What’s The Sign? - Matthew 12:38-42

1.      When you are going to a place you have never been before, in the days before you had a “GPS”, how did you get there? (You followed a map then looked for a sign or an address for the location.)

When you are on a road trip and approaching a town where you are planning stop to eat you look for signs of familiar places. On the interstate highways there are signs before each exit indicating what eating places may be there or lodging that is available.

We are used to following signs. What about in our spiritual lives?

2.      What kinds of signs do we look for in our spiritual lives? (Should I move; should I change jobs; should I go on this mission trip; should I marry this person; should I retire; for whom should I vote; should I take that Sunday School job; etc.)

3.      Is it good or bad to seek a sign? (That all depends on your motivation, relationship with God, what has already been revealed to you, etc. That is very difficult to determine for someone else.)

As we talked about several weeks ago, John the Baptist sent a messenger to Jesus asking Him if He was the Messiah or should he be looking for another. Jesus told the messenger to tell John about the miracles Jesus had performed. In essence, Jesus told John to look at the signs that had already been given. Evidently it was enough for John.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the proof of who Jesus was. There are numerous prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew and the prophecy about His crucifixion, death and resurrection is but one.

Because people witnessed miracles of Jesus, they were seeking some sign to help them determine His identity and His mission.


Seeking A Sign! Read Matthew 12:38


Look back a few verses to Matthew 12:9-14.

1.      What was the motivation in these verses for the Scribes and Pharisee’s question to Jesus?

Note that seeing the miracle and trusting in Jesus, the Pharisees plotted how they might kill Him. The effort to get rid of Jesus intensified from this point forward.

2.      Why do you think the Pharisees needed a further sign?

3.      Jesus had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, wholeness to the lame, a right mind to the possessed and new life to the dead. What could He have done to convince them that He was the Messiah? (As we studied last week, there is none so blind as those who will not see. They were wise in their own eyes and blind to the truth of who Jesus really was. Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.”)

4.      What are some reasons that the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is not enough for some to believe in Him?

5.      What are some conditions that people want to see or experience before believing God?

6.      How is waiting for a “certain feeling” comparable to waiting for a sign?


The Pharisees should have already seen enough that they would believe in Jesus. They had witnessed His power and miracles. However, Jesus would give them a sign anyway, and that sign would be identified in the next two verses.

Identifying The Sign! Read Matthew 12:39-40


1.      Why do you think Jesus called them “an evil and adulterous generation” based upon their request for a sign?

2.      What is the difference between an honest inquiry and demanding confirmation?

Recount the story of Jonah briefly.

3.      What was Jesus’ point in recalling for them the story of Jonah? (As Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights so Jesus would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. On the third day He would be resurrected from the dead! Not resuscitated, raised with a new body!)

4.      In what way does God’s grace permeate verse 39? (While they didn’t deserve a sign, God did not abandon them. The sign of Jonah was Jesus’ way of referring to His coming death, burial, and resurrection. Through this act of unparalleled grace to mankind, this and every adulterous generation has the opportunity for salvation.)

5.      How does Jesus’ pointing to Jonah give us confidence in the Scriptures? (Jesus clearly affirmed the reliability of the account of Jonah. When we read our Scriptures, we can trust in their inspiration and inerrancy, knowing that Jesus believed the same thing.)

The prediction Jesus made here gives us confidence that whatever happens to us will not catch Jesus off guard. He knows what will happen tomorrow and will be there with us no matter what it is.


A Warning Sign! Read Matthew 12:41-42


1.      What did the “men of Nineveh” and the “queen of the south” have in common? (They were gentiles.)

2.      What kind of attitude might the Pharisees have had about them? (Much the same attitude that Jonah had—they were looked down on because they were not Jews.)

3.      What groups of people might we not want to receive God’s grace and forgiveness? Be honest with yourself!

The people of Nineveh responded favorably to Jonah’s escape from three days in the fish’s belly, while the religious leaders did not respond favorably to Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. The queen of the south, also known as the Queen of Sheba, responded favorably to the wealth of Solomon.

Jesus is once again showing that faith is not just for one ethnic group, but for all people.

4.      How would you compare your generation to the generation addressed by Jesus in this passage?

5.      What advantages do people today have that would make them face greater judgment for failure to believe in and live for Christ?

6.      How should we view Jesus, as compared to Jonah, Solomon, and other biblical characters? (Jesus is greater than all of them. Jesus is greater than these prophets because Jesus is whom they were pointing toward and waiting on. He is the salvation they were waiting on.)

Jesus, as the Son of God, didn’t just teach about salvation, but He was and is salvation. He can redeem man and forgive sin and, as such, He is immeasurably greater!


Summarize and Challenge!


1.      In reaction to this text, how should we balance our human desires for proof with Jesus’ call to faith? (While the desire for proof may be natural, Jesus assured us here that God has given us all we need and more to make an informed faith decision.)

There is a difference in wanting a sign to give us direction in our lives for decisions we must make and a sign to prove Jesus is who He says He is.

The sign requested by the scribes and Pharisees originated in their hearts of unbelief. They were disposed to reject Jesus’ message and saving mission. By contrast, sincere Christians who put out fleeces or ask for confirming witnesses have their requests originating in hearts of faith that are disposed to do God’s will.

We can approach Jesus with honest questions without demanding a sign from Him. In fact, simply investigating the likelihood of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection can point people to Him and, in the end, bring about their salvation.


Take a few minutes to consider for yourself whether you are placing your faith in Jesus based on the sign He provided, or whether you are demanding that Jesus conform to your terms.


Anytime you have a doubt if God is really there for you or really loves you, look to the cross and the resurrection.


2.      Who are the people in your life who refuse to heed the sign of the resurrection?

 Pray for them this week and seek opportunities to point them to Jesus.