Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted a sign from Jesus to prove to them that he was the Messiah. Many skeptics today want a miraculous sign for a different reason – to prove to them that God exists and that miracles actually happen. One skeptic I was arguing with said he would believe in God if God turned his grass blue. His reasoning was that it would be a simple enough thing for God to do. If his grass turned blue, he would consider that miraculous. He seemed to feel that God was obligated to meet his demand for proof.
The skeptic presumes that because God wants everyone to believe in him, God should satisfy everyone’s demand for direct, empirical evidence of his existence. But what skeptics don’t seem to understand is that there is more to faith than simply believing that God exists. Faith also involves trust – which is a question of our assessment of God’s character. It’s not enough to simply believe that God exists - faith means putting our trust in him and in his goodness, his love, and his mercy. Many people believe that God exists but do not trust him. Some believe God’s purpose in life is to keep us from having fun, so he gives us restrictive rules. They don’t understand that God’s commands are designed to help us and protect us, to increase our joy rather than decreasing it.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is interesting. He says no miraculous sign would be given to them except for the sign of the prophet Jonah. He explains what he means by that in the next verse: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus is speaking about the Resurrection as the sign they would receive. It’s still the sign that has been given to every generation since that time wherever the Gospel has been preached. It’s a sign that not only reveals that God exists, but also that he “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Resurrection of the Son of God is our guarantee that we will one day share in the glory of his life if we trust in him.
There is already sufficient proof for the skeptic that God exists. Without God, there is no reason for anything to exist, and thus nothing should exist. The very existence of the cosmos speaks not only to God’s existence, but also to his incredible power, his vast intelligence (if we can even use that term for God), and his creativity. But there is also sufficient proof that Jesus really rose from the dead. There is no natural explanation for the evidence of the early testimony of the first Christians that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to them. It was not a legend, as the written records are much too early for that. All other naturalistic theories have failed – that the disciples made it up, that they were hallucinating, that Jesus didn’t really die but only fainted. None of these theories explain the evidence. The best explanation, the only explanation that really fits the evidence, is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
The question is not what evidence does the skeptic require before he or she will believe. The real question is what will he or she do with the evidence which has already been given.