Jesus Given | Matthew 16:1-4
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 16:1–16:4
Good Morning! We are in a series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series has been titled the Revelation of the King as the section we will be looking at (chapters 14-20). Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus performs miracles, but above all Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people, he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. Last week we looked at the beginning of Matthew 15 when a delegation of Pharisees come and challenge Jesus teaching by how his disciples were ignoring the “tradition of the Elders”. Jesus teaching was revolutionary in saying sin isn’t what happens outside of us, it is what comes out of our hearts. Jesus preforms many more miracles of healing and feeding before we again see Jesus challenged by another delegation of Pharisees, not challenging his teaching, but rather his identity.
Matthew 16:1-4 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Verse 1 | Testing Jesus
There is subtle difference here in Jesus being opposed this time, compared to others. It says the Pharisees and Sadducees come to test Jesus. This is significant. These two groups in first century society are completely opposed to one another. The Pharisees are religiously conservative, influential with the common people, and are verbally hostile in their disposition and teaching to the oppression and rule of Rome. The Sadducees on the other hand are political pragmatists who are fine working with Rome if it will lead to them retaining power, influence, and wealth. The point being, never underestimate the unifying power of Jesus, even among those who actively oppose Jesus. This united front has come to Jesus for a purpose. Mathew says it is to test Jesus, specifically to show them a “sign from heaven”. “Jesus give us some evidence you really are sent from God.” Don’t be confused, this is not a genuine investigation. They are not coming to Jesus actually seeking to determine his identity of Savior- King of God’s people. They are not humbly hoping to have him confirm his identity but instead expect he is a fraud and unable to produce any such sign. The word “test” is negative and can also be translated into “tempt”, they are baiting Jesus and expect failure. They are not in a position of submission to Jesus, they are standing in judgment over him.
Jesus has performed numerous signs already. His ministry begins when he was baptized by John, the sky opens up, the Holy Spirit comes upon him and God the Father declares “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Countless times before this Jesus has been healing in crowds and with individuals. He has preached the most famous sermon in history unpacking the wisdom and character of God. He’s cleansed lepers, cast out demons, brought a girl back from death, calmed storms, given sight to the blind, feed thousands twice, and walked on water. The problem we have with Jesus is never a lack of evidence or signs it is always our unwillingness to accept how God has chosen to reveal Himself.
Verse 2-3 | Interpret the Signs
Mark’s account of this incident says Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit. Jesus is not going to respond with performing a sign on demand like some sort of genie for those who come seeking to test him. The Old Testament points to a “day of visitation” when God will come and visit his people. Jesus is telling them they are able to look at the environment and discern things like the coming weather, but the coming of God in their mists they are not able to discern. This is because of the hardness of their hearts. They don’t want to see, they want to demand. Because of this they cannot see the sign they are looking for is standing before them. Jesus is God and doesn’t need to respond to our demands of Him. We need to respond to what Jesus declares about us. We cannot put ourselves in the position of judge demanding credentials of God. Yet God is exceedingly gracious and does lay out evidence about the identity of Jesus for all to see.
Jesus repeats his teaching often. Apparently as effective and impactful as Jesus teaching is, he still needed to regularly reinforce idea, concepts, and simple truth repeatedly. Jesus didn’t just say something onetime and assume “they’ve got it, all locked in”. This says both something about and Jesus teaching. We easily forget. Jesus is patient, gracious, and continues to renew our knowledge and affection of Him. So we are going to look at several signs of Jesus identity in his birth and incarnation. Our hope is not to discover or present something new or innovative but be reminded of something timelessly true and eternally significant.
As Christians we need the Historical events of Christmas. These are not legends, myths, or allegories. The incarnation of God in Jesus is both a necessary and true part of God unfolding plan of redeeming His people from their slavery of sin. Never let the events of Christmas fall into the category of worthless tradition. This is a history worth reading and signs worth remembering. This is the royal birth of the King of Kings and we know the purpose and end of them is to both reveal His glory and provide us joy.
George Whitefield - Let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten.
Genealogy of Jesus- If you look up Jesus on ancestry.com, or just back in Matthew 1, you’ll see he comes from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Judah. Yes God’s plan included blessing the world through a people. However, Jesus isn’t merely a Hebrew. He comes specifically through the royal line of Israel’s greatest king, David, then Solomon, then through generations of exile, deportation, separation, and eventual silence from God while heirs to the throne of David are born, live and die, before eventually the line comes to a generation of a humble carpenter named Joseph, Jesus adopted father. More on that later.
Angel comes to Mary and Joseph – The preparation and anticipation of Jesus birth is unique in history. Only Jesus birth, and circumstances around it were prophesized several times in different ways hundreds and thousands of years before. No prophesies foretold the birth of Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddhism), or Oprah. While each claimed to see visions from heaven or been visited by angles, Jesus is the only one who point back to numerous prophecies and say “I fulfill these”. God doesn’t leave any room for error he sends angels to announce “This is the one.” Jesus can easily respond to any critic, “You want a sign from heaven? How about angels visiting my mom and adopted dad before I was born?”
Matthew 1:18-23 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Virgin Birth –. Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 This was a promised sign 700 years before Jesus birth. Don’t by any lie that says “Virgin=Young” and this isn’t an amazing miracle. It’s not enough for Jesus to just the prophesized king of His people. A great man can lead people, only a great God can truly save people
Luke 1:26-35 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
What Mary actually says is “since I do not know a man” Is this really so amazing? That God who spoke the universe into existence could have human life created in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by mere human means. Martin Luther said “The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become a man is a greater miracle.” The virgin birth is both a real and necessary sign because it show the unique and divine character of Jesus in his full humanity (that he was born) and his full divinity (that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit)
Birth in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Jesus wasn’t born in the temple, palace, in Jerusalem, or Rome, anywhere humanity assigns value or power. Don’t think this is so insignificant. How many of us got to pick the place of our birth? The prophecy eliminates the possibilities of all other cities/towns IN THE WORLD that the Savoir King could come from. Name the other famous people from Bethlehem? God says I am going to visit you there so you know I care about the poor and marginalized.
Angel, and heavenly hosts comes to Shepherds - No minor birth announcement. An angel comes again to nearby shepherds announcing peace on earth and good will among men with the “heavenly hosts”. God has sent a delegation of his angel armies to announce terms of peace. You want a sign? This happened.
Star Trek of the Wise Men from the East- Crazy shepherds thought they all saw something that’s great, but knowing our easy ability to discount those of low social standing or explain away all of this merely sectarian Jewish event, the God of the Universe literally moves the stars in the heavens in such a way that cannot be explained away or ignored. It was so clear that even elite leading men from a foreign land (outside of Israel, not Jewish) saw a new star and were so convinced and moved to come at great cost and effort to see the King of the Jews.
Looking to the sky was not uncommon. Astrological events were usually interpreted in terms of predicting the fall of one emperor or empire and the rise of another. Jesus comes in humility but his mission is glorious. Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Verse 4 | Sign of Jonah
Jesus talks about an evil and adulterous generation, yet many times in the Old Testament the current generation is referred the same way. You would be hard pressed to make an argument our current generation is not evil in our actions and adulterous in our affections and worship. You can pick out any generation in history and hold it up to the words of Jesus and the Old Testament and it would be found to be the same. Yes the sins, evil, and idols would look different but the truth would remain. Because of sin each and every single generation has fallen short of both God’s standard of holiness AND has willingly chosen to give their affection and worship to something less than the Creator of the Universe. How does God respond to us as an evil and adulterous generation? With both mercy and grace through the person and work of Jesus. We turn away, we seek other things to fulfill us, yet he pursues us. And we are given one clear sign over and above every other. Jesus talks about the sing of Jonah. While he doesn’t elaborate here we do know he taught on this back in Matthew chapter 12:39-41
Matthew 12:40-41 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.
We have been given a sign from Heaven in Jesus identity, life, and power. No we haven’t seen the sign, but the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. We want more from God for him to act now in our midst. God says I have already given all the evidence you need in Jesus. The desire for a sign is us really wanting a personal miraculous act done just for us, and then we will believe. And yet there was one. The Cross. The Miracle of God becoming a man we celebrate at Christmas is completely meaningless without the sacrifice of the Cross on Good Friday, three days in the tomb, and the world changing destiny securing miracle of Resurrection Sunday we celebrate on Easter.
“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the crèche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.” John Donne, The Book of Uncommon Prayers
This section closes with Jesus leaving those opposed to him Those who hope in Jesus know he is with us always to the end of the age, and he will return because he has promised it. Matt 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Jesus is the sign given. Trust Jesus!