Luke 11:29, The Sign of the Prophet Jonah

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. it asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.

//Do you know what the sign of Jonah is? Most Bible readers are familiar with this scripture, from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The “sign of Jonah” is that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale … like Jesus spent three days in the grave, right?

Well, you’re half right. Matthew would agree with you, but Luke would not. Luke’s explanation continues from today’s verse:

For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.—Luke 11:30.

Most bible scholars recognize that Matthew and Luke copied from a shared source (Q) as they wrote their gospels. Both of them include this saying. But Matthew, when he copied this story, had a different explanation for the “sign of Jonah”:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. –Matthew 12:40

This verse is inserted by Matthew in the middle of the discussion of Jonah and Nineveh. It is surely Matthew’s own interpretation, while Luke’s is more original…and more believable as well, if spoken by Jesus himself before he died.

So what is the original sign of Jonah? What does Jerusalem have to do with Nineveh?

As Luke explains, it is that Jonah preached repentance to a wicked city. In Nineveh’s case, the wicked city repented, and was saved. But in Jerusalem’s case, there was no repentance … and Jerusalem was not saved (a generation later, it was completely leveled by the Romans).

That, of course, is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem; he foresaw its future.

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