| Where Recherche duTemps Perdu
---- meets Kirchliche Dogmatik
A quick preview: A couple of years ago I rather abruptly dropped the series on Christianity and what are now hardly "new" developments in physics, namely the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. I just had far too much on my plate to do justice to it. Now I'm in the process of resuscitating it. As a first step I have taken the previous posts in that series and combined them. Please click on the logo to take you there if you'd like to get caught up on what I said back then. Actually, I rewrote a number of parts and added a few points.
Also, I discovered that another "One-minute Apologist" segment featuring your humble bloggist has already been posted. You can see it by clicking on the YouTube link below.
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v 30: For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. (HCSB)
I confess that I'm not totally convinced adding the picture of a cute whale to this passage is entirely what the moment calls for. It just occurred to me that I had never drawn a whale before. I gave it a try, and I liked the little fellow, so I decided to let him adorn this entry.
The subject matter of this passage is, of course, extremely serious.
Jesus began his little speech by pointing out a paradox. He addressed his audience as belonging to an evil generation. What made them evil? I do not think that Jesus was referring to their outward morality. All things considered, the Jewish people during the time of Jesus were following the Law. If we plotted that era on the graph of the up-and-down obedience to God by his people during Old Testament times, it would rank fairly high. The temple was open and enjoyed steady patronage. The people worshiped Yahweh rather than Baal or other idols. The attempts at consistent instruction in the Law for the common people, first envisioned by David and later implemented for a time by King Jehoshaphat, had now become a steady reality thanks to the the rabbis. The Pharisees used the assembly buildings ("synagogues") to teach the Torah, and they were quite popular as a whole. But why then call them "evil"? And isn't their request for a sign an indication of sincere searching for truth?
Jesus called them "evil" due to their unbelief, specifically with regard to him. Let's not forget about the people who were labeling Jesus as demonic. He had a few sincere followers, a great number of people who enjoyed watching him and listening to him while waiting for more spectacular confirmation, and outright detractors. I always like to maintain a distinction between honest questioning and outright doubt, the latter having its roots in denial. To come to Jesus asking for a sign that authenticated him as the messiah puts the people doing so in the latter category. As I mentioned the other day, the request could be an attempt to trap him into fitting the profile of the evil prophet described in Deut. 13. But more likely in this case it as simply a matter of asking for some spectacular evidence when no more was needed.
When we look over the list of all of the miracles that Jesus had performed up to this point, it becomes clear that he had demonstrated who he was. There were many, many healings and exorcisms, two resurrections, a miraculous feeding and others. So, Jesus asserted that the people had seen enough to make a correct judgment of who he was.
Jesus then made reference to two occasions where someone showed greater faith than he attributed to his listeners. Undoubtedly to their chagrin, they were both Gentiles. One was the people of Nineveh, who heard Jonah's message of doom and repented. The other was the Queen of Shebah, who made the lengthy journey to hear Solomon's wisdom in person. Both examples set a standard that would be applied to his audience. These Gentiles did not have the advantage of Jesus' presence, yet they showed greater belief than those whom Jesus was addressing.
Still, buried in this speech is the hopeful note implied by the "Sign of Jonah." On the surface it sounds like an added condemnation (at least to me), but in reality it isn't. Jesus would be in the tomb and resurrected, just as Jonah was inside of the whale and then was evicted. Now, that's a good thing. It will, indeed, be the sign that will convince many of these fence sitters. God always has his remnant.