For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about Matthew 12:38-45. The passage began with the religious teachers and Pharisees asking Jesus to prove himself by giving a miraculous sign. His response can be summed up with the phrase, “Relationship over rules.” Of course, our Savior went into more detail than that. We continue today with verses 41 and 42.
The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.
- Jesus mentions Nineveh and the queen of Sheba. Neither worshipped God. Nineveh was a violent city in the nation of Assyria-enemies of the Jews. They idolized strange gods and brought destruction on Israel. Yet, when exposed to God’s prophecy of judgement, they responded with repentance and faith. “When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes…’Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.'” (Jonah 3:6,9) After hearing Solomon speak, the queen of Sheba said, “Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (I Kings 10:9)
- Neither the people of Nineveh nor the queen of Sheba knew the law of Moses. They did not know God. Yet, when they heard God’s words, they recognized and praised Him. This is why Jesus says they are in a position to condemn the leaders questioning Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers knew every word of the law and thought that knowledge assured their spiritual station. In fact, they were quite arrogant because of that knowledge. But Jesus says those who the leaders deemed unworthy would be able to condemn them. Why? The people of Nineveh and the queen of Sheba recognized the holy God behind the words.
- Finally, Jesus points out that Jonah and Solomon were mere men. Jesus is divine and, therefore, greater than those men. But the Pharisees and teachers don’t see God in front of them or within the words of the human prophet and king they revere.
Next Tuesday, we’ll finish up this passage. Until then, have a blessed week.
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