Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

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(25) Jesus Answers a Demand for a Sign
Matthew 12:38-45, Luke 11:24-26, 29-36


43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43-45, KJV)

The “unclean spirit” is Satan or his demons.  Satan delights in causing uncleanness in persons, places and things.   His going out of a man, as presented here, is voluntary, not like his eviction by force as when Christ cast out demons.  He may leave those Scribes and Pharisees for awhile, while Christ and the Gospel are with them, and they may appear religious, even though they are destitute of the grace of God.

These evil spirits were thought to walk or haunt desert and desolate places, seeking rest and satisfaction.  Their rest is not the rest that we seek; to refresh our bodies and minds.  But they seek to disturb and cause mischief to men, so Jesus said that they would return into the land of Judea, particularly into the Scribes and Pharisees who make great pretensions to holiness.  They are Satan’s house; they belong to him, and he never really left them.

The house is empty, but not of sin.  It is empty of God, and the true knowledge of Him, and love for Him, of Christ and faith in Him.

His abiding place, the person who is his host, may appear swept, but the reformation is only outward and superficial.  There is no internal grace, placed there by God, which makes saints glorious within.  Instead, there are secret lusts and corruptions which create an agreeable habitation for these unclean spirits.  Satan may even allow a little garnish in the form some external rites and ceremonies, even some fasting and prayer, so long as the heart is empty of spiritual grace. 

Now when these demons return to exert their full fury once more, they enter into the man again.  They are more violent and cruel than before; worse than the devil, himself.  In this state the man will drop all pretenses of religion and holiness.  They will return like dogs to the vomit and like swine to wallow in the mire.

This parable was suited to the Scribes and Pharisees, and to the men of that generation.  They were blinded to the preaching of the Gospel by Christ and His apostles, but the unclean spirits left for a season, and when Christ departed they returned and filled them with more malice, blasphemy and blindness than before, which caused their complete ruin and destruction.



24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (Luke 11:24-26, KJV)

Satan may order his forces out, or so it may seam, in order to draw a poor deluded soul into an ambush.  What Christ is saying here is that, even though God may have begun to break Satan’s control, that one may reject the council of His word and lapse back into subjection to Satan.   This is the condition of many hypocrites, for the unclean spirit has gone out, but not by the power of converting grace.  He has withdrawn for a time, so that it seams that the man is no longer under his control. 

The house is swept, but not washed.  Jesus said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”  The house must be washed, or it is none of His.  Sweeping only removes the loose dirt; it doesn’t reach the deep sin that stimulates the sinner.  The sin that the world can see is gone, but the secret sin is untouched, because grace has not been applied by faith in Jesus.

Now when Satan returns to take control, he brings spirits more wicked that before.  It seams that even devils are not all alike, for they have different degrees of wickedness.  When Satan wants to do greater damage, he brings those who are the most wicked.  Notice that in the end the man is worse off that before.  Hypocrisy is a road that will often lead to total rebellion against God; the word apostasy is used to describe that condition.  Their last state is worse than the first in respect to both sin and punishment.  Their consciences are seared and their sins are bold and daring.  They will suffer greatly at the judgment.  Let us therefore rest in God’s grace, and hold fast to our integrity. 



38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:38-41)

The religious leaders try to flatter Jesus by addressing Him as Master.  They were willing to concede that He was a teacher, but they would not agree that He was a prophet, unless He gave them signs, which would verify that He was one, therefore they say; we would see a sign from thee.

They wanted to see a sign from heaven.  They had seen signs from Him on earth: He cured a man that had a withered hand, and He cast a demon out of a man, that was dumb and blind; but they looked upon these as signs from hell, and done by an alliance with the Devil.  So, they demanded that He show them a sign from heaven, where they believed that Satan was powerless.  They wanted to see the type of things that were done on Mount Sinai, when the Law was given.  At that time, there was thunder and lightning, and a thick cloud and the voice of a trumpet; and some visible appearances of divine majesty.  They insinuate that if He could do something like this; cause something visible and miraculous to appear in the sky, they would believe He was a prophet or even the Messiah.  But without the miracles, they would not accept him as a prophet or the Messiah.  In Christ’s time, the Jews expected signs and wonders to be wrought by the Messiah, as the proof of who He was.

Jesus had an answer, but not for the Scribes and Pharisees; He turned to the common people, and said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” They had degenerated spiritually from the faith, religion and piety of their ancestors and they practiced polygamy, and there were frequent divorces for trivial reasons.  Their leaders pretended to be religious and to live holy lives, but were adulterers instead. 

He would give them many wonderful signs after this, but not what they wanted.  There would be no signs from heaven, but thousands would receive physical healing from disease and others would be released from control by demons. 

They would be given one particular sign, and it would come out of the earth, but it would not be for their assurance, but for their condemnation, and it would seem very much like what had been done for the prophet Jonah.

Jesus is speaking of the prophet Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a great fish.  This was a fantastic sign, because without a miracle it would not be possible for a man to survive for one hour, let alone for three days and three nights in the belly of a fish.  And on the third day, like one who rose from the dead, to be cast out of it, and to land on dry ground.  Here, Jonah is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  The Jews knew the story of Jonah and believed it to be a wondrous miracle.

There can be no doubt that Christ means himself, when He says, “the Son of Man.”  He is referring to His death, when He will be laid in a tomb dug out of a rock; He called it “the heart of the earth”, because it was unlike the surface of the earth. 

When Jesus says, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment, He may be referring to the general resurrection of the dead, at the last day, when those that lived in Nineveh shall rise from the dead and stand in judgment.  They will stand before the judgment seat along with those seeking a sign, and they will testify against them, and condemn them by their example.

Jonah was a mere man, and a stranger to the people of Nineveh; he only preached, he didn’t do any miracles, and he only stayed with them for a short time.  But they repented immediately, so God spared their city from destruction.

The Jews had the Son of God sent to them, they had the ministry of His apostles and of John the Baptist, and a variety of miracles performed before their eyes; but they remained impertinent and unbelieving. 

The citizens of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, however a greater than Jonas is here.  Jesus was greater in person, office, doctrine, miracles, life, obedience, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead.  But the Jews refused to repent, and therefore were not saved from the destruction of their temple and the scattering of their people.


29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Luke 11:29-30,32)

Jesus told us two very important things in this dialogue.  First, He told us what sign we are to expect from God to confirm our faith.  The greatest and most convincing proof that Christ was sent from God is the resurrection.  They would have to wait for that sign.  Secondly, He rebuked the people for demanding signs other than what they had already been given; and there were plenty of them. 

Jesus knew why this large crowd had gathered; they wanted to see some miracles so they would have something to talk about, when they got back home.  They weren’t interested in doctrine, they wanted to see miracles. 

Jesus could only promise them one more sign, but it would be different from anything He had given them.  He said that it would be like the sign of Jonah the prophet, which in Mathew is explained as meaning the resurrection of Christ.  If they do not respond to this last sign, there was a warning that they were condemning themselves by their stubborn refusal to receive Christ, despite His miracles and teaching. 

They repented at the preaching of Jonah, but here was preaching that far exceeded his preaching.  Yet they are not startled by it, enough to turn from their evil ways as the Ninevites did. 



42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

The Queen of Sheba is called the Queen of the South.  1 Kings 10:1 says, “When the queen of Sheba heard how wonderfully the Lord had blessed Solomon with wisdom, she decided to test him with some hard questions.”  She came from the southern part of Arabia, because she heard how God had blessed Israel and that Solomon was credited with great wisdom.



31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. (Luke 11:31)

She came to listen to Solomon and to learn of his God and to worship Him.  But here was one that was greater than Solomon, but the Jews will not listen to Him, even though He is in their midst and they have seen His miracles.



33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. (Luke 11:33-36, KJV)

It is a great privilege that the light of the Gospel is put on a candlestick, so that all those who come in can see it.  The Gospel is clear and available to all, so the problem is not with the candle, it is with the eye; the light of the body is the eye.  The light of the Gospel must penetrate the eye and enter the heart, before the Holy Spirit can use it to bring saving faith to the person.

The eye must be single, that is, prepared to receive and understand the light.  It must be like the good ground that receives the seed.  There must be a willingness to accept the truth of the Gospel.  The Gospel will come into those souls, whose doors and windows are thrown open to receive it; and when it comes in, it will bring light with it.  But if the eye of the soul is evil; that is, corrupted by pride and envy, by the love of the world and sensual pleasure, it is no wonder that the whole body and soul should be full of darkness.  How can anyone receive the Gospel if they shut their eyes against it?  There is a warning here to guard against prejudice and sinful aims, which will blind the eyes to the Gospel.  Those who Jesus preached to, never really desired to know God’s will, or to do it, so no wonder they walked in darkness, wandered endlessly and perished for eternity.

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