As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. – Luke 11:29-30
As the crowds increased…
Jesus was well along in his earthly ministry now. He had many followers and disciples. And, everywhere he went, he attracted a crowd. These crowds were increasing in size. There were various reasons that the crowds were increasing; as various as the people in the crowd itself. Some were curious. Some were desperate. Some came with a friend. Some were dragged by a friend. Literally. See Luke 5:18 And some came to test him.
After Jesus healed a man who couldn’t speak, some of the crowd kept asking for more and greater miracles. They wanted a “sign”. They were looking for something spectacular. They wanted a sign that would distinguish Jesus from other teachers and preachers. They also wanted a sign that would distinguish them from other generations; something that made them special.
As much as we like to fit in and feel like we belong, we equally want to feel special and important. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel special. It’s normal. It’s part of being human. And the crowds following Jesus wanted the same things you and I do. They wanted to know they mattered to other people and especially to God.
At first glance, Jesus’ response sounds harsh. He identifies them as a “wicked generation”. We don’t really use that word today unless we’re talking about people like Adolph Hitler or serial killers. The word Jesus uses can be used to describe one’s moral character. But it is also used to describe an experience. Not “wicked good”, but “wicked bad”. As in a people who were feeling harassed and hard-pressed. It was a time of great hardship and the people felt helpless and hopeless.
I’ve been there. I’ve felt helpless and hopeless. And, in those times, I can remember crying out to God and asking Him for a sign that everything was going to be alright. Do you ever find yourself begging God to send you a sign? Do you wish He would send you a postcard in the mail telling you it’s going to be alright? I mean, couldn’t he just tweet something to let us know he’s got it under control? The people in that crowd felt like that too.
And Jesus understood.
He wasn’t condemning them for asking for a sign. He was showing them that he was the sign they were asking for. Jesus told them that “the Son of Man will be your sign”. You sort of need to know the Jonah story to be able to follow along. It’s okay if you don’t know the story. Jonah was a prophet from a long time ago who was swallowed by a giant fish. The story says that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for 3 days before he was spat up on the shore. And, just like Jonah, the Son of Man (Jesus) would also be in the belly of the earth for 3 days before he was raised from the dead. And this was the only sign that they needed.
Jesus came as the sign that they were special and important to God. He came so that all of us would know we are special and important to God. Of all the signs God could send, Jesus is the greatest of all. Jesus is God in the flesh. He walked among us to love us and teach us how to love. He came to remind us we are special and important because we are created in the image of God. And He came to take away our shame that we would no longer be people who feel harassed. Rather we would be people who know we have a purpose in this world.
Happy Lent and Happy Easter!