The Greatest Miracle (Matthew 12:38-45)
- 4 min read

The Greatest Miracle (Matthew 12:38-45)

On this page


One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.

As we follow Jesus, He EMPOWERS us to MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Overall Commentary: 🌎

Jesus is finishing His interaction with His religious enemies who have openly come out against Him. Even when dealing with these people, Jesus is showing us how to engage the world around us and show hope in dark places.

As we follow Jesus, He warns us not to miss the greatest miracle.

His detractors are openly defying Him, and He still offers hope. This is called by scholars a "warning passage." What is He warning them about? He's warning them not to miss the greatest miracle ever... His resurrection and the offer of salvation to all!


Verse 38-40: The confrontation.

  • Another sign- The Pharisees and lawyers are not excitedly looking for a reason to believe Jesus. He has already been doing many miracles. They are saying this in a derogatory, harmful, challenging fashion. They are continually asking Him to prove and debate the veracity of His claims. Jesus has never turned away someone who genuinely sought a miracle. These people are seeking to discredit and argue. Jesus often does not try to live up to our expectations.
  • Three Days and Three Nights- This might seem contradictory to our Western minds when Jesus died on Friday afternoon and rose again on Sunday morning. We have to understand the culture of first-century Judaism. This was a turn-of-phrase that meant three days. Jewish people considered any part of a day as counting for a day. Therefore, part of Friday counted as a day, Saturday counted as a day, and part of Sunday counted as a day. There is no logical fallacy.
  • Historical clarification- Jesus clarifies the historicity of Jonah.

Verse 41: Jonah and Ninevah.

  • Surprising Controversy- There have been some liberal scholars who have tried to say Jonah was a narrative parable and not a historical person. This would make the story of Jonah much easier to swallow. (pun intended.) However, the way Jesus uses the story of Jonah ratifies that a man named Jonah preached to the people in Ninevah.
  • Gentile salvation- Ninevah were natural enemies of Israel and gentiles. This would make the story even more potent to the listeners.
  • Unhappy Preacher- A Jewish tradition says Jonah did not want the city of Ninevah to receive mercy because it would look even worse on the nation of Israel. They were repenting when Israel stayed stubborn. It is also that Ninevah was a wicked city, and Jonah thought they deserved wrath.
  • Amazing Grace- Seeing how merciful God was to such a wicked city reminds us that God will also be merciful toward us.

Verse 41: The Queen of Sheba.

  • From Where?- Jewish tradition and Josephus say Sheba is what we now call Ethiopia.
  • How Far Did She Travel?- She would have traveled roughly 1,200 miles to see Solomon. This is also a testament to how well-known Solomon was.
  • Why Does This Matter?- She was willing to travel to see a great man. Jesus is saying one even greater than Solomon is here now. What's even better, Jesus came to us.

Verse 42-45: Jesus Teaches Us the Secret.

  • Does Jesus Have ADD?- This text seems to come out of nowhere. Jesus is talking about a wicked generation not understanding what's happening, and now He's talking about spiritual warfare. Don't forget. Jesus did not have ADD. He didn't jump to topics. They all go together. That means this passage belongs in the text and goes with the rest.
  • Is this Real Or A Parable?- Likely both. Spiritual warfare is real. However, in this text, Jesus is likely drawing on this parable style because they accused Him of casting out evil spirits by the devil. Therefore, He is continually their narrative.
  • What's the Point?- The point is that it is not enough to do good things. We must be changed from the inside out. That was the whole problem of the Pharisees. They kept trying to reach God through perfection. That only leaves us empty and vulnerable. We will eventually become weak. We must fill our lives with the Lord and let Him change us from the inside out.

What can we learn from this passage?

Jesus didn't come to make a better. He Came to make us NEW.

Questions/Journal Prompts for reflection:

  1. Do you sometimes focus more on “doing the right things” rather than turning to God?

2. Have you ever thought about how “normal” it is to know about God?

3. How far would you travel to hear news that could change your life?

4. After today’s message, what is your next step?

Resources For Further Study