Wednesday: 20 February, 2013 –– First Week in Ordinary Time
The Sign of Preaching
The sign of Jonah, as Jesus speaks to it in Matthew’s Gospel is usually considered to be his three days in the belly of the fish prefiguring Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Luke leaves this out altogether, while both Matthew and Luke give another focus –– the proclamation of God’s Word.
The Gospel today emphasizes the sign of preaching. The crowd who tried to link Jesus with the devil also asked Jesus to provide some kind of flamboyant display to prove himself; his preaching and healing were not enough. Jesus' answer is that the one sign they will get is the proclaimed Word of God. The amazing thing for these people is that the preacher was not merely Jonah or Solomon; it was the Son of God.
Jesus is making an important point here. The words of Solomon were enough of a sign for the Queen of Sheba to believe. Jonah's words were enough of a sign for the Ninevites to repent. Now that the Son of God himself has come to show us God's Word, we should have more than enough of a sign for our own faith.
But it's not always the result. Sometimes the Word is preached and people do not believe. There is no repentance, only a continuing in wickedness. That was the case with the crowd surrounding Jesus. They heard the Word of God from Jesus himself, but it wasn't enough. The Queen heard Solomon, and Solomon was enough. The Ninevites heard Jonah, and Jonah was enough. The crowd heard Jesus, but the preaching of Jesus wasn't enough.
When the preaching of Jesus isn't enough (either the preaching Jesus did or a message that's centered on Jesus), all that's left is judgment. Preaching is something to take seriously. Jesus was serious about it. The people who preach should be serious about it; I certainly try to be. The people who hear preaching should be serious about it ― it's God's way of calling you to faith and building you up. It's God's "sign."