While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
* * * * * * * *
The Jews were constantly looking for “signs” that would provide some sort of proof of God’s continued presence in their world. From the time of their ancestors, Yahweh who had guided them out of Egypt, through the desert, and into the promised land, had led them with signs and wonders, some great and incomprehensible, like the parting of the red sea, others small and barely noticeable, like the gentle breeze out of which he spoke to the prophets.
Jesus presented himself as a man of God, and so it was natural for the Jews to look for some proof, some sign that he was the real thing and not another impostor, of which they’ve had many. But what most likely irked Jesus was not so much their asking for a sign, as much as the reason behind their looking for one. One who looks for signs can look for them because he wants to believe more, or because he simply doesn’t’ believe. These people were of the latter kind, and so no sign could really satisfy them and make them believe.
Here was Jesus, performing good deeds in their presence and they still refused to believe. For one who doesn’t believe, no sign will be enough. We too are like them at times, stubborn in our disbelief, failing to see the great and marvelous deeds God does in our everyday lives, unable to detect his presence because we have closed our eyes to him. Jesus challenges us then to open our eyes, for he is there in our midst, asking for us to pay attention to his presence.