This morning again we return to the 11th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 11. We are living, as it were, through the historian Luke the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in this 11th chapter we find ourselves hearing Jesus speak very definitive words, words of finality, words of finality. It is only months now before the cross, months before the people of Israel will cry for His crucifixion and the Romans will execute Him. Already the nation has rejected Him, led by their leaders, the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees. The people have followed the lead of these apostate religious leaders. They have bought the official line concerning Jesus, that He is empowered by Satan. In the 11th chapter of Luke in the 15th verse, it says, "But some of them said He cast out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." They have rendered their verdict. And it is in Judea here the same verdict rendered months earlier up in Galilee. They too said He did what He did by the power of Satan; this also under the influence of the religious leaders who managed to work their way from Jerusalem into Galilee and spread this deceptive lie which the people believed. Now it's déjà vu. Everything that happened in Galilee in this defining, culminating moment in the ministry of Jesus is being repeated here. It was in Galilee that they said He did what He did by the power of Satan. And as recorded in Matthew chapter 12, in Galilee Jesus confronted that in the same way He confronts it here in Judea, it's almost an identical portion of Scripture and it seems best to look at these two, Matthew 12 and here in Luke 11 as distinct; one occurring in Galilee and this later, months later occurring in Judea.
But they have rendered their final verdict on Jesus, as it were. In fact, from now on in His ministry His words to the people are largely judgmental. His words to the leadership are totally judgmental. Occasionally He speaks of grace and salvation to the outcasts, the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the riff-raff and the criminal. And He concentrates on His disciples, teaching, instructing and giving them their final refinement for what is ahead of them in His death and His resurrection and their subsequent ministry. This then becomes a very definitive passage in Judea as the passage in Matthew 12 which parallels it was a very definitive passage in Galilee.
And I want to take you down to verse 29 where we pick up the text. The great temptation is to go back through all of this again because it is so powerful, but we cannot do that each time. Sufficient to say, verse 29, "As the crowds were increasing He began to say, 'This generation is a wicked generation.'" That is the final statement of Jesus on Israel. That is the very same or similar statement that He made in Galilee when He said, "An evil and adulterous generation," Characterizing them in that fashion. Here He characterizes them again, this with more finality. There He just said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign." He didn't explicitly say they were that, but here the hammer drops, the gavel hits the desk, the verdict is in. The final statement is made, "This generation is a wicked generation." Wicked in the most formidable sense, the word ponros used of Satan himself, the wicked one. This is the final indictment.
Back in chapter 9 verse 41, Jesus had said, "Oh unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?" And now it comes with finality, "This is a wicked generation." And He says it, interestingly enough, in verse 29, as the crowds were increasing. The more people that collected around Him, the more apparent to Him it became how wicked the whole generation was. And the crowds were becoming huge. Look at chapter 12 verse 1: Under these circumstances after so many thousands of multitude had gathered together that they were stepping on one another. The crowds were just massive and larger as the days went on, drawn by His miracles, drawn by the sheer force of His person. And they were amazed at what He was doing, marveling at it, as verse 14 says, the multitudes marveled. But it was a short-sighted, superficial kind of wonder. He was attractive. He was the greatest show in town, no question, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead. No one ever spoke like He spoke. And so they came. And as the crowds increased, “He began to say,” which means He didn't say it once, this was His repeated statement: "This generation is a wicked generation." He wasn't talking about a minority, He was talking about a majority, He was talking about a generation, a genea. He was talking about a group of people, the dominant group of people in this time and place. And it was just what essentially true of Galilee months earlier after He had completed His extensive ministry of miracles and preaching and teaching in their midst. And He came to the same conclusion.
We could say that today about our country. This is a wicked generation. This generation certainly is the most wicked generation any of us have known. It seems to be at least on the outside far more wicked than in the past, and getting more wicked all the time. Not only wicked but flaunting its wretchedness. Ours is a very wicked generation. Sin, corruption, filth, perversion abound. They are propagated, promoted, publicized, paraded. Our nation is increasingly immoral, blatantly and flagrantly ungodly. We could say this about our generation. But it is actually shocking that Jesus said it about His because by normal human standards, the generation that Jesus is referring to here would have been the most moral, the most religious, and the most God-conscious of any society. This is not a godless culture Jesus is living in. This is not a group of people who flaunt their wickedness. He is not talking about pagans who are blatantly evil. He is not talking about idol worshipers. He's not talking about Gentiles. He's not talking about law breakers. He is speaking of the most religious, the most moral and the most God-sensitive people of all, the Jews, who in most cases were fanatically concerned about keeping the law, the law of God and their tradition, who were intensely religious so that the whole of their lives were under the control of their religious duties and obligations and ceremonies. And it is to be noted that repeatedly Jesus affirmed that on the outside they were clean. They were moral. But on the inside they were spiritually and internally wicked in the most dangerous fashion.
In fact, they were in a more dangerous state than those that are openly immoral. You see, when it comes to responding to the gospel one is better off immoral than moral. When it comes to responding to the gospel one is better off irreligious than religious because moral and religious people feel they are good and they feel that they have gained a measure of favor with God and they become self-righteous and self-satisfied. And the essence of the gospel's initial message is that you are a sinner and you are wretched and there is nothing in you that is good and your morality counts for nothing and you're a doomed sinner and utterly without any ability to alter that. And they hated Jesus for that indictment. They hated Jesus for that diagnosis. They hated Jesus for that exposure of their true condition.
They're actually described in verses 24 to 26, as we saw in our last message where Jesus talks about an unclean spirit going out of a man. That spirit passes through waterless places seeking rest. Not finding any, it says I'll return to my house from which I came. When it comes it finds it swept and put in order. There's the picture of a man who decides to fix up his life, he decides to get religion, get morality, clean up his act. The demon who has been operating through his wretchedness and through his sinfulness is uncomfortable there, not being able to do what the demon wants, accomplish what the demon wants. He decides to leave. He comes back, however, because he can't find a better place to stay. Finds the man's cleaned up his life a little bit and then what happens in verse 26, the demon goes, takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, they go in and live there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first. The worst state you can ever be in is a state or self-righteousness, personally imposed morality, legalism, and religion in which you clean up your own life, sweep it superficially, put it in order superficially and become a haven for demons, who function most effectively and most deadly in religious people; very dangerous to be moral and religious.
It is consistent, you remember, with our Lord's ministry that the moral and religious people always were the ones who resisted Him and hated Him. Even in His own synagogue in Luke 4 He preached one sermon, He called those moral religious people, "Poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed." He said, "You're not spiritually rich, you're not spiritually sighted, you're not spiritually free, and you're not spiritually liberated from guilt." Just the opposite. And they were His own people in His own town in His own synagogue and after one sermon they took Him out to the edge of a cliff and tried to throw Him off. A sinner who is self-righteous and moral hates that kind of indictment.
If you go back to Luke chapter 5, for example, just to see an illustration of this: Levi, or Matthew, was a follower of Jesus now. He left behind his corrupt tax franchise which he had purchased from Rome and by which he had extorted from the people and become an outcast of outcasts. Tax collectors were the most hated people in Israel. They literally worked for the oppressing, invading, Gentile power, Rome and they extorted money from their own people. They were kicked out of the synagogue and were a social pariah. That was Levi. So they were left to associate only with other social pariahs and outcasts, prostitutes, thugs, petty criminals, con men, etc. So Levi, having been given new life because of his association with Christ, gave a big reception for Jesus, verse 29 says in Luke 5, at his house and, of course, he called all his friends, tax gatherers and other people, prostitutes, etc., who were reclining at the table with them. And the Pharisees and the scribes began grumbling at His disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax gatherers and sinners?" The bottom line is the Pharisees didn't see themselves as sinners. Self-righteous people don't. Self-righteous people don't. Therefore they are unredeemable and they condemn Jesus because He met with this category of people that they called sinners in which they had absolutely no part. Jesus said of them, "It's not those who are well that need a physician, but those who are sick." And if you don't know you're sick you can't and you won't come to the physician. That's why He said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." There's no point in calling righteous people to repentance. What are they going to repent of? When the rich young ruler said, "What do I do to get eternal life?" what happened? Jesus said, "Well here are the commandments." He said, "I've kept them all." There's a man who is self-righteous, he won't repent. If he won't repent, he can't be saved.
In the 15th chapter of Luke, turn to it, if you will, just for a brief comment; one of the great chapters in Luke's gospel, familiar for the story of the prodigal son. We all know the story of the prodigal son. He went away and dissipated his life, came back, was forgiven by the father. He's the picture of a repentant sinner. The father puts on the robe, puts on the ring, kills the fatted calf, holds a party. The party's going on and verse 25, "The older son is in the field," this is the older son representing the Pharisees and the scribes, the legalists, the moralists, the religionists. He comes toward the house, he hears music, dancing. Asks one of the servants what's going on. The servant tells him, "Your brother has come. Your father's killed the fattened calf, received him back safe and sound." This brother becomes angry. He's not willing to go in, won't share in the joy. His father comes out, begins to ask him to come.
Here's the telltale verse, verse 29, "He answered and said to his father, 'Look, for so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours.'" Boy, did that man live under a delusion. That's the problem. I have never neglected a command of yours. That's how the Jews thought. Jesus was characterizing the Pharisees, was characterizing the Jewish mentality, the religious mentality. Religion, morality, legalism cuts people off from salvation by giving the illusion of a right relationship to God. That's why I say it's frankly better to be immoral. It's better to be immoral and know you're immoral and feel the huge weight and guilt of that, to be convinced of your sin, to fear the coming judgment when you hear of it, to know how desperately you need forgiveness and salvation than to be convinced of your religion, your morality and your righteousness.
Looking at the Los Angeles Times and reading about a new gay pastor installed at the Hollywood Lutheran Church and he is saying, "I'm here because I want to represent the fact that Christ wants to bring His gospel to everyone." If that man thinks he represents Jesus Christ, it shows you how profound the delusion is. I'd rather have a blatant, irreligious, godless, guilt-ridden, AIDS-stricken homosexual who fears death and judgment any day than a self-righteous religious one because you can't get to him. It's not that he doesn't need to be saved, and it's not that you don't feel compassion, you just can't call self-righteous people to repentance because what are they going to repent of? You want the desperate, who face their need for rescue from sin, death and hell.
Our Lord had again and again and again and again pointed this out to these people. He told them, "Your alms are hypocritical," in the Sermon on the Mount. Your prayers are hypocritical. Your fasting is hypocritical. Your lives are hypocritical. You don't murder but you hate. You don't commit adultery but you lust. You said on the outside you clean up, on the inside you're filthy. It's a kind of righteousness that doesn't save. That's why in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:20, He said, "If your righteousness doesn't exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you'll never be in God's kingdom, never." God doesn't accept superficial self-righteousness. And if your adherence to the law of God is strictly on the outside, you have not only cut yourself off from salvation, but you've put yourself in a position where it won't even appeal to you. And so He's describing a wicked generation that by our standards today would be a moral, righteous, even godly society. But they are of all societies the most wretched because the severest sins of all sins is to think you don't need to be forgiven, right? That damns.
In fact, in Jesus' words He says this, back to verse 29, "This generation is a wicked generation." And then He gives the reason, "It seeks for a sign." That's almost a parallel of Matthew 12:40: "An evil and adulterous generation seek for a sign." Now if you were to say, let's say you were to say this generation is a wicked generation, and somebody said to you, "Why do you say that?" You probably wouldn't say it seeks for a sign. You'd probably list a list of vile things and violent things and you'd probably have a long list of iniquities. Jesus doesn't do that. He says the evidence of the wickedness of this generation, and this again is the final statement, the finality of their wickedness is tied to the fact that they seek for a sign. And you ask the question, "What is so bad about that? What is so indicting about that? How does that make them so unredeemable? How does that expose them to demonic forces and divine judgment?"
In this way: They were asking Jesus for a sign to prove to them that He was not the servant of Satan. Prove it. We want a sign. If you are not operating by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, then prove it with a sign. In other words, they were saying their unbelief and their rejection of Jesus Christ and their conclusion that He was satanic rather than divine was His fault, not theirs. That their righteous assessment of the data, that their insight into what He had said and what He had done led them to this conclusion alone, that He did what He did by the power of Satan and they concluded that because they were wise and they were insightful and they were spiritually sensitive and they had great discernment. And if they didn't believe that He was from God, it was His fault. This is blasphemy upon blasphemy. They were blaming Jesus for their conclusion. They were saying Jesus left them no other option than to conclude that He was satanic. This is a blasphemy that is inconceivable. They were a wicked generation because they were blasphemers and their blasphemy went all the way to the extreme of rejecting everything He said and everything He did, or concluding that it only proved He served Satan.
So they seek for a sign. And, you know, people have discussed this, commentators have written about it. What was the sign they were seeking? What would have done it? What would have pushed them over the other way? What would have flip-flopped them 180 degrees from considering Him as a servant of Satan to a servant of God, or Son of God, or Messiah? What would it have been?
And, you know, there are all kinds of things that have been written about this. Some people said, "Well, you know, they expected Him to rearrange constellations." Or, they expected Him to move stars around in space so that they would...people would think He had some power in the kingdom of Heaven. And there was some supposed fictional story about Rabbi Eliezer or some rabbi who had moved a tree 300 cubits and who had made water flow upstream and made a wall lean without falling and silly thinks like that. And some said they wanted Him to do that. Or they wanted Him to spin some kind of thing in the air. And you can go on. You know what the truth is: They didn't have anything in mind, they didn't have anything in mind. This was the same attitude as back in verse 16 where it says, "Others to taunt Him," better than test, to taunt Him, "were demanding of Him a sign from heaven." This is a taunt. Prove to us that You're not satanic. We've seen all Your stuff and our conclusion is You're satanic. It's a taunt, it's a mockery. It's a blasphemy. Just try to do something that will change our mind. That's the attitude. You've led us to this conclusion yourself. My, my! He had banished disease from Israel. He had banished demons from souls of men. He had conquered death and raised the dead. He had created food for thousands. He had stilled the waters in a storm. He had calmed the storm. He had controlled the fish. He had walked on the water Himself. All of it together wasn't enough. They had all the evidence they needed and more, much more. It wasn't about evidence. It was about the fact that in their self-righteous moralism they hated the diagnosis that Jesus rendered of their hearts. They were so self-righteous. They couldn't deny that He had supernatural power so there was only one place to assign it. If not God, Satan. This is not lack of evidence, this is lack of penitence. And in the end, they hated the very God they said they loved.
In John 15:24 Jesus said, "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sinned." Their sin is so great because I have done things that no one else has ever done. And then He says this, "But now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well." They were God-haters. Who in the world would say that of the Jews in the generation of Jesus, that they were God-haters? You might say that about the Romans who worshiped Caesar and rejected the true and living God. You might say that about other nations in the world that had their own false deities. But who would say of the Jews they are God-haters? Listen, anyone that rejects the Lord Jesus Christ is a God-hater. You cannot love God and hate Christ. You cannot honor the Son without honoring the Father, nor can you honor the Father without honoring the Son, Jesus said. And that's what verse 23 was telling us, right? He who is not with Me is against Me. He who does not gather with Me scatters.
It is the most dangerous posture to take to hide under a cloak of morality, a cloak of religion and then to reject the diagnosis of your own wretchedness, your own sinfulness, your own unworthiness, your own inability to save yourself, commend yourself to God and therefore reject the work of Jesus Christ. Christendom, as we have been learning in the book of Jude in our study of apostasy, is just full of these kinds of people who are self-righteous, right in Christendom as such, as well as all other religions of the world. And they are damned by their false righteousness.
So the final statement, this is a wicked generation. It proves to be true. Just a few months from this they will put Jesus on a cross and scream for His blood, even after a brief, euphoric Palm Sunday, as we call it, when they thought maybe He is our Messiah, but soon turned on Him to scream for His blood. So the final statement is made, "This is a wicked generation.” And, dear friends, all of you who stand with that generation against Jesus Christ are classified in the same way.
There is grace, however, it seems relentless grace with our Lord. Having said that, He then says this: "This generation is a wicked generation, it seeks for a sign. Yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah." And the word "but" opens the window of grace. Following the final statement comes the final sign. It's not going to be a sign that they demand. It's not going to be on their terms and at their timing. Even though, this is so wonderful, even though they are asking for a sign as a taunt, as a mockery, as a way to scorn and vilify Jesus to the face, just try to do something that will make us believe, even though it is in that nature that they ask for a sign and He says they will not be given such a sign to feed their hatred, but on His terms and by divine plan, not on theirs, there will be one more sign, one final sign, a sign pointing to His deity, pointing to His messiahship, pointing to Him as Savior. Not because they demanded it but because God has determined graciously to give it. And what is this sign? Verse 29, "It is the sign of Jonah.” It is the sign of Jonah.
What is that? What is the sign of Jonah? Well I don't need to go into all kinds of detail on the sign of Jonah. We have already learned about this back in Matthew chapter 12 in, what I believe, is a parallel teaching and confrontation with Jews at another time, this in Galilee, Matthew 12, and the one in Luke 11 in Judea. If you go back to Matthew 12 for a moment, some of the scribes and Pharisees said, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." And He answered and said to them in verse 39, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign, yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet." And what is the sign of Jonah the prophet? Verse 40, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
There's the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was three days... A day and a night refers to any part of a 24-hour period in their vernacular. Just as Jonah was in the belly of that sea monster three days, so the Lord is going to be, as it were, in the belly of the earth for three days. And just as Jonah came out of that virtual death alive, Jesus will come out of actual death alive. That is the sign of Jonah. Jonah was an interesting guy, wasn't he? He was... He was a prophet from a small town near Nazareth. And in John 7:52 when the Pharisees said there was no prophet ever arisen in...in Galilee, they were wrong. Jonah did. He preached to the northern tribes in the reign of Jeroboam the Second in the eighth century. He wasn’t an obscure guy.
And you remember how the story of Jonah went. God called him to go to preach to Nineveh, hated, despised, idolatrous Gentiles. Jonah didn't want to do that because he worried that they might repent and he didn't want them to get the benefits that come to those who repent. That's how much...talk about racism, that's how much Jonah hated them, didn't want them to receive the forgiveness and blessing of God. So he took a ship the other direction. Out into the Mediterranean, you remember a storm came up. They all got together to find out how they were going to solve the problem. And being a very superstitious people they figured that some god is doing this and who is it? And Jonah said, "Well I tell you who it is, it's my God because I'm disobedient. Throw me over and the storm will stop." And they accommodated him. Threw him over and it stopped. And as he was sinking down into the water he was swallowed by this monster, some kind of a whale or some kind of a shark or maybe just a creation of God for the time. And you remember how the story went. He prayed while he was in the inside of that fish and God heard his prayer of repentance and the fish spit him out on the shore. And then he was ready to do what God wanted him to do.
Chapter 3, probably, of Jonah would be a good place to look, just a few verses. "Jonah then went to Nineveh," verse 3, "it was a great city, three days walk." Verse 11 of chapter 4 says, "There were 120,000 people who didn't know the difference between their right and left hand," that's little children, 120,000 little children and a lot more older children and adults, huge city. "He began to cry out to the city," in verse 4, "forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." That's not all he said, he preached, he preached, he preached. He also told his testimony, told his story. Verse 5: "The people of Nineveh believed in God." Why would they believe that Jonah was a messenger from God? Because obviously this miracle that had happened. He had been in the storm. He had been thrown into the water. The fish had swallowed him. He prayed in the belly of the fish. And the fish had vomited him up. He came back from virtual death. You would have assumed his career was over when he was there. It wasn't. He came out to have his greatest career as a prophet of God. They saw this as a sign. This is the sign of Jonah. And if you just think back to what I read, verse 29 of Luke 11, "No sign will be given but the sign of Jonah." Then verse 30, "Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites.”
Why did the Ninevites believe he spoke for God? Why did they believe he had a message from God? Because of this miracle. They hadn't seen the miracle. They hadn't personally experienced that miracle. But he told them the story and they believed the story. And there must have been some way that he could have corroborated the story and they believed it. And so when he preached they said he must be from God because this has happened to him, this great miracle has happened. If he's from God then what he says is true and we will believe. And verse 5 of Jonah 3, the people of Nineveh believed in God. They called a fast. They put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them, the clothing of repentance. The word reached the king, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself in sackcloth, sat in ashes, issued a proclamation: Everybody is to fast, including all the animals. Verse 8, everybody is to be covered with sackcloth. "Let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way, from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish." They got the picture of judgment. They knew God was going to destroy them if they didn't turn from their sin. They believed this was a message from the true God, not because they had the Scripture, but because God had done a miracle which they believed only He could do and therefore this messenger was from Him. This was the sign of Jonah. Now you can go back to Luke chapter 11.
And so this Jesus picks up, as He did in Matthew 12 verse 40, the sign of Jonah as he was three days, three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so the Son of Man will be three days, three nights in the earth; also repeated it in Matthew 16:4, another time when Jesus referred to this same sign, Matthew 16 verse 4, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonah." So it's recorded a couple of times there in Matthew, recorded again here in this occasion in Luke. The experience then of Jonah, listen, is analogous to the experience of Jesus. Jonah was swallowed by the great fish; Jesus was swallowed into the grave. Jonah's career should have ended; Jesus' career should have ended. Jonah was miraculously delivered from certain death; Jesus was actually raised from death. Jonah's deliverance from the clutches of death ushered him into a great and powerful ministry, and so did our Lord's resurrection. By the way, as a footnote, by this reference Jesus authenticates the biblical account of Jonah. The sign of Jonah then is the resurrection of the dead, from the dead, Jesus’ own personal resurrection.
Now look at verse 30, "Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites so shall the Son of Man be to this generation." What was the final sign then? What was it? The resurrection. What greater sign could there be? Jesus conquered death for Himself, the greatest sign. People of Nineveh heard one poor prophet who by his own confession was...was wicked, perverse, and rebellious, sinful, calls himself that in his own prophecy. He only had one sign and they heard him tell about it, they didn't see it but they believed. And look at this, the Son of Man is a sign to this generation. You know all that you've already seen and there's one more final sign to seal the reality of who He is and that's the resurrection.
But when Jesus died and was buried and rose again, how did they react? Look at Matthew chapter 28 verse 11. This is after the resurrection. There's no question what happened. A severe earthquake occurs in chapter 28. The angel of the Lord descends from heaven, came, rolled the stone away, sat on it. His appearance is like lightning, his garments as white as snow. And the guards saw it. They saw it and they shook literally and became like dead men. They just... They just went into a semi-coma out of the sheer terror of seeing a heavenly angel, feeling the earthquake and watching the stone roll away and Jesus arose. So verse 11, pick up the story, Matthew 28, "The guard came into the city and they came to the chief priests and told them what had happened." What did they tell them? Earthquake, stone rolls, angel, we fall over like dead men. Of course they all knew that Jesus had said He would rise. Well they called an assembly, did these chief priests. This was the final sign and they called an assembly with the elders and they counseled together and they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, "You are to say His disciples came by night, stole Him away while we were asleep." They knew that's not what happened. They paid the soldiers to lie.
You talk about religious people, these are. You talk about moral people, these are. You talk about people who put themselves in a position to literally ignore truth, these are. And so they bribed the guards to lie rather than believe the resurrection. And verse 14, "’If this should come to the governor's ears, you know, that we've bribed you to lie, we'll win him over and we'll keep you out of trouble.’ They took the money and did what as they had been instructed.” Listen to this. “And this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day." And the day that Matthew writes this it's still the conventional wisdom. Oh yeah, the disciples stole His body. Just like the Jews had circulated through Galilee and circulated through Judea that He did what He did by the power of Satan, this is another lie they circulated that the people bought in to that the disciples stole His body. It didn't matter what Jesus did, it didn't matter what the miracle was. The final sign only confirmed the wretchedness of their unbelief.
The final statement, this is a wicked generation. The final sign: the resurrection. And then the final sentence, the final sentence, verse 31, "The queen of the south shall rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Behold: Something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." And by the way, Jesus had said those very same words on the occasion of this same discussion in Galilee as recorded in Matthew chapter 12. If you look at Matthew chapter 12 verses 39 to 42, you'll read the same words.
He went back to this same thing. They had... After all His ministry in Galilee, they had reached the point of full rejection. And here, after His ministry in Judea, they reached the same point. And He says to them, "You know something, the queen of the south, a Gentile woman from the ends of the earth; and the men of Nineveh, Gentile, pagan, idolatrous people, are going to stand up at the judgment and condemn you, the Jews, the people of God, the people of the promise. This is just intolerable to them. They felt themselves so superior to Gentiles. This is a powerful condemnation.
Look at verse 31 for a moment, a few comments. The queen of the south is introduced to us in 1 Kings, chapter 10. We know her as the Queen of Sheba. You probably don't know where Sheba is. If you want to look on a map you can find Sheba, just find a modern map and locate Yemen. We know about Yemen, don't we, because of the Gulf War. It's at the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula. That's where she was from. It was known as the ends of the earth. Look at verse 31, "She came from the ends of the earth." That area is also the most mountainous, most fertile part of Arabia. It's the place from which the Sabean people came who became very wealthy through the control of the perfume and the incense trade, especially with India. They also developed agriculture. They did an awful lot of trade. They sent camel caravans from Sheba to the Mediterranean area according to Job chapter 6 verse 19 and they brought gold and precious stones and all of those kinds of things. This was a...this was a nation afar off, however. That's what it says in Joel 3:8 and in I think it's Jeremiah 6:20. This is the end of the earth. This is a woman. This is a queen who comes from Sheba from the south to visit Solomon. And in 1 Kings, chapter 10, just a couple of comments, you don't need to look it up, I'll just comment on it.
She has heard the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord. It wasn't just that she heard about Solomon, she just heard that Solomon had so much wisdom that came from his God and she heard about this God who gave him wisdom. And as a ruler herself, she wanted to know who this God was who could give so much wisdom. So she came to ask Solomon the difficult questions that she as a ruler couldn't seem to find the wisdom to solve and she came and she brought a large retinue and she had all these things, camels and spices and gold and precious stones and she spoke with Solomon about all that was in her heart. She was seeking true wisdom from one she had heard was the God of wisdom. Solomon answered all her questions, didn't hide anything back and she took in all this wisdom and at the end of it, verse 9, this is so wonderful. Here's what she says, "Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel because the Lord loved Israel forever. Therefore He made you king to do justice and righteousness." Where did she get all that theology? Well they didn't just talk about economics, they talked about theology. Solomon gave her the true doctrine of God, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, His call to the nation Israel and His covenant with Israel. And the fact that He is a righteous God and a just God, Solomon explained his God to her and she believed in Solomon's God and she praises Solomon's God. "Blessed be God."
We could say this woman was converted. This woman was saved from her sin by her belief in the true God. This woman, verse 31, shall rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And behold, a greater...someone greater than Solomon is here. What's He saying? He's saying here's a woman with nothing like the privilege that this generation has had. Here is a woman from afar off, not nearby. Here is a woman who had no knowledge of the true God and no invitation to discover anything about the true God. Here is a woman who sought the truth out of her own heart, who traveled for weeks to get to the truth. Here is an uninvited woman who yet came and heard and believed. She came at great sacrifice. She came at great expense. She came at great time and effort. She came voluntarily. She came eager for the truth. She heard, she believed, she responded with praise and with gratitude. And she was a pagan and she was a Gentile and worst of all, she was a woman. And every Pharisee prayed every day, "I thank God that I'm not a Gentile or a woman." She did that from afar and he says to them in verse 31, "And behold: Something greater than Solomon is here, not far, here." Something, not just someone, but something and that is not only Christ but all that pertains to Him and His gospel, all the truths of His glorious kingdom, all the truth of salvation. The Jews had in their midst a far greater king than Solomon who was far off from this woman. The Jews had in their midst a far greater teacher of wisdom than Solomon. The Jews had a far greater kingdom than Solomon's. The Jews had a far greater message than Solomon's. And they rejected it all.
Some day in the judgment, at the Great White Throne Judgment when the final verdicts are made and the ungodly from all of human history in a glorified body that meets their tormented spirit will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to suffer forever for their rejection of the truth in Jesus Christ. This woman will stand up symbolically to condemn them with much less opportunity, much less personal experience and exposure. She heard the truth and believed. It's always dangerous to hear it and not believe it. And for them, the severest judgment awaits.
You might even say she could have claimed some excuse. The Jews could never claim any, and nor can you who have the story in the Scripture. She will rise up, as it were, metaphorically, symbolically to condemn them so that all of this generation of proud, self-righteous Jews is condemned by a Gentile woman.
And then one final comment, back to Jonah, verse 32, "The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." Again it's a comparison of opportunity and response. The Ninevites had so little. One prophet and a self-confessed sinful, foolish, rebellious prophet, one prophet with one miraculous experience and the whole city repents, hundreds of thousands of people. They had none of the privileges, none of the advantages the Jews who heard the sinless Son of God and saw miracle after miracle had. Ah, but then Jesus said in Luke 16, "If they don't believe Moses and the prophets, they won't believe though one is raised from the dead." The Ninevites repented and God's judgment was prevented for 150 years, through really three generations. The Jews rejected the truth in their midst and that generation was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman holocaust. The Jews had the living God in their midst, perfect holiness, perfect wisdom, perfect clarity, perfect love, perfect grace, wielding astonishing power, unmistakably proving He was Israel's God and they hated Him. And so at the judgment the Gentile Ninevites who believed stand as symbols of condemnation over a greater privileged Israel because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And behold indeed, something greater than Jonah is here. Jesus saying, "It's Me. It's My message, it's My kingdom."
It's not debatable, folks. This generation of Jews in Jesus' day was a wicked generation because they were self-righteous, moral, religious blasphemers and haters of the very God they thought they served. And it all comes down to what you do with Jesus Christ. They were worse off than uncircumcised Ninevites and a pagan, Gentile woman from the end of the earth who had very little spiritual privilege but made the most of the little privilege they had. This just infuriated the Jews even more, though it was a merciful reminder of judgment and the final sign, enough to convince any open heart. Are you with Christ or against Him? That is the defining reality of your eternal destiny. Bow in prayer with me.
This is such a clear teaching, our Father, that it's really unmistakable to the open heart and yet we know the heart can't be opened unless You open it. So we ask, Lord, that in grace You would give understanding and conviction and repentance and faith to that heart that lacks it. And may we all understand that Jesus Christ is the issue. I pray, oh God, that many even this day would move from being against Him to being with Him, embracing Him as Savior and Lord and God, for it's in His name that we pray.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information