The Gospel of John

“Give Us a Sign”

When Jesus began His ministry with a journey to Jerusalem and a cleansing of the temple (John 2:14-16), He was challenged for His actions by Jewish authorities: “What sign showest thou unto us, seeing thou doest these things?” (John 2:18). His immediate response was, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).

This was not the only time Jesus was asked for a sign. On at least three other occasions Jesus was asked the same question (Matthew 12:38; 16:1; John 6:30). This request was common among the Jews. Paul wrote the Corinthians that “Jews ask for signs” (1 Corinthians 1:22). He knew his nation well.

The sign Jesus gave in John 2 was, “Destroy this temple in in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The people to whom He gave the sign did not understand. He had just cleansed the temple of the things the temple authorities had allowed, and the authorities challenged Jesus in the temple. Naturally, they did not see that it was not the physical temple of which He spoke. Rather, He spoke of the temple of His body. This misunderstanding of what He spoke persisted even unto His trial (Matthew 26:59-62), although some of the authorities knew full well what His prediction meant (Matthew 27:62-65).

Jesus gave many signs to His people but Jesus’ resurrection was His sign to His nation. He used two figures to state it. In John 2 He predicted that if they destroyed “his temple” (His body) He would raise it again in three days. On other occasions when asked for a sign He said, “An evil and adulteress generation asketh for a sign; and then shall no sign begiven to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40; 16:1-4). Jesus used two different figures: a temple torn down then being rebuilt in three days, and Jonah being in the whale’s belly three days and three nights and the Son of man being in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. But while two different figures were employed; the prediction was the same: Jesus would be crucified and buried in a tomb three days and three nights, and then be resurrected.

This was Peter’s principle point in his Pentecost sermon. He charged His audience with the murder of God’s Son, and then stated that God had raised the One whom the nation had killed from the dead. As one follows the course of the preaching of the apostles and their disciples, this was the same message with which they “turned the world upside down”.

The Hebrew writer said, “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself partook of the same that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The death of Jesus brought defeat to Satan. He had brought physical death as well as spiritual death to the world, and Christ’s atoning blood covers the sins of men, whoever among them are willing to submit to Jesus. His death and resurrection not only defeated the devil; it brought hope to man and removed the fear of death from him.

The Jews asked Jesus for a sign and He gave them one: His resurrection from the dead. The tragedy was their refusal to see the significance of signs Jesus gave. When Jesus gave sight to the blind beggar (John 9), the Jews would not recognize from where He was from. They said to the beggar, “We know that God hath spoken unto Moses, but as far as this man, we know not whence he is” (John 9:29). The response of the beggar was simple, yet profound: “Why herein is the marvel that ye know not whence he is and yet he opened mine eyes” (John 9:30). In essence, “You accept Moses upon the basis he was a worker of miracles, yet you reject Jesus who gave you far greater signs than Moses!”

Jesus’ resurrection was a sign to His nation and continues to be a sign to all mankind. Jesus has been raised from the dead, a feat no man of himself can accomplish. Jesus was raised from the dead because He is the Son of God and His resurrection forever proves that (Romans 1:1-4).

Jim McDonald