THE GREATER JONAH
Now in chapter 12 again another religious matter is presented to the Lord Jesus. "Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee" (v. 38). A sign is a miracle; it is something accomplished miraculously. The Lord Jesus, of course, performed a good number of miracles while He was on this earth. But when the religious people came and asked Him to perform some miracle, He would not do it. This means that the Lord Jesus never performs any miracle in a religious way. Humanly speaking, all people like to see miracles. To have this kind of disposition or inclination is entirely natural and religious. If today the Lord would perform a miracle in our midst, we would all be excited—that is wholly a natural and religious reaction. When the scribes and Pharisees asked the Lord for a miracle He answered, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (vv. 39-40). The Lord said that He would not do any miracle for them; He just referred them to the sign of the prophet Jonah. Jonah spent three days and three nights in a whale, and eventually came out—that was undoubtedly a kind of miracle, but it was not a miracle accomplished in a religious way. Jonah’s miracle was a miracle wrought in the way of resurrection—a picture of the resurrected Christ. Christ was put into the heart of the earth, even deeper than the belly of the big fish. After three days and three nights He emerged in resurrection. This resurrection is Christ; this Christ in resurrection is the unique miracle for today.
The natural and religious thought of man is that if we could perform miracles we could certainly build a good church. Never. Through the miracles which the Lord performed while He walked on earth multitudes were attracted to Him. But eventually, following the Lord’s ascension, there were only one hundred and twenty together in the upper room (Acts 1:15). I believe that represented less than one out of a thousand of those who flocked around the Lord in the Judean and Galilean villages and countryside. At just one miracle of His, five thousand besides the women and children were fed (Matt. 14:21). Even after the Lord’s resurrection, He appeared at one time to five hundred brothers (I Cor. 15:6). Yet, after His ascension, only one hundred and twenty were gathered together. Where were the others? Only those who really had some experience of the resurrected Christ as their life were the steadfast ones. The only thing that can build us into the church is not a miracle, but resurrected life, the resurrected Christ.
Here we have a case of people coming to the Lord and asking for a sign. But the Lord Jesus answers that there will be no sign, no miracle. The unique sign is that of resurrection, the resurrected Christ. We all must know, experience, possess, and be possessed by the resurrected Christ. Even Paul, near the end of his journey, expressed his longing desire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10), not the miracles. He himself had performed quite a number of miracles during his lifetime, but he did not count on that. He only wanted to know Christ and His resurrection power. It is not an outward miraculous matter, but an inward resurrection matter. It is not a matter of signs, wonders, and miracles, but a matter of the powerful, resurrected Christ. We need to see the resurrected Christ.
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)