The sign of Jonah (Mt 12:39-12:40)

“But Jesus answered them.

‘An evil

And adulterous generation

Asks for a sign.

But no sign shall be given

To it,

Except the sign

Of the prophet Jonah.

Just as Jonah was three days

And three nights

In the belly of the sea monster,

Thus,

For three days

And three nights

The Son of man

Will be

In the heart of the earth.’”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου.

ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας.

 

This saying about the sign of Jonah can also be found in Luke, chapter 11:29-30, so that perhaps this is a Q source.  Once again, Q and Matthew went back to their Old Testament roots, using the story of the prophet Jonah, chapter 1:17, where he was in the belly of the whale or the sea monster for 3 days and 3 nights.  The obvious comparison between the 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish and Jesus in the tomb was not lost on the early Christians.  Jesus answered the Pharisees (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς).  He called them an evil and adulterous generation (Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς).  Why were they asking for or seeking signs (σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ)?  The only sign they were going to get was the sign of the prophet Jonah (καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου).  He had been in the belly of the sea monster or whale that swallowed him for 3 days and 3 nights (ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας).  Thus, the Son of Man would be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth (οὕτως ἔσται ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας).  This was a clear allusion to the death of Jesus in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights before his resurrection.

The sixth beatitude on pure of heart (Mt 5:8-5:8)

“Blessed are

The pure in heart!

They will see God.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν Θεὸν ὄψονται.

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) would be those who have a pure heart (οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ).  Their reward would be that they would see or behold God (ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν Θεὸν ὄψονται).  The heart was considered the center of thought and will.  Thus, we often hear people today who say that a person has a good heart.  They are good hearted.  The heart represents the whole person, so if the heart is pure, the whole person was pure.  Only the pure in heart would see God, which was a special reward.  In Psalm 24:3-4, they wanted to know who could ascend the hill to enter the holy place of Yahweh’s Temple.  Only those who had clean hands and a pure heart could enter the holy place, since they could not have a false or deceptive heart.  Then, they would receive the blessing from Yahweh.  They were the ones who would see the face of the God of Jacob.

Authentic Christian Faith

Christian belief is not a mere intellectual exercise.  The heart has its reasons.  The reasons of the heart come from our religious experience of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Our belief is a free joyous grateful response.  We have the privilege of calling Jesus Christ a friend.  However, this active experience is not just a private affair that has no effect on our lives.  Our Christian experience leads to a liberating practice of love.  It is not enough to say the words, we must live the life.  We cannot be unfaithful to the essential message of Jesus Christ.  We need a holistic approach to faith.  If religion was intellectual only, it would be only an abstraction and a mind game.  On the other hand, if it is only emotional, it becomes superstition.  Christianity is a way of life, a commitment, an active involvement.

Rebuild the house of Yahweh (Hag 1:2-1:2)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

‘These people say

The time has not yet come

To rebuild

The house of Yahweh.’”

The heart of the message of Yahweh, via Haggai, was to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  However, some people were saying that it was not the right time to do this.

Yahweh has second thoughts (Hos 11:8-11:9)

“How can I give you up?

O Ephraim!

How can I hand you over?

O Israel!

How can I make you

Like Admah?

How can I treat you

Like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils

Within me.

My compassion

Grows warm.

My compassion

Grows tender.

I will not execute

My fierce anger.

I will not again

Destroy Ephraim.

I am God!

I am not a mortal!

I am the Holy One

In your midst.

I will not come

In wrath.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, had second thoughts about the destruction of Israel. How could he give Ephraim up? How could he hand over Israel? He could not make them like Admah and Zeboiim, two of the five cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, chapter 19. His heart was compassionate with warm tenderness. He decided not to execute his fierce anger against Ephraim. Yahweh was God, not a mere mortal. He was the Holy One in their midst. He was not going to come in anger.

The Egyptian campaign (Dan 11:25-11:28)

“He shall stir up

His power,

His determination,

Against the king of the south,

With a great army.

The king of the south

Shall wage war

With a much greater,

Stronger army.

But he shall not stand.

Plots shall be devised

Against him,

By those who eat

Of the royal rations.

They shall break him.

His army shall be swept away.

Many shall fall slain.

The two kings,

Their minds bent

On evil,

Shall sit

At one table.

They shall exchange lies.

But it shall not succeed.

There remains an end

At the time appointed.

He shall return

To his land

With great wealth.

But his heart shall be set

Against the holy covenant.

He shall work his will.

He shall return

To his own land.

King Antiochus IV determined to fight against the king of the south, in Egypt with a great army around 169 BCE. However, the king of the south, King Ptolemy VI (186-145 BCE), had a better stronger army. Nevertheless, King Antiochus IV prevailed, because there was some failure among the troops of King Ptolemy VI, as plots were devised by those who ate his royal rations. Many were killed. They seem to have come to some sort of agreement, but each was too devious to make it work. King Antiochus IV returned with great wealth. He apparently stopped off in Jerusalem and sacked it in 169 BCE, since his heart was against the holy covenant. There he worked his will before he returned to his own land.

No uncircumcised foreigners in the sanctuary (Ezek 44:9-44:9)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘No foreigner

Shall enter my sanctuary!

No uncircumcised in heart

Shall enter my sanctuary!

No uncircumcised in flesh

Shall enter my sanctuary!

None of all the foreigners,

Who are among

The people of Israel,

Shall enter my sanctuary.’”

There was no doubt about what Yahweh wanted. No foreigners were to be allowed to enter into his sanctuary. No one uncircumcised in heart or flesh would be allowed into the sanctuary of Yahweh. This even included the foreigners who were living among the Israelites. Only the circumcised, but more precisely, only the Zadok Levitical priests were allowed into his sanctuary.

Ezekiel will be recognized as a prophet (Ezek 33:31-33:33)

“They come to you

As people come.

They sit before you

As my people.

They hear your words.

But they will not

Obey them.

Flattery

Is on their lips.

But their heart

Is set on their own gain.

You are

Like a singer

Of love songs

To them.

You are

Like one who has

A beautiful voice.

You play well

On an instrument.

They hear

What you say,

But they will not do it.

When this comes!

Come it will!

Then they shall know

That a prophet has been

Among them.”

Yahweh said that the people would come to sit before Ezekiel. They would hear his words, but they would not obey them. Flattery would be on their lips, but their heart would be set on their own material gain. Ezekiel would be like a singer of love songs to them with a beautiful voice and a well-played instrument. They would hear what he said, but they would not do it. When all this happened, they would know that Ezekiel had been a prophet among them.

Moaning (Ezek 21:6-21:7)

“Moan therefore!

Son of man!

Moan!

With a breaking heart!

Moan

With a bitter grief

Before their eyes!

When they say to you,

‘Why do you moan?’

You shall say.

‘Because of the news

That has come.

Every heart

Will melt.

All hands

Will be feeble.

Every spirit

Will faint.

All knees

Will turn to water.

See!

It comes!

It will be fulfilled,’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh told Ezekiel that he should moan or sigh with a broken heart and bitter grief before the other people. When they would then ask him why he was moaning, he should tell about the news that he had received. If they had heard the same news, they too would be moaning and sighing. Every heart would melt. All their hands would be feeble. Every spirit would be faint. Everyone’s knees would turn to water. Yahweh clearly said that this was going to happen.

The free prostitute (Ezek 16:30-16:31)

“Says Yahweh God.

‘How sick is your heart?

You did all these things.

You did the deeds

Of a brazen whore.

You built a platform

At the head

Of every street.

You made your lofty place

In every square.

Yet you were not

Like a whore,

Because you scorned payment.’”

Yahweh God spoke out again. How sick was the heart of Jerusalem? She had acted like a brazen whore, a prostitute. As mentioned earlier, she built a platform at every street corner and a lofty place in the town square. The only difference between her and a common whore, was that she did not accept any payment for her prostitution activities.