In Jonah 1:2, God told Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” From that moment, Jonah began running from the Lord. He boarded a boat to Tarshish, but through God’s intervention, Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. According to Jonah 1:17, he spent three days and three nights in the stomach of that great fish. His desperate prayer to God is recorded in Jonah 2. After three days and nights in the fish, Jonah was vomited up onto the land and God again sent him to Nineveh.
Matthew 12 relates a conversation in which Jesus used Jonah’s experience to prophesy His own death, burial, and resurrection:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus refused their request for a sign while, at the same time, pointing them to the greatest sign of all: His resurrection from the dead on the third day.
Today, many refuse to believe in Jesus, just as the Pharisees and scribes in the time of Christ. On the surface, their desire seems innocent: they are requesting a sign from the Son of God. What could be more appropriate? A quick return to the Scriptures lays their stubbornness bare. Shortly before this request, Matthew 12:22 tells how Jesus healed a demon-possessed man. Jesus healed him so that he, who had been blind and mute, both spoke and saw. This miracle was performed in the presence of a great crowd (v.23). After this irrefutable miracle performed with the power of God, the Pharisees not only attributed the miracle to the Devil (v.24) but also proceeded to request another sign from Jesus. This is the request of verse 38, and Jesus is justified in His refusal. The evidence they sought was already before their eyes and they had stubbornly rejected it.
The evidence needed for a person to believe in Jesus today has been provided by God. It is before the eyes of all, but not everyone is willing to admit it. Some ask for a sign, for some miracle. Jesus’ answer to them is the same as His answer to these in Matthew 12: no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet. Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. What more are you looking for?