A 'Greater Than' Is Here

In the twelfth chapter of Matthew, we have Jesus referring to Himself as “a greater than.”  On three occasions, each time in answer to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ behaviour and questioning.  We shall consider these three statements of the Lord Jesus. 

Greater than the templeV.6

Greater than Jonah V.41.     

Greater than Solomon. V.42

Greater than the temple

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.  But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?  Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?  But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. (Matthew 12:1-6 AV)

In this passage we see that: 

The Pharisees criticise the disciples for breaking the Sabbath law Jesus reminded them that David their great king ate the shewbread unlawfully. 

The priests are constantly profaning (making common) the Sabbath yet are blameless. 

That there was one greater than the temple here. That is Himself. 

  • In considering the temple we see that: 
  • The temple was the centre of Israel’s life.
  • The temple was where God met with His people.
  • The temple was where all the sacrifices took place.

In saying that He was greater than temple Jesus was pointing them to the great truth That He was the fulfilment of which all that these things spoke. 

  • We see: Jesus spoke of His body as being a temple. Jn.2: 13-22
  • Jesus spoke of a change in worship, no longer focussed on an earthly place, but in spirit andJn.4: 19-24
  • Jesus is God manifested in human flesh- the glory of the Father dwells in Him, now, not an earthly building. Jn.1: 14
  • Jesus is the only way by which we can come to the Father. Jn.14: 6
  • Jesus is now the centre of the Church.Col.1: 18;Rev.21: 21-23
  • Jesus is the complete fulfilment of the OT sacrificial system. Matt.5: 17; Heb.9: 1-4

Greater than Jonah

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:38-41 AV) 

In this passage we note: 

The Pharisees were asking for a sign: that is, some token to distinguish Jesus from the rest!

  • Jesus said that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after signs.
  • Jesus said that the only sign would be that of the prophet Jonah.
  • Nineveh would rise in Judgement for they repented.
  • In considering this we must understand the following context of the twelfth chapter:
  • Jesus had already healed many people in this chapter one of them was possessed.12:9-23.

The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of casting out devils by Beelzebub Mtt.12:24

  • To ask for a sign distinguish Jesus from the rest was, to say the least, a bit of a cheek! What can we then learn from this answer of Jesus?
  • A sign seeking generation is called adulterous because its heart is lusting after things it shouldn’t. The true heart’s desire should be God Himself.

The only sign that Jesus will give is that of resurrection. It is that alone which proves and distinguishes Jesus from the rest! No resurrection no salvation.  Jn.2: 13-22. Rom.;1:3-4; I Cor.15:3-4;16-18

Nineveh repented, and so avoided judgement, at the preaching of Jonah. At the preaching of Jesus repentance is not just from judgement but unto LIFE. Acts 11:18. 

Nineveh, a Gentile nation, repented; the Pharisees part of the Jewish heritage did not. No wonder Nineveh would rise up against them.

In short Jesus is greater than Jonah for He is actually raised from the dead, not just so in a figure; His repentance is unto life and not just from judgement.

Greater than Solomon

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42 AV)

We have here:

  • The queen of the South, Sheba, came from afar.
  • She came to hear of the famed Wisdom of Solomon.
  • In order to follow the train of thought here we must remember:
  • God gave Solomon the wisdom in the first place. II Chr.1:7-12.
  • Solomon was arrayed with great glory Mtt.5: 29
  • Relating this to The Lord Jesus we see:
  • The Pharisees condemnation is once more that a Gentile from afar believed, yet they who were near did not.
  • Jesus is greater than Solomon because HE IS WISDOM itself, not merely the greatest exponent of it. I Cor.1: 18-30; 3:15-17

In summing the whole then we see that the Pharisees, by concentrating on the law added to it and became so obsessed with it that they lost sight of the truth. Mtt12: 7-8; 15:6; 23:1-24. In so doing they were laying heavy burdens upon the people (see Mtt.23).  

In answer to all this Jesus said:

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 AV)

Christ’s yoke is easy, the Pharisees were placing millstones on people’s neck!  Thus, we have Jesus showing us that He is the fulfillment of all the OT. 

I. Priesthood:                   shown by the reference to the Temple.
II. Prophets:                     shown by the reference to Jonah.
III. Kingly hopes:             shown by reference to Solomon.

In short Jesus is the Foundation and we should be centred on Him alone. Let us all keep our hearts and minds fixed on Him and let nothing at all deflect us from that.