Seeking a Sign

“If Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of God, just show us a sign,” cries modern society. Seeking a sign, a common request, was one which even the religious leaders of Christ’s day demanded: “…Master, we would see a sign from thee” (Mt. 12:38). The reality is, they did not need to see a sign, for they already had been exposed to many. Matthew chapters 8 and 9 are full of powerful examples of Jesus displaying His Deity. Consider the following:

  • 8:1-4 – Jesus cleanses a leper.
  • 8:5-13 – Jesus heals the centurion’s servant.
  • 8:14-17 – Jesus heals many.
  • 8:23-27 – Jesus calms a storm.
  • 8:28-34 – Jesus cast out demons
  • 9:1-7 – Jesus heals a paralytic.
  • 9:18-26 – Jesus heals a women with an issue of blood as well as brings Jarius’ daughter back to life.
  • 9:27-31 – Jesus gives two blind men their sight.
  • 9:32-33 – Jesus cast out a demon allowing a mute man to speak.

Even if the religious leaders were not eye witnesses to some of these events, they could not have escaped their notice. Thus, when they ask for a sign Jesus responds, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt. 12:39-40). The only sign they will receive is the sign of Jonah—a clear reference to His resurrection.

 The Resurrection Foretold
The Messianic prophecies are powerful signs proving Jesus is who He claimed to be. We enjoy reading notable prophecies concerning His death, however, we must not overlook the prophecies concerning His resurrection, which at times are in the very same passages!

The renowned prophet Isaiah penned these inspiring words in chapter 53:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (vv. 3-5).

This is a familiar and beloved passage, however, continue reading and carefully notice verse 10: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” It did not please God to watch His Son suffer on Calvary’s cross, however, it was necessary to complete the grand scheme of redemption. It does, however, please Him to delight in the benefits derived from the pain, suffering, shed blood, death, burial and resurrection. The forgiveness of sin, salvation, reconciliation and redemption are wonderful things worth more than all this earth holds. It was all possible because His days were prolonged. His resurrection changes everything!

The psalmist writes a beautiful, yet heart wrenching, foretelling of the Lord’s suffering. In the 22nd Psalm, perhaps the most underappreciated of all the Messianic passages which deal with His pain and anguish, he speaks of the Lord being poured out like water, bones out of joint, heart like wax (vv. 14-15). Later in the same passage he writes, “My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee (vv. 25-27). One cannot be fully satisfied nor properly praise the Lord without a proper understanding of God’s great plan. In this prophetic passage he speaks of the future of humanity and the great compassion and grace they will enjoy from God. This was fully accomplished by His resurrection from the grave. His reign, made possible by His triumph over death, is a blessing for all humanity. Tesh and Zorn write, “It should not be thought strange, however, that the psalmist should anticipate the universal reign of the Lord. He recognized that the God in whom he had trusted is the living God (in distinction from all others that are called god), and consequently the God of all creation. The psalmist could only hope that all peoples might come to known such deliverance as he had experienced and thus be encouraged to seek God also and to join in praising him.”

The psalmist also wrote, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (16:9-11). This, arguably, is the strongest of all prophetic passages for the resurrection of Christ. The point David is making is crystal clear: not only does he have confidence God will not abandon him in death, he points to a greater hope enjoyed by us today—His resurrection! Eddie Cloer provides remarkable insight to this psalm, as he writes,

“David may be writing an expression of trust in God for the indefinite future, but the Holy Spirit is uttering through him a prophetic portrayal of the greatest event of all time: Jesus’ bursting forth from the dead. The Christ will not be left in the grave (or Sheol). He will not remain dead, nor will His body stay in the grave long enough to undergo decay. The deeper meaning of this psalm is realized by the unbroken fellowship Jesus has with God and His release from death’s grip in that tomb outside of Jerusalem.”

Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, quotes this prophecy to emphasize the resurrection of Christ. Peter preached,

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance” (Acts 2:24-28).

The emphasis, not only of Peter, but of all the apostles’ preaching, was the resurrection of Christ. This aspect of the gospel is the fundamental fact that makes Christianity unique and of supreme significance. It is this action that makes Christianity real and alive.

The Apostle Paul, at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, after the reading from the Law and Prophets, preached a beautiful exhortation showing Christ is the fulfillment of the prophets. He reaches the climax of his sermon with the following words, “…that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). What a comforting conclusion to reach, however, one should not miss the focus Paul places on Christ fulfilling the resurrection prophecies. Consider the following statements and the prophecies to which they refer:

  1. “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,” (v. 32). Fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, 12:3, 22:18.
  2. “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (v. 33). Fulfillment of Psalm 2:7.
  3. “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.; But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (vv. 34-35, 37). Fulfillment of Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10.

Paul, well studied in the Law and the Prophets, uses his training and education wisely to convince his audience of the resurrection of Christ.

New Testament Foretelling
In the New Testament, Christ, despite the obtuseness of His disciples in failing to fully understand and appreciate His words at the time, provided several predictions of His resurrection. In one such instance the Jews had turned the temple into a place of commerce. In what should have been a solemn place of worship, greed reigned and unethical business practices were the rule. Jesus rebukes them for such behavior, and after the disciples remembered the words of the psalmist, the Jews proposed a question, “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (Jn 2:18). The response, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body” (Jn. 2:19-21). To the Jews the only things they could comprehend were material in nature, and their actions proved this was the case. Gazing on the beauty of the temple complex, they scoffed at Jesus’ words, knowing it would take much longer than three days to set the massive stones of which the temple was constructed. However, Jesus was teaching a spiritual lesson: it was His body to be raised. The temple was as nothing compared to His resurrection from death and the establishment of His church.

Upon Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16), Jesus takes the opportunity to prepare His disciples for the coming events. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Mt 16:21). In plain language, Jesus points out the core components of the gospel. As plain as the teaching was, the disciples missed the point. It is as if all they heard was “suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed”. For Peter courageously proclaims, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Mt. 16:22). If Peter had grasped the entirety of the statement he would not have reacted so defensively. If he would have realized the teaching about the resurrection perhaps his response would have been different.

Despite all the prophecy and the teachings of Jesus, very few seemed to fathom the reality of the event or even accept its possibility. After the resurrection the women “departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy” (Mt. 28:8). The disciples, upon receiving word of the empty tomb from the women, took the news “as idle tales, and they believed them not.” (Lk. 24:11). When the group was together and saw Jesus they “were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit” (Lk. 24:37). On the road to Emmaus, the conversation centering on the events of the Passion and empty tomb, the two men were dumbfounded when presented with the evidence. Jesus had to instruct them: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:25-27).

Article by: Brad Shockley