Jesus Rebukes | Matthew 12:38-50 (Mville)

August 17, 2014 Series: Mission of the King | Matthew Part II

Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 12:38–12:50

Mission of the King - Jesus Rebukes - Matthew 12.38-50 from Damascus Road Church on Vimeo.



Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church this morning. My name is Randy, and

I am one of the pastors here. We are currently working our way through the book of Matthew as

a church, and today we are going to look at Matthew 12:38-50 together.

This week’s passage is covering the last of three contreversies brought to Jesus by the scribes

and Pharisees. Kevin preached about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ challenge to him that

he was violating the laws of the Sabbath. But Jesus reveals himself as the Lord of the Sabbath

– the one who shows us how to and makes us able to REST in him. Last week Chris preached

on Jesus as the Lord over – the ultimate authority of – the spiritual realm. The Pharisees attack

him claiming that he drives out demons by the power of Satan, but he sets them straight.

Now, this week we’ll see the Jesus responds with a word of rebuke to the Pharisees third

attempt at creating controversy. They ask him for a sign – proof that he is the Christ.


Mat 12:38-50 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, we

wish to see a sign from you." (39) But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation

seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) 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.

(41) 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.

(42) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it,

for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something

greater than Solomon is here.

(43) "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places

seeking rest, but finds none. (44) Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'

And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. (45) Then it goes and

brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last

state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation."

(46) While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood

outside, asking to speak to him. (47) Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are

standing outside, asking to speak to you." (48) But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is

my mother, and who are my brothers?" (49) And stretching out his hand toward his disciples,

he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! (50) For whoever does the will of my Father in

heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

The text cleanly splits into three sections... the sign of Jonah, the Return of the Evil Spirit, and

the The main thrust of this text, I believe is the first chunk – the sign of Jonah. I see the second

two as applications of what Jesus is saying by the “Sign of Jonah,” so we will focus mostly on

that part.

The passage begins with the scribes and Pharisees answering Jesus – “Teacher we wish to see

a sign from you.” In order to move on from this first sentence with a proper understanding of

what is going on, we need to understand two things:

1) It says they were answering Jesus... what are they answering? if we take a step back

into the preceding verses we see that Jesus has just called them a ‘brood of vipers.’

He’s called them evil. He’s said that they are careless with their words, and implies that

they will receive condemnation because of their hard and sinful hearts. He’s told them –

you’re either with me or against me... and by the way: if you’re against me, you’re against

Yahweh... the God you claim to be serving and building your life around.

It’s safe to say that when they come asking him to give a sign that they were less than

genuine in their request. They would have been very, very angry. The scribes and

Pharisees say they are looking for a sign. Notice their manipulative tone as they refer to

him as “Teacher”.

2) Who were the scribes and the Pharisees?

They were the religious elite of Jewish society. Jewish scribes, as you might guess were

responsible for recording the old testament. They were both religious leaders who are

presented almost always as corrupt men whose prideful religiosity is pointed out by Jesus

as being woeful many times. You might say that the scribes were professional writers

of the law – and therefore experts, while the Pharisees were professional doers of the

law. They both were responsible for the excessively heavy burdens the people of Israel

were strapped with in regards to adherence to a man-made system of religion that totally

disregarded the heart.

We like to demonize the scribes and Pharisees. I suppose that’s not technically wrong,

since Jesus pretty much does the same thing on so many occasions. The one problem

that we are faced with when it comes to our interpretation of the scriptures is that we

demonize them to the point that we can no longer identify with them.

We think, I’m sure glad I’m not like the Pharisees... ironically, this attitude reminds me

of a parable that Jesus gives in Luke 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The

Pharisee is the one who is thankful he’s not like the tax collector, as he prays a prideful

works-focused prayer. On the other hand, the scumbag tax collector beats his chest and

prays, “be merciful to me... a sinner!” Do you think you’re more like a Pharisee than you

realize? Maybe we’re NEO-PHARISEES...

Think about it. Let’s read out of Matthew 23. As we do, think about what your heart’s

response is...

Mat 23:1-7 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) "The scribes and the

Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the

works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (4) They tie up heavy burdens, hard

to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move

them with their finger. (5) They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make

their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, (6) and they love the place of honor at

feasts and the best seats in the synagogues (7) and greetings in the marketplaces and

being called rabbi by others...

So, what’s your response when you read this? If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking

– man, Jesus is really taking them out to the woodshed, isn’t he!? They deserve it... they

were bad, bad, people.

While it’s true that the scribes and Pharisees were desperately sinful men, we lose sight

of the fact that we are too. We forget that we are just as prone to – and just as guilty of –

legalism and idolatry as they were. We must not hold this week’s text at arms’ length just

because Jesus is talking to the bad guys and let ourselves miss the message. It applies

to us – today – not just to them.

And by way of warning – you need to realize that the heart of a Pharisee will have a

profoundly negative impact on you and those around you. Let’s think about a few quick


Marriage: The Neo-Pharisee says, “you don’t meet my expectations, so I won’t meet


Work: The Neo-Pharisee says, “I’m justified in not working hard today because my boss

is a jerk.” Or... I work as hard as my compensation deserves.”

Parenting: The Neo-Pharisee says, “I don’t need to feel bad about shouting at my kids...

they deserve it. If they’d listen to me, they’d have nothing to worry about. It’s up to


Pastor: The Neo-Pharisee says, “You sure are having a tough time in life... the answer is

to give more to the church. Your blessing depends on your faith.”

The scribes and Pharisees and scribes are not just looking for another miracle. They have

already denounced Jesus’ miracles as satanic. They are seeking something particular –

something that would convince them his claims were true. Jesus does not give them what they

are looking for. He tells them they will receive the sign of Jonah.

Sign of Jonah

In order to understand what this means, you need to know the story of Jonah. I recently heard

Greg Laurie on the radio sum up the story of Jonah like this: God said “Go.” Jonah said “no.”

God said “Oh...”

Here’s Jonah in two minutes: Jonah was commanded to go to a city called Nineveh and preach

to them a message God would give him. Rather than obey, he ran and found a ship that would

take him the opposite direction. God caused a great storm to rise up – so much that the ship

was about to sink. Rather than helping keep the ship afloat, Jonah is found sleeping in the belly

of the ship. He confesses to them – after he’s revealed as the source of their trouble through

casting of lots – that he is running from God. He has the men cast him overboard so God would

relent from his fury. He’s swallowed up by a great fish – I’d guess a whale. He doesn’t die – he

prays. The fish pukes him up. God again tells him to go to Ninevah and this time he does. He

delivers a one-sentence sermon... a message of doom, saying that in forty days Ninevah would

be taken over. God uses this to bring repentance to this great city and he relents from his plan

to destroy them. Jonah gets mad at God for being gracious to Nineveh and goes to pout in the

desert. He does get upset at when a plant that’s giving him shade dies, which brings us to the

closing verses of Jonah, which say:

Jon 4:9-11 But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he

said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die." (10) And the LORD said, "You pity the

plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and

perished in a night. (11) And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more

than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

That’s it. Do you see the ridiculousness of Jonah? I don’t mean to say that I think the events as

described are not true – I believe this to be an account of something that really happened. What

I mean is that Jonah comes across as an idiot. This is all we know of the man Jonah. The

ridiculousness of Jonah makes it surprising that God would associate himself with the man. So

why does Jesus identify himself with Jonah in this way? We’ll get to that in a moment.

In Verses 41-42 Jesus says something that may seem strange and confusing at first. He says,

Mat 12:41-42 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. (42) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation

and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and

behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

We’ve taken a quick look at the story of Jonah, but what about the “Queen of the South?” This

reference is probably a bit more obscure. Jesus is referring to the Queen of Sheba from 1Kings


The Queen of Sheba – a powerful and wealthy queen – hears about Solomon and how his

wisdom and riches are from God. She traveled as far as 1,200 miles to test him with hard

questions. She sought the wisdom of Solomon, and when she found it to be as advertised, she

gave him great gifts – more than 1,000 lbs of gold and fine spices beyond measure. In 1Kings

10, we read:

1Ki 10:6-7 (6) And she said to the king, "The report was true that I heard in my own land of

your words and of your wisdom, (7) but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own

eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the

report that I heard.

So what does Jesus mean that the Ninehvites and the Queen of the South will condemn ‘this

evil and adulterous generation?’ Simply put, the answer is this: The Ninevites saw their sin in

response to a pretty bad sermon... Jesus has been doing signs and wonders, and has been

teaching constantly... and they still don’t see it. Here are some comparisons between Jonah

and Jesus that help us see what Jesus is saying:

Jonah (preaching to Ninevites) Jesus (preaching to Scribes/Pharisees)

An obscure man from an unknown lineage God made flesh

Foolish and Rebellious Perfect and Holy

Runs away from his divine mission and is

swallowed (against his will) by a whale.

Delivered a message of doom – one sentence


Delivered a message to those who knew

nothing of Jonah’s God.

Was angered by God’s grace shown to the

Assyrian gentiles.

Preached to Assyrians – people with no prior

knowledge of or connection to Yahweh.

Gave no signs to validate his sentness

Enters his mission by entering the womb of


Preached a message of grace, constantly

through all he did and said. Even by being


Spent his ministry years mostly ministering to

the Jews. God’s chosen race, who knew more

about God than anyone.

Loved those whom he came to saved,

preached to gentiles.

Preached to those who were

professional ‘knowers’ of God.

Did so many signs and wonders that the bible

could not contain them all. He even preached

with an authority that revealed him as the


Asks to die so he doesn’t have to witness

God’s grace to undeserving people.

RESULT OF MINISTRY: Message Accepted RESULT OF MINISTRY: Message Rejected

Poured out his own life so that his grace could

be given to undeserving people.

Similarly, we can compare the Queen of the South to the Scribes and Pharisees...

Queen of the South Pharisees and Scribes

Braved a lengthy journey to see Solomon

(estimated at 1,200 miles). To see if what she

heard about was true.

She invited herself for the purpose of testing

him with hard questions.

Came to see an imperfect and lacking example

of God’s wisdom and power.

Gave unimaginable riches to Solomon as a gift They give nothing, and plan to take his life.

Came Refused

Had the truth right in front of them but did not

see it.

Jesus invited them to believe.

Had access to the one with perfect wisdom

and power.

Implications of this text:

1. Jesus should be enough for us.

I recall a special moment that I had as a Dad about 7 years ago with my daughter Aryn. She

was 3 1⁄2 and she had only been in our home for 5 or 6 months. I had no idea how long she

would be my daughter. We had recently become foster parents, and we spent every waking

moment either feeling anxious about losing her and Nathan or pretending that the possibility

didn’t exist. It was an all-consuming fire for us.

Aryn and I were driving to Safeway here in town and we were talking... about what, I don’t

know. But somehow the conversation changed to be about heaven. I asked her, “what do you

think heaven will be like?” I don’t remember anything else from that conversation except for

hearing this little girl who had been through so much tell me, “I don’t know, but as long as Jesus

is there it will be perfect!” I’m pretty sure my tear ducts activated because I was so thankful for

her little heart of faith.

This is what Jesus is trying to explain to the scribes and Pharisees... and to us. We over-
complicate things sometimes, don’t we? We load up these burdens of performance and

moralism on ourselves and others to the point where we no longer remember the point of it all.


Is your marriage a mess? Jesus is Enough!

Is your job miserable? Jesus is Enough!

Are you miserable? Jesus is Enough!

Are you depressed? Jesus is Enough!

Is your job nonexistent? Jesus is Enough!

Are you anxious? Jesus is Enough!

Are you sick? Jesus is Enough!

Have you been abused? Jesus is Enough!

Do your kids drive you crazy? Jesus is enough!

Do your parents drive you crazy? Jesus is enough!

Are you holding on to anger against someone? Jesus is Enough!

Are you struggling with addiction? Jesus is Enough!

Now you may be asking – it’s good and well to say Jesus is Enough, but how does that help

me? If that’s you this morning, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to set aside some time

to spend it with Jesus. Don’t you see – it’s not knowing about Jesus that provides what you

need, it’s knowing him! Spend some time getting to know him this week and see what he does

in your heart. You might be surprised. The source of your problem is in your heart.

If you don’t ever know Jesus, you will never be satisfied. You will spend your time trying to

make yourself feel good – and to convince the entire world you’ve got it all figured out.

As Christians, God never promises that we will experience less bad things in life. There are

Christians all around the world who are suffering right now... there are Christians suffering in

this room right now. What he does promise is an unshakable joy to those who trust in him.

2. Temporal priviledge and status is not eternal blessing.

The Queen of the South and Ninevites rise up to judge this generation. Jesus is saying that

those who know the most about God, do not necessarily possess true faith in him. Knowing

about him is not the same as knowing him. We need to be careful to not let our priviledge turn

into something harmful. Like Chris is probably thinking at this very moment as he’s exhausted

but still running... we need to keep our eyes on the prize. The prize is Jesus. We also need

to be careful about our value systems... because Jesus’ system is totally flipped from this


1Corinthians 1:22-29

(22) For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified, a

stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (24) but to those who are called, both Jews and

Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For the foolishness of God is

wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For consider your calling,

brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful,

not many were of noble birth. (27) But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the

wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (28) God chose what is low

and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, (29) so

that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Even Jesus’ own family should have special privilege – right? Nope...

48) But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"

(49) And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my

brothers! (50) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and


His own family is not as important as we would think they should be. They are shown as being

less than the true family of Jesus. They were the closest to him in one sense, but that was not

enough. Jesus is not just after our bodies and minds – he’s after our hearts.

3. Neutrality toward Jesus is not an option. We see this with the parable of the unclean spirits.

(43) "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places

seeking rest, but finds none. (44) Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'

And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. (45) Then it goes and

brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last

state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation."

The key to understanding parables is not to make a point of every detail, but to find the main

thrust of the parable. That main thrust will indicate what the intended meaning of the parable is.

Jesus’ parable is not so much about demonology.

Here’s his point: you can cleanse the bad, but if you don’t replace it with good, you will end up

worse than you were before. Jesus clearly ties this with the Pharisees and scribes when he

says, “So also will it be with this evil generation.” He’s telling them that the whole point of the

condemnation they will receive from the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba is not because they

lack morality. They lack faith and trust in Him. Remember what verse 30 said...

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Simply removing uncleanness will not do. If we are empty of evil but not full of the Spirit, we are

vulnerable. Don’t buy the lie of moralilsm – believe the truth of Jesus Christ crucified to atone

for your sins, resurrected to give you new life, and dwelling in your heart to empower you to do

his will.

4. If you have faith in Jesus as your savior, you are home.

I think we tend to see Jesus’ words toward his biological family as harsh. Certainly, those words

would have stung them on some level.

We would do well to see and savor the beauty of what Jesus is saying, it’s the gospel. That

Jesus Christ – God incarnate – would embrace us as his family is something incredible! For

those who do the will of God, you are in the family.

So what is the will of God? According to 1Thess 4, the will of God is your sanctification.

Sanctification is a fancy word that simply means – the ongoing process of being made more

holy. Less sinful and more like Christ. Santification is something that comes as a gift, by faith,

to those who believe. It’s not works, or performance, or living a certain way. It’s trusting in

Jesus – that he who knew no sin became sin for you that you might have eternal life.

We’ll close with a passage from John 17 – Jesus’ passionate prayer that he prayed just before

being betrayed by Judas.

John 17:22-26:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are

one, (23) I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may

know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (24) Father, I desire that they

also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have

given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (25) O righteous Father,

even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.

(26) I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with

which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

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