Pentecost 20 – Thursday Devotion

Readings:  Deuteronomy 21:1-23 and Matthew 16:1-12

Additional Reading:  Deuteronomy 22:1-24:9

Matthew 16:3-4:  “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.”

Deuteronomy 21: 22  “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

 

“Looking for a Sign in the Sky”

“Red at night: Sailor’s delight.

Red at morn: Sailor’s forlorn.”

Perhaps you have heard that expression as one quick ‘weather forecast’.  It’s been an adage for a long time.  Sailors didn’t have the advantage of Doppler radar and storm tracking apps to steer their way through the oceans.  They relied on the little signs seen in the sky with the sunrise or sunset and how to interpret the colors of the sky.  Interpreting the sign determined their path.  

The people in Jesus’ day were also looking for a sign.  They wanted to know if He was the expected Messiah.  Of course Jesus wouldn’t just come out and tell them, “Hey, people, I’m the one!”  He would do it by signs, the first being the changing of water to wine at the Wedding of Cana.  Keep in mind as you read that text (John 2:1-11) that the real miracle was when Jesus’ disciples would believe in Him.  

Now Jesus gives them another sign, but it is one they already knew:  the sign of Johan.  So what was the sign of Jonah?  Did they interpret that sign correctly?

First, as we study the life and message of Jonah, we find that God sent him to preach repentance to Nineveh, a foreign town.  Jonah tells these outsiders that judgment waits for them unless they repent of their sin.  The city repents thus sparing them. 

Another sign was how God submerged Jonah into water but then rescued him.  This tells how baptismal waters also save us.  And the third, probably the most recognizable one, was the three-day stay in the belly of the fish.  It preserved Jonah during his short watery grave.  

Jesus now uses that one sign. He would be raised on the third day after His death.  Jesus’ tomb would preserve His body from decay (Psalm 16). The resurrection of our Lord draws to closure what God sent Him to do; to obtain forgiveness for all man’s sins.

Were there other signs that would point to Jesus?  We have to admit that even as Jonah was one of those ‘pleasant’ signs, we also know of those signs which were not as pleasant.  We again look to the signs—not in the sky but in Holy Scripture—which tell us that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed by God.  

Jesus hung on the cross—the tree—and was cursed by God for all of man’s sins.  Jesus relates this as in the middle of His words from the cross He utters, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from Psalm 22.  Yes, Jesus is cursed for carrying man’s sin.  But He is also blessed, being raised from the dead by the glory of His Father.  

We see the sign of the cross in the air, but we also see the open grave in the ground!  That’s the one sign to which Jesus would point.  This sign—this ‘miracle’—would validate all of Jesus’ words.  The Pharisees needed that just as we do today, for without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no Church, no eternal life, no hope for man.  You would not be reading these devotions without the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  

But you have that sign—even greater than Jonah!  For Christ IS risen!  Alleluia!  

 

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, we praise You for Your suffering and death and for Your glorious resurrection from the dead.  Bless us with eyes to see and ears to hear all the signs which You have already given us.  Help us to understand Your Words of life that we may know with certainty what will take place in the future, especially as You will return to judge the living and the dead.  Enlarge Your Church on earth so that many more may see the cross and open grave as the greatest of signs that tell us of Your victory over sin, death, and the devil.  In Your holy name we pray.  Amen.

Our Father…

The Lord bless us, defend us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.