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§ 92. The Sign of the Prophet Jonah.

Christ’s declaration, in answer to a demand for a miraculous attestation of his Messiahship, that “no sign shall be given to this generation but the sign of the Prophet Jonah,” has been thought by some to indicate either that he wrought no miracles at all, or that he did not mean to employ them as proofs of his Divine calling. The passage preceding that declaration of itself is enough to refute this; for he had just appealed to the healing of a demoniac as proof of the Divine character of his power,206206   Luke, xi., 20. and to the fact that the kingdom of God was victoriously introduced among men by him207207   Luke, xi., 22. as a testimony that his ministry was Divine. But we can refute it by simply showing the only sense which the words could have conveyed, in the connexion in which they were used.

The works of Jesus had made a great impression, very much to the discomfort of those whose mode of thinking and party interests made it necessary for them to oppose him. They naturally sought to counteract this impression; to dispute the evidence of the facts which confirmed his ministry as Divine. While the most base and hostile, compelled 137to admit the superhuman powers of Christ, attributed them to the kingdom of darkness, there were others who did not dare to utter such an accusation, but asked a sign of a different character, an objective testimony from God himself in favor of Christ and his ministry, which could not deceive; a visible celestial phenomenon, for instance, or a voice from heaven, clearly and unequivocally authenticating him as a messenger from God. In answer, then, to those who asked a Divine sign apart from his whole manifestation, a sign for that which was of itself the greatest of all signs, Christ appeals to that loftiest of signs, his own appearance as the God—Man, which included within itself all his miracles as separate, individual manifestations.208208   We cannot but be surprised at the remark of De Wette, Comm. on Matt., 2d ed., p. 132: “If Jesus had wished to express this thought, he would have uttered nonsense—No sign shall be given to them, but still given.” Christ said that to those who were not satisfied by his whole manifestation, as a sign, no other separate sign would be given; how could any thing be a sign for them to whom the highest sign was none? The words, however, do wear that air of paradox which we often find in the discourses of Christ. To this (he told them)—viz., that “The manifestation of the Son of Man was greater than that of Jonah or of Solomon”—belonged all those works of his which no other could perform; every thing was to be referred to that manifestation as the highest in the history of humanity. Had these words been spoken by any other, they would have convicted him of sacrilegious self-exaltation.


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