At one of the Navajo schools where I taught we participated in a program allowing students to be sponsored by folks from across the United States. This helped with the cost of their education at our private school. In return, each child sent cards and letters to their sponsor throughout the school year. One summer I received a call from a couple in New Jersey. They were planning a vacation to the Southwest and wanted to come to the reservation. I gave them directions to the closest town and then for the last 13 miles of dirt road. I thought it was fairly straight forward—go north, and after passing three cattle guards, the school will be on the left at the top the hill.
The couple arrived and that afternoon we visited their child’s home. I apologized for bouncing them around as we drove on a particularly bumpy section of dirt road. “Wow. That was a rough cattle guard!” I exclaimed. The couple looked at each other. “That was a cattle guard?” they asked incredulously. “As we drove in this morning, we were looking for men watching cows. We just knew we were lost because we never saw the cattle guards in your directions.” Having grown up in the West, I assumed everyone knew what a cattle guard was. I figured they would recognize the signs I told them to watch for.
In Matthew we read about a group of men who should have known what was going on, but they didn’t know the signs to look for either. Even after hearing Jesus teach and watching his miracles, they still weren’t sure He was who He said He was, the One sent from God. “Show us a sign from heaven,” they demanded (Matthew 12:1). Jesus’ answer was one of amazement. “You know how to discern the appearance of the sky (to predict fair or foul weather), but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:3). Knowing their hearts were filled with unbelief and that they were testing him, Jesus explained that the only sign they would be given was the “sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).
Jonah, the reluctant prophet to ancient Nineveh and God’s fish food. “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). That was the sign Jesus gave to affirm He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah. The Kingdom of God would be ushered in by Jesus’ death and resurrection, the events we recently celebrated. Was Easter just another Sunday service for you or were you looking for the right signs? Did you embrace the truth of the “sign of Jonah”?
Those in Nineveh heard Jonah’s message of judgment and repented, but it took three days in a whale to get this unwilling preacher to do what God asked him to do. Philippians 2:8 tells us that Jesus willingly “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” so that any who would discern the signs would have eternal life with God. Philippians 2:6-11 gives us more signs about Jesus. He was full deity and fully man, He was sinless and His death on the cross paid the price for our transgressions. The signs are there if you understand what to look for. They enable you to arrive at your destination, that of living forever with God, without fear of taking the wrong road.