"As the crowd swelled, He took a fresh tack: 'The mood of this age is all wrong. Everybody's looking for proof but you're looking for the wrong kind. All you're looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. But the only proof you're going to get is the Jonah-proof given to the Ninevites, which looks like no proof at all. What Jonah was to Nineveh, the Son of Man is to this age'" Luke 11:29,30 (The Message).
It seems that human nature has never changed. Jesus had issues with the people of His day because they had a lust for entertainment. To many of them, He was nothing but a great entertainer. They followed Him in droves to watch what He could do and to get what He could give but, when it came to the tough decision to identify with Him and take the flak for being a follower, they opted out because the price was too high.
Their excuse was that they wanted 'proof' but, no matter how much proof He gave them, they were always demanding more. What did they mean by 'proof'? Proof of what? Jesus offered them one sign, which He called 'the sign of Jonah.' What was the sign of Jonah? Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a fish because of his reluctance to offer Nineveh God's mercy. God was merciful to him. He sent him to Nineveh a second time to warn them of His coming judgment because of their wickedness. Why did God want to warn them? Why not just dump judgment on them? Was it not because God was merciful? He wanted to give them an opportunity to repent.
And they did.
Jesus spent three days and nights in a grave because of God's mercy to all mankind. He rose from the grave as a witness that He is who He said He is, the Son of God and that God is merciful to all who believe in Him. Because of His suffering and death, God can offer forgiveness to every person who responds to His offer and receives Jesus as Lord. Faith in Jesus involves active participation in His life, following, imitating and obeying Him as Lord.
But nothing has changed. Whether it is secular or spiritual, people generally love to be spectators; sport, TV, pop festivals, no matter what form it takes, we sit on a seat somewhere, in front of the TV, in a sports stadium or a concert hall or even a pew in church and watch. Christian TV is big business. TV channels are mushrooming. Which are the most popular and lucrative? Is it not those that offer the most entertainment and the biggest rewards for 'sowing into their ministry'?
Jesus' solution is simple but radical. 'Whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow me, cannot be my disciple.' The Jonah-sign demands an active response of trust and obedience, getting up off the seat and following Jesus, right to the death of the self-life and into a life of self-giving for the sake of others.