and believed God. Contrast that. Verse 41 says, "A greater than Jonah is here."
Here is a different situation - these are Jews, not Gentiles. These are the people of God, of the covenant, of the promises, of the adoption, of the fathers. This is God's people, those who have the law. One came to them greater than Jonah. Who was it? It was the God of Jonah in human flesh, and He was perfect, sinless, compassionate, powerful, and His message was not of unmitigated doom but of grace, mercy, forgiveness, salvation. He did miracle after miracle and sign after sign. But they hated and killed Him. So says our Lord, "In judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise up and condemn these people, for with much less, they believed and repented." They act as a historical condemnation of the unbelief of Israel.
He is not done; there is one other illustration of the final sentence in verse 42. He recalls another event in their history from I Kings 10. "The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it." Here is someone else condemning this generation: the queen of the South. Who is that?
If you read I Kings 10, and we won't take the time to go into it all, you'd read there about a lady that we know as the Queen of Sheba. The land of the Sabeans was at a great distance from Israel and was a land in Arabia. This particular group of people were very prosperous; they had existed on the trade route to India and they had become incredibly rich because of their proclivity for successful trading. They had also parlayed some agricultural genius into great wealth. The had developed trades and skills, so that this queen was literally wealthy beyond imagination.
It says that she would stand in judgment with this generation and condemn it. She is a Gentile, an Arab, a she! A Gentile Arab woman is going to condemn the chosen people. Why? Because, "She came from the farthest parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon." What does that mean?
She heard about Solomon, that he was the wisest man in the world. And in those days, there weren't any books to speak of, so if you wanted to know what a wise man thought, you had to go and talk to the wise man; there was no other way. She came from the farthest parts of the earth, and that was a long ways away. From their perception, it looked like the farthest parts of the earth.
In Joel 3, it calls this same land, "A nation afar off." Jeremiah 6:20 talks about this being a 'far country,' so it is a great distance, crossing all the desert with her entourage and the stuff she brought with her. If you read I Kings 10, it is staggering what she brought; this wasn't, "I'm going to drop in and see Solomon and I'll be back on Monday." This was a major enterprise.
So what was so big about that? Here is a Gentile, pagan, idolatrous, godless, lawless, woman queen of a bunch of pagan people who hears about a man who has the wisdom of God. She crosses the desert with all of her entourage from a remote land to come without an invitation to seek that wisdom. You know what happened when she got there? It was more than she thought it would be, and she was so astounded that she started unloading on Solomon treasure after treasure after treasure. He didn't need that, but it was her way of honoring him and thanking him. Think about that.
Look at the end of verse 42. "And behold," and there's that exclamation; it's unbelievable! "A greater than Solomon is here." He's saying, "You don't even have to take a journey! I'm here, and you don't care." Here was a Gentile woman with no advantages and no invitation who crossed the desert with all this stuff to hear wisdom from the lips of a man who speaks the truth of God, and they won't even listen when He is in their midst! And He's greater than Solomon, the God of Solomon. No wonder she will rise up and condemn them in judgment.
She would have had an excuse for not attaining the wisdom of Solomon, but the Jews had no excuse for not attaining the wisdom of Christ. So Jonah and the queen will rise up and condemn the unbelieving and unrepentant Jews of Jesus' day.
Do you want to know something? WE can draw that into our own day. There are people today who reject Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Christ and the wisdom of Christ. They may be sitting in a religion, or a church, and someday, pagan Ninevites and a pagan queen, by contrast, will condemn them in judgment. What it is saying is that those who are far off that believe prove that those who are near are responsible to believe. If you try to exist within the framework of Christianity and reject Jesus Christ, yours is the greatest condemnation. Let's bow in prayer.
Lord, the clarity of Your Word strikes us to the heart. Oh, we see how Jesus cut through all of the facade of these hypocrites who came and pretended to be religious, to love God, to worship and obey God, but who, in fact, will be condemned by the remotest pagans who truly believed and repented. We pray, Lord, that there might be application in this; that we might not only understand that it happened in the life of our Lord and in His time, but that we understand that it happens again today. People in our society, even in our churches, will be condemned by people from afar off who have believed and repented, when many who have heard of Christ and know of the sign of His resurrection have refused to believe.
Lord, we pray that You will bring every person here into confrontation with Jesus Christ; His life, wisdom, resurrection from the dead, and that in that confrontation, the mask might come off and people might know their sin. And in the knowing, that they will come to You for the forgiveness that You offer. Thank You, Lord, for teaching us in Your Word this morning that Jesus Christ alone is the point of decision that determines eternity. We pray in His name, Amen.