Matthew 12:38-40 (An Evil and Adulterous Generation; Three Days and Three Nights)

Considering that Gideon had asked for three signs to be sure it was God who was speaking to him and to discern His will (Jdg 6:17,36-40), and was given even yet another sign (Jdg 7:10-11), why was the request by the scribes and Pharisees for a sign rebuffed by Jesus?  See Mat 12:22-24.  Were they seeking a sign because they earnestly thought He might be from God and they wanted to know for sure?  For what purpose were they seeking a sign: to justify their belief, or their unbelief?  Cf. Mat 12:10.  How is that like many people today?  Is it like us?  How did Jesus answer their request?  Considering that Jesus did many signs in order that people might believe (see Joh 20:30-31), indeed, so many as to fill the whole world with books (Joh 21:25), what does his response indicate about the way that God answers those whose hearts are not pure and whose motives to serve Him are not sincere?  See Psa 18:25-26, 2Th 2:11-12.  What does this teach us about one possible reason why a person’s request for a sign from God to guide him may go unanswered?

What does Jesus mean and to whom does He refer as “an evil and adulterous generation”?  Does a generation refer only to a single individual or even a small group of people, or to a much larger group of people who have collectively come to accept certain assumptions and beliefs that characterize their way of life?  Think: in what way was the generation of Americans who lived during World War II different from the generation of people who lived in the 1960s, or today’s generation; i.e., how do the assumptions and beliefs that characterize each differ?  What is it about a whole generation of people that makes it difficult for them to question their assumptions and beliefs?  Cf. Exo 23:2, Jer 6:13.  What would “adulterous” indicate about a generation from God’s perspective?  See Jam 4:4, Hos 3:1.  Does it describe our generation?  Do we personally tend to fit into this generation and contribute to this description, or are we salt and light in the midst of it?  Do we say, “If only we had a sign to know for sure…” and so hedge our bets by keeping one foot in the world while seeking to serve Him, or do we serve Him unreservedly after the manner of Paul and the early disciples?  Why is it consistent with an adulterous generation to crave and even clamor for or demand a sign?  Think: what does such indicate about an outward appearance of religion?  What was the only sign Jesus said would be given to such people, and what did He mean by it?  See Mat 12:39-40.  Jesus’ death and resurrection, like Jonah’s experience, was an incredible sign that clearly validated the truth He proclaimed; why is it unnecessary and even fruitless for any other sign to be given to those who are a part of an evil and adulterous generation?  See Luk 16:31.

What do Jesus’ words in Mat 12:40 and the fact that He rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week (Mat 28:1), indicate about what day He was crucified on?  Think: how many nights are there from Friday until the first day of the week (Sunday) on which he was raised (Mat 28:1)?  What day must He then have been crucified on, and how do we reconcile that with Luk 23:54 that says it was the preparation day and the Sabbath was about to begin?  See Joh 19:14, 31, 42 and cf. Exo 12:16, Mat 27:62, Mar 15:42.  Note: very significantly, in Luk 23:54 there are no definite articles in the Greek with preparation or Sabbath, as would be expected if Luke was referring to the usual day of preparation for the seventh day Sabbath—something our modern translations have missed being influenced by the common tradition that Jesus was crucified on Friday.  Rather, as the Greek reads most literally, it was a day of preparation and a Sabbath was about to begin, namely the ceasing from work required by Exo 12:16 on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  This fell on the Friday before the seventh day Sabbath, and thus John rightly says “that Sabbath was a high day” (Joh 19:31).

If Jesus was crucified on Thursday, which John identifies as the day of preparation for the Passover (Joh 19:14), how do we reconcile this with the synoptic gospels which clearly indicate that Jesus had already eaten the Passover the previous evening (Wednesday) at which time He instituted the Lord’s Supper (Mat 26:17, 19; Mar 14:12-16; Luk 22:17-19)?  See next week’s lesson!

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