1Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
Matthew now clarifies the conflict with religionist antagonists, the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two opposing groups represented two conflicting positions theologically; nevertheless, they united against Jesus because they hated Jesus more than they despised each other. They were strange bedfellows indeed.
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came,
An unholy alliance of Pharisees and Sadducees against Jesus formed to undermine His ministry. The Pharisees enjoyed popular support from the crowds but the Sadducees carried political power. Joined together, they constituted quite a force in targeting Jesus as an opponent.
and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven [idiom for God].
Jesus’ religious rivals tested Him by renewing their request for a sign from heaven in order to trap Him in a doctrinal issue. His previous miracles were not sufficient evidence for them. The idea was for Jesus to do a religious trick for them. Four times religious leaders asked for a sign (here; Mt 12:38ff; Jn 2:12; Jn 6:30). Their request for a sign was a contrived attempt to discredit His ministry.
He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’;
Jesus’ response against this unholy alliance was to give an illustration about the sky in the evening. As a general rule, many believed that if they saw a fair or red sky in the evening, the next day would be good weather.
and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’
If the sky were red and threatening in the morning, then they could forecast bad weather for that day.
Those hypocrites examined the weather objectively but, when it came to examining the claims of Christ, they were phonies. Their request for a sign revealed their duplicity. They were hypocrites because they did not truly seek an answer but desired to trap Jesus in doctrinal error. Their real problem was negative volition toward Jesus as the Messiah.
You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
The signs of Jesus’ times were the miracles and ministry of Jesus. All the miracles in the world do not break down negative volition. The Pharisees and Sadducees had a criterion for weather but no criterion to determine who the Messiah was.
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign,
A spiritually adulterous generation seeks a sign in the face of evidence already presented.
and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
The sign of the prophet Jonah was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus had already referred to this sign, so they knew what He meant (12:38-45). The sign of the resurrection is the last sign Jesus gave to the world.
And He left [literally, left behind, forsook, abandoned] them and departed.
Jesus did not have time for overt, incorrigible, negative volition. This was the third time Jesus departed from Galilee (14:13; 15:21). He distanced Himself further from religious Israel. This marks an important transition of Jesus away from reprobate Israel to His ministry to the interim present kingdom (including the church). This was the last important withdrawal from Galilee before His trip to Judea and Jerusalem in the south (19:1).
There are forces in the world who seek to discredit Christ and Christianity.
Hatred and hostility in religion make strange bedfellows. People with dramatically different beliefs unite in their efforts to oppose evangelical Christianity. We see this on the national scene in the United States, Canada, and Europe. We cannot close our eyes to the signs of the times.
God’s plan is the death and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of man. That mutually exclusive message is not acceptable to a pluralistic or relativistic society. The message of the resurrection of Christ portends our resurrection. What a blessed message!