“Our help is in the name of the Lord, but our fears are in the name of man.”
After Jesus cleanses the temple (John 2:13-17), the Jews, a term most likely used here for the temple authorities or representatives of the Sanhedrin, challenged Jesus:
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)
They requested a sign to be shown to them. A sign in the gospel of John has elements of the miraculous or the prophetic in it. Many of the signs in the Gospel of John are public displays of the power of Jesus (ex: raising of Lazarus). The first sign mentioned, changing water into wine, was semi-public. All the signs are given that individuals might believe in Jesus and have life in his name (John 20:30-31). The request by these Jews was a demand that Jesus demonstrate his right to exercise authority in that place. They also wanted him to submit to their authority, thus was spoken the “show us” in their encounter.
Jesus would perform no such sign for them. Instead, he would give them the sign of signs, the resurrection. A similar encounter is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)
Jesus’ answer is full of grace and truth. He graciously offers them the hope of his coming resurrection while denying them a present sign which would only confirm them in their sin. D. A. Carson summarizes the situation nicely:
A sign that would satisfy them, presumably some sort of miraculous display performed on demand, would have signaled the domestication of God. That sort of ‘God’ does powerful stunts to maintain allegiance, and that kind of allegiance is not worth having. Indeed, if the authorities had eyes to see, the cleansing of the temple was already a ‘sign’ they should have thought through and deciphered in terms of Old Testament Scripture. (Carson, PNTC, 181)
The Lord Jesus refused to be domesticated under the whims of the temple authorities but instead pointed them to accept his claims to Messianic authority based on his resurrection. Things have not changed. The people of God today follow Jesus not because he, from time to time, grants us to see certain amazing answers to requests but because he has secured permanent blessing (salvation) for us through his resurrection. Praise the Lord! Have a blessed week and we will see you on Sunday.
Love in Christ,