Matthew 12:38-45, NLT
38 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.” 39 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. 40 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. 41 “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. 42 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. 43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 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. 45 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.”
46 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48 Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
This is a great text because it reminds us that JESUS IS GREATER THAN…Jonah, Solomon, Religion or even Family. The reason the world celebrates CHRISTMAS is that Jesus is greater the Mohammed, Confucius, Aristotle or anyone else. All of this and more is implied in the text but I want to narrow the search somewhat and focus on Jesus and the Pharisees. This particular story begins with the Pharisees demanding a sign. According to scripture, their words were… “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority…” but Jesus said…Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign. The Pharisees are trying to cover their intentions by being some what respectful but Jesus knew exactly what their intentions were: they were trying to discredit him before the masses. It was a form of threat but Jesus did not yield. It was not that He could not, but being God, He would not. God does not respond to threats or demands. I would not advise this approach: I would think pleading or praising would be more appropriate. The Pharisees were devoutly religious but their religion was void of Christ. They had a Christ-less religion whereas I have priceless relationship. Speaking of signs: what are the signs of a Christ-less religion?
 ITS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE FAITH
Essentially, the Pharisees said, “If you are the Son of God, prove it…do a miracle to authenticate your claim.” It is similar to the devils approach in Matthew 4, Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” God does not have to prove Himself to anyone; as a matter of fact, He chooses not to give infallible proofs. He makes it very clear in His word that His way is faith… And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Faith is the only language that heaven understands. It is impossible to please God without faith. Therefore we do not exalt signs over scripture. God has given us His word: why do we need a sign. When Dives woke up in hades he begged Father Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his brothers of hell and Abraham said, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We have HIS word so why do we demand signs and feelings. You want a sign, you got the only one your going to get, it is a cross and an empty tomb. It is three days that begin with hell and ended in glorious triumph. You have the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that is the only sign you need. I want to make this perfectly clear: you will never have a relationship with Jesus by an other means. You either trust HIM, put your faith in HIM or else stay condemned. He will never give you more than His word. If you are waiting for the lighting to strike you may very well burst hell wide open.
 IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT A RELATIONSHIP
The Pharisees were not seeking to KNOW Jesus: their intent was to prove Him false. They put absolutely no effort into getting to know HIM. The Pharisees were religious and they even accepted the law and the prophets as the word of God. They believed the story of Jonah surviving three days and nights in the belly of a fish but ironically, they did not believe Jesus or believe in HIM. They had a religion but they never developed a relationship. Religious people can have impeccable character, at least on the surface. They may be straight as an arrow morally. They may cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s but the one thing they do not do is talk about Jesus. They Pharisees talked about God, even professed to have a relationship to Him but they did not talk about Jesus, not in a positive way. They did not preach or praise Jesus. They did not do as John the Baptist and point people to Jesus. I am dumfounded by the myriads of preachers who talk about everything under the sun except the SON. A very misguided youth brought me a tape of their favorite preacher. He was enamored with the man; thought he was the greatest thing since light bread. I’m not positive but I believe the message was on the subject of worship. It was approximately a 30 minute message and he never mentioned Jesus, not one time. At the end of the message, he did pray in Jesus name but he never mentioned Jesus during the message. I don’t think the man was anti-Christ, I think is had subtlety fell into the politically correct mold. His intention was to be seeker friendly. I checked this guy out and I believe he is genuine but what he was doing was yielding to the world’s pressure to conform. The world does not want us praising Jesus. It is offensive to them, they don’t like it. Beware of religion without a personal relationship with Jesus. I will tell you something else: the devil is a master at diverting our attention within the body of Christ. Some believers are more excited about their spiritual gifts than they are the Giver. I’m sure the devil is behind the worship wars. He will do anything to get our focus off of Jesus. The devil does not hate worship; he hates Jesus and of course he hates for us to worship Jesus. But when we go to promoting worship over Jesus, we have grossly missed the point. This Christ-less, Cross-less religion is not new but it has really emerged in the last 40 years. If Jesus is not the center of your theology, you need a new theology. If He is not your focus in worship, you need to change your worship. The Pharisees were very religious but they did not have a relationship with Jesus the Son of God.
 IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE REPENTANCE
Jesus used a great analogy: He said, “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.” This is a picture of a person who reforms their way of living but does not truly repent of sin and turn to Christ. Salvation involves more than cleaning the house: the most wonderful aspect of our salvation is that Jesus comes into the house. He indwells the believer. The big difference between reformation and repentance is Jesus. Jesus does not reform us, He transforms us and conforms us. We reform ourselves. The big difference between a REFORMED RELIGIONIST and TRANSFORMED CHRISTIAN is humility. A reformed religionist is easily offended or insulted. They are legalistic record keepers. They can be no other: they give themselves credit for the clean house and they tend to check your house to see if it is as clean as their house. They are filled with pride because everything they believe in depends upon what they have accomplished. They continually go back to their record.
I have an agnostic friend who sees red whenever you mention Jesus. He told me several years ago that Christianity was the cause of, the prime root of wars, greed and corruption in the world. I said to him, “You are talking about Christianity as a religion. I don’t believe that Constantine’s conversion was authentic and he did a lot of harm by stamping the Christian label on all that he did but the mistake that you have made is that you think Christianity is a religion and it’s not, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I know the people you are referring to did a lot of horrible things under the name of Christ but they were not true followers of Jesus, they did not have a relationship with HIM.” The world is filled with Religious people and so are our churches but religion does not produce true righteousness, only Christ can.
The Pharisees demanded a sign and Jesus said, “You are going to get one, “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 death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only sign that this unbelieving world is going to get. Friend, don’t wait for lightening to strike or for some strange experience: repent of your sin today. Christ is as near as the air you breath: confess Him as LORD and ask Him to come into your life. Commit to follow Him as your LORD and master.