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Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 12:38-42.

The Demand for a Sign – Matthew 12:38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”

He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.

At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

This section is mainly from Q source. It appears in Mark

The Demand for a Sign – Mark 8:11–12

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.

He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

which Matthew has followed. Matthew 16:1–4, has a similar demand for a sign.

The Demand for a Sign – Matthew 16:1-4

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.

He said to them in reply, “[In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’; and, in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times.]

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.

The Demand for a Sign appears in Luke also.

The Demand for a Sign – Luke 11:29–32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.

Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.

At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

The scribes and Pharisees refuse to accept the exorcisms of Jesus as authentication of his claims and demand a sign that will end all possibility of doubt. Jesus’ response is that no such sign will be given. Because his opponents are evil and see him as an agent of Satan, nothing will convince them.

The designation of “Teacher”

  • Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38)

For Matthew, the designation “Teacher” of Jesus is true, for he has Jesus using it of himself.

  • No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. (Matthew 10:24)
  • It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! (Matthew 10:25)
  • As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. (Matthew 23:8)
  • He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’” (Matthew 26:18)

Yet, when it is used of him by others they are either his opponents

  • The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)
  • When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matthew 17:24)
  • They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians,* saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. (Matthew 22:16)
  • “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24, 36)

or by well-disposed persons who cannot see more deeply

  • A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19)

Thus it reveals an inadequate recognition of who Jesus was by his contemporaries.

In Mark 8:11 and Matthew 16:1 the request is for a sign “from heaven.”

The Lord and Israel His Spouse

The word “unfaithfull” in

  • He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” (Matthew 12:39)
  • ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου. (Matthew 12:39)

is literally “adulterous” in Greek – μοιχαλὶς (moichalis). The covenant between God and Israel was portrayed as a marriage bond, and unfaithfulness to the covenant as adultery.

The Lord and Israel His Spouse – Hosea 2:4-14

Accuse your mother, accuse!
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.
Let her remove her prostitution from her face.
her adultery from between her breasts,

Or I will strip her naked,
leaving her as on the day of her birth;
I will make her like the wilderness,
make her like an arid land,
and let her die of thirst.

I will have no pity on her children,
for they are children of prostitution.

Yes, their mother has prostituted herself;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, “I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

Therefore, I will hedge in her way with thorns
and erect a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.

If she runs after her lovers, she will not overtake them;
if she seeks them she will not find them.
Then she will say,
“I will go back to my first husband,
for I was better off then than now.”

She did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
I who lavished upon her silver,
and gold, which they used for Baal,

Therefore I will take back my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season;
I will snatch away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.

Now I will lay bare her shame
in full view of her lovers,
and no one can deliver her out of my hand.

I will put an end to all her joy,
her festivals, her new moons, her sabbaths—
all her seasonal feasts.

I will lay waste her vines and fig trees,
of which she said, “These are the fees
my lovers have given me”;
I will turn them into rank growth
and wild animals shall devour them.

Judah and Israel – Jeremiah 3:6-10

The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: Do you see what rebellious Israel has done?

She has gone up every high mountain, and under every green tree she has played the prostitute.

And I thought: After she has done all this, she will return to me.

But she did not return.

Then, even though that traitor her sister Judah, saw that, in response to all the adulteries rebel Israel had committed, I sent her away and gave her a bill of divorce, nevertheless Judah, the traitor, her sister, was not frightened; she too went off and played the prostitute.

With her casual prostitution, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and wood.

In spite of all this, Judah, the traitor, her sister, did not return to me wholeheartedly, but insincerely—oracle of the LORD.

While in Q the sign was simply Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites

  • Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:30)
  • At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. (Luke 11:32)

Matthew here adds Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights,

  • Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40)

echoing

  • But the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 2:1)

a prefigurement of Jesus’ sojourn in the abode of the dead and, implicitly, of his resurrection.

The Ninevites who repented and Sheba, the queen of the South

  • At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. (Matthew 12:41-42)

The Ninevites who repented and the queen of the south, namely Sheba were pagans who responded to lesser opportunities than have been offered to Israel in the ministry of Jesus, something greater than Jonah or Solomon. At the final judgment they will condemn the faithless generation that has rejected him.

Here is the story of the Ninevites who repented

Jonah’s Obedience and the Ninevites’ Repentance – Jonah 3:1–10

Jonah Calling Nineveh to Repentance by Gustave Dore

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:

Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.

So Jonah set out for Nineveh, in accord with the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an awesomely great city; it took three days to walk through it.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and when he had gone only a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.

Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands.

Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

And here is the story of Sheba the queen of the south,.

Solomon’s Listening Heart: the Queen of Sheba – 1 Kings 10:1–13

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Sir Edward John Poynter

The queen of Sheba, having heard a report of Solomon’s fame, came to test him with subtle questions.

She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue, and with camels bearing spices, a large amount of gold, and precious stones.

She came to Solomon and spoke to him about everything that she had on her mind.

King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there was nothing so obscure that the king could not explain it to her.

When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the house he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and dress of his waiters, his servers, and the burnt offerings he offered in the house of the LORD, it took her breath away.

“The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king.

“I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes that not even the half had been told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard.

Happy are your servants, happy these ministers of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom.

Blessed be the LORD, your God, who has been pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.”

Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents, a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Hiram’s fleet, which used to bring gold from Ophir, also brought from there a very large quantity of almug wood and precious stones.

With this wood the king made supports for the house of the LORD and for the house of the king, and harps and lyres for the singers. Never again was any such almug wood brought or seen to the present day.

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba everything she desired and asked for, besides what King Solomon gave her from Solomon’s royal bounty. Then she returned with her servants to her own country.

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