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TEXT: Luke 11:29-36
SUBJECT: Luke #46: Dishonest Doubt
The topic of today's story is doubt. There is such a thing as honest doubt; maybe you've felt it in the past or are feeling it right now. Nathanael was "an Israelite in whom there was no guile", yet when he heard the glowing report about Jesus, he wasn't sure that "anything good [could] come out of Nazareth". His was an honest doubt.
But not everything that goes by the name is. Many doubts are phony, crooked, and insincere. People say they want to know the truth, but they don't mean it. To them, doubt is an excuse for unbelief-and nothing more.
I fear that some of you are guilty of this. You've gone to church your whole life, you've read the Bible, and maybe you've asked people to explain things to you or read good books on matters that you find confusing. You've been exposed to the truth; you know the Gospel, but you're not sure if it's true or not. Maybe you don't deny the Lord Jesus Christ, but neither do you believe in Him in such a way that affects your life. You say you want to know the truth, but you don't. You may lie to others about it, or only to yourself. But the fact is, your doubts about the Lord are dishonest.
This jarring and offensive introduction brings us to today's passage which is far more jarring and offensive than anything I could say.
The story begins with a request (back in v.16),
"Others, testing Him, sought from His a sign from heaven".
Who are these "others"? They're people who think rather well of themselves; they're not religious bigots, but rather open-minded. Remember the setting: the Lord has just cast a demon out of a man and some people say He did it by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. This is patently stupid: why would Satan fight against himself? Obviously, our Lord was not doing the devil's work.
The "others" took a more moderate approach to the miracle. They saw it and knew there was no trick involved. But they feel the miracle has implied something about the Lord; they take it to mean that He thinks He's the Messiah.
Are they right? Yes they are. What is exactly what the miracle means. The Kingdom of God has broken into history and is throwing power the powers of darkness. Leading the Kingdom, of course, is the King or Messiah. The people, then, understand what the Lord is doing and what the miracle says about Him.
But they need further proof. Maybe the word, "need" is not the right one. They demand further proof. They're not going to believe in Christ until He provides the evidence they want.
At the moment, they want "a sign in heaven". Luke doesn't tell us exactly what they had in mind, but I suppose that they wanted some kind of disturbance in the sky that the Old Testament links to the coming of God. Joel 2:31 says that the on "The great and terrible day of God, the sun will be darkness and the moon will turn to blood". He came to Mount Sinai in a black cloud; in Job, the Lord came in a tornado. The skeptics were looking for something like these; if the Lord would provide this kind of sign, they'd accept His claim.
Or so they said.
I suspect the same people were at the cross, taunting Him,
"Let Christ the King come down from the cross, that we may see and believe".
This is the demand of doubt: Do what I tell you to-God-and I'll believe.
Why did they make such a demand?
They would say they had to. To importance of believing in the Messiah is so important that they had to be sure. Thus, the Lord had to do something so amazing, so spectacular, so undeniable, that they could know that He's the One (and not just think so).
I'd like believe them, but I just can't do it. The demand itself is called a sort of "testing" (or, "tempting"). The history of that word is long and unsavory. It smacks of unbelief.
Aside from that word, however, you have to ask yourself: what further proof could they need? Did they need proof from the Bible? They had it-tons of it. From His birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to His resurrection from the dead (Psalm 16:11), the Divine prophecies came together in One Man only: the Lord Jesus Christ. This was so obvious that-at his first meeting-Philip called Him the one
"Whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph".
If the Scripture wasn't enough, how about the word of a prophet-a living prophet, I mean? Everyone took John the Baptist for a prophet and he called Him "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin on the world".
If the prophecies were obscure and the words of John a bit garbled, how about the Voice of God? Yet, it too, spoke in public of the Lord's identity and calling, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!"
Good people had borne witness to Him: Simeon and Anna in His infancy and the Apostles (and many others) now. Were they all liars and fools? Or is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah?
One last thing here: they wanted a sign in heaven. One had already been given: even the Magi in the far-off Orient had seen it and come to pay their respects to "He who is born king of the Jews".
You want to give people the benefit of the doubt. But you cannot do it here: the people who wanted a sign didn't really want one and had it been given, they would have asked for another.
No proof can satisfy unbelief.
Their hearts were bent and their motives were crooked. They wanted a sign, not a Savior.
Are you any better? Are you looking for an answer or are you looking for Christ? Do you want an explanation or do you want eternal life? Neither I nor teachers far better than I can answer all your questions and dispel every doubt. But what we can do, we do: offer Christ to you, a Savior who will forgive your sins, make your life meaningful, and bring you to glory.
The Gospel is not a master key unlocking every mystery. What it is, in a word, is life.
The Lord will not give them what they want! He is not a magician and He does not perform on cue! He calls them "an evil generation" for even asking Him to do it.
He won't give them the sign they want, but He will give them a sign- "The sign of Jonah the prophet".
Luke doesn't tell us what "the sign of Jonah" is. But Matthew does,
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".
For three days and nights Jonah was in the belly in the fish-and as good as dead. Yet the "dead man" came back to life. In a similar way, the Lord Jesus will be dead-really dead-and buried for three days and nights. And be raised from the dead.
That's the sign God gave in the days of Jonah; it's the sign He'll give again, in the near future. Within a few months, the Lord will be crucified, buried, and resurrected.
A sign has to stand for something. To Americans in their cars a green light means go. But what would it mean to someone who has never seen a car?
Thus, we can't just say what the sign of Jonah is, but also what it means.
To the Ninevites, the sign of Jonah meant salvation. They were as hopelessly lost as he was. But if God's power and grace were enough to get him out of the fish, then the Lord could save them from their sin and misery. Which He did.
But the sign of Jonah wasn't meant only for Nineveh. It had a message for Israel too. To them, it meant condemnation. The Lord was so sick and tired of their hypocrisy that He took the Saving Word away from them and sent it to their most hated enemy.
The salvation of Nineveh was a punch in the face to Israel. That's why Jonah didn't want to go in the first place and why he was so mad when the Lord spared the city!
In the same way, the resurrection of Christ brings salvation to people who really want it. But to hypocrites, it brings down the judgment of God. Easter is no celebration for the unbeliever. To him, it only means the Man he crucified is now the King!
Because of their willful and stubborn unbelief, the generation our Lord was talking to (and others like it) will not fare well on the Day of Judgment.
The Ninevites-who were hated people to Israel, a nation steeped in idolatry and cruelty-will be better off than the nice, religious, conservative people who don't commit themselves to Christ.
The Queen of Sheba will be better off too. For, on hearing of the wisdom of Solomon, she traveled a thousand miles to hear it. If she would do that to find the truth, then she must condemn everyone who sits in church week-in-and-week-out but does not give his heart to Christ.
In short, "To whom much is given, much will be required".
You live in the Gospel Age. The Ninevites didn't and neither did the Queen of Sheba. But you do. If they responded as well as they did to a partial Gospel and one obscured by the Types and Shadows of Old Testament religion, how can you do less?
With privileges go responsibilities. You have more Gospel privileges than just about anyone in the history of the world. What are you doing with them? Are you wrapping them in a napkin and burying them in the ground? Or, are you trusting in them-as though the Gospel without faith will do you any good?
Or, are you acting with the same decision that Nineveh did? You ought to, for "A greater than Jonah is here".
What a rotten man Jonah was! He didn't want to preach to Nineveh and when they believed him, he was bitterly disappointed! Yet the people repented at his preaching. What a wonderful Man the Lord Jesus is! He preaches in love and is eager for you to believe. Shouldn't you do as much for Him as the Assyrians did for Jonah?
THE LITTLE STORY
The Lord wraps up the sermon with a little story. It's about a lamp and two different men who look at it. One man has good vision and it allows him to see where he's going. The other man has bad vision and the light doesn't help him at all, as he crashes into the table, knocks over the chair, and so on.
What does the story mean? The light is the truth (especially the Truth of Christ). The good eyes are good motives or a true desire to know and serve Him. The bad eyes are bad motives or a pretense to know and serve Him.
The same Light shines on both men. But it only does one of them any good. The brightest light does the blind man no good.
Christ is that Light and He shines in the Gospel for all to see. If you want to see Him, to know Him, to love Him, and to obey Him, you will. But if you don't really want to know Him or serve Him, the Light of Gospel will seem dark to you.
There's no problem with the Light. But your eyes are bad. Until you mean business with Christ. Until you truly want Him to be your Savior and Lord (and not just fire insurance against hell). When you want that, you'll see the light.
"If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority".
Are you willing to do His will? If you are, you'll know it. If you're not willing, pray for willingness, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure".
Do you want a sign from God? Do you need one? If you do, you've got one: the resurrection of Christ. Now do something with it. And the love of God be with you.
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