Seeking for a Sign?

Preached 24th April 2016

We are reading from the book of Saint Matthew 12:38-50: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 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.

Just what was the motivation behind the Pharisees’ desire to see a sign or miracle performed by the Lord Jesus: was it for them to confirm him as the true messiah or for mere amusement and curiosity? What would have happened if the Lord had gone ahead to perform the miracle; would these people have converted? Clearly not so; Jesus discerned their carnality and rebuked them, saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” However, in saying this, the Lord did not imply that believers could not ask for a “sign” from God. We read elsewhere in Scriptures  where God’s people asked God for His power. Therefore the question to ask is, What was the motive behind the Pharisees’ prayer? Let us also read an account in Acts 4:18-31 when the early church was going through persecution and the apostles had asked God for the signs of His power.

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard [their testimony was not based on some “Made in Nigeria” kind of miracles; neither was it a product of some “Burning Bush Pentecostal Miracle Church”! It was a result of a real divine encounter as could be witnessed in their changed, sober and sincere lives] So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done [see, when a true man of God performs a miracle, he will not seek glory out of it; he won’t project the “I can do it” posture before people]… And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is… And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Jesus did not grant a sign to the Pharisees but here we see it being granted to the apostles. Notice the motive in their prayer – “that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” Two things to note here:

  • The objective of the apostles’ prayer was for the Word of Truth to be proclaimed.
  • These were men whose lives were in danger for preaching the Gospel.

Something important needs to be understood about the second point: the apostolic life then was far – as the east is from the west – from the kind of the modern so-called apostles. The life of apostles wasn’t a luxury or prestigious but a total sacrifice. These men gave up all they had and risked their lives in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When you read Paul’s letter starting with such words as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ”; he wasn’t writing whilst clad in a tuxedo, or whilst in his private jet. He was in a cruel Roman jail. But here we are in this modern apostate day: a day of men with twisted forked tongues; they speak only to motivate and allure and make merchandise of religious gullible people. Their filth has become such a stench that Biblical titles of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist and Pastor have become laughingstock and reproachful. But is this a surprise? Not so. We were already forewarned in the prophetic admonition of Peter: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not(2 Peter 2:1-3).

How shall a people become “merchandise” (business commodities) of false prophets? It is because of their itching ears and eyes; always wanting to hear and see what appeals to their carnal desires. We live in a time where Christians feed on miracles, prophecies, tongues, etc. for their spiritual food. Little wonder there is spiritual malnutrition and kwashiorkor; people have become so spiritually deprived and have become so thin that any wind of doctrine that blows causes them to stagger and go with the wind. The words of Amos 8:11 often come to mind: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”  But blessed be the Name of the Lord who does not leave His own as orphans for “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men…And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers [for what purpose are these ministries? To stage walking on air like one renowned false prophet of Malawi? To motivate people in establishing successful business firms? Oh God, long gone are the days when a sinner found himself in tears of repentance at the altar; now sinners go in church only to come out fully armed with business acumen, as one man puts it. Now watch the purpose of the gifts of Ministry; they were given…] for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

Remember that God can use a true ministry to perform a sign, however, that will not be for mere entertainment but to achieve a particular purpose of confirming the Word. Any miracle which doesn’t point to the Word is no different from a magician’s trick used only to arouse curiosity and attraction to a personality. It is important to know that miracles are not the primary thing in God’s economy. Unfortunately, this “adulterous generation” is so obsessed with signs that had it lived in the days of John the Baptist, a man who was foretold to come in “the spirit and power of Elias[1], the people’s theology would have denied him because “John did no miracle.[2]

May you live not to seek for signs but for a sincere relationship with your creator; to live and manifest His perfect will. Amen.

[1] Luke 1:17

[2] John 10:41


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