Question Summary: What sign did Jesus give to the Jews?



Dear Craig,


I’ve got a Bible question about John 2:18-22.


18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

19 Jesus answered and said to them,  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Jn 2:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


I am a Jewish believer.  I have heard arguments from mainstream Jews that Jesus never fulfilled John 2:19, since he never appeared to any of the Jewish leaders after his resurrection, therefore it could not have been a sign to them.


How would you answer that?








Dear Ari~


It’s a fair question asked by unbelieving Jews and deserves a fair response.  I am not going to give you the standard answer most Christians give because it will not satisfy the protests of the Jews contending against the faith.  My answer is long-winded Ari, but it needs a comprehensive approach to be accurate.  I will be weaving aspects of the Law into my interpretation to prove the fulfillment of John 2:18-19.


Let’s agree on the TERMS used in the context first; I work from the Greek and Hebrew texts, not the English versions, but I will try to keep it simple for you Ari.


·          The Greek word for “show” in John 2:18 means, “To point out, present to the sight, to cause to see.”


·          The Greek word for “sign” in John 2:18 is seemeíon and has various meanings, including, “Sign, mark, token, miracle with a spiritual end and purpose.” 


·          The “Jews” mentioned refer to Jewish leaders; it is very important to identify who they are.  Matthew 27:39-41 is but one of several key verses that proves who the “Jews” in John 2:18-24.  The Jews include the chief priests and the Pharisees.


These Jews wanted Jesus to “show” them a “sign” AFTER he had just finished cleansing the temple and making a public spectacle of them.  In essence, the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus to furnish them with something that distinguished his actions as being directed by the finger of God; they wanted a token or visible proof, not just the words of truth from Christ. 


Elsewhere this same group of Jews asks Jesus for a “sign” using the same Greek word for “sign,” which is, “seemeíon.”  The Strong’s number listed for seemeíon is NT: 4592. 


·          Matthew 12:38-45 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign (seemeíon) from you.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign (seemeíon), and NO SIGN (seemeíon) will be given to it EXCEPT THE SIGN (seemeíon) of the prophet Jonah.  40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.  42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.  43 When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  44 Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  So shall it also be with this wicked generation."  NKJV


Jesus calls the Jews an “evil and adulterous generation,” and he tells them, “NO SIGN (seemeíon) will be given to it except the sign (seemeíon) of the prophet Jonah.” 


The account in Matthew is a major sticking point; in John 2:18-19 Jesus never says, “This is the sign you will receive,” instead he merely states a fact, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up.”  They misinterpret his words to mean Herod’s temple and leave it at that.


In Matthew 12:39 however, Jesus DOES promise the Jews a “sign” BUT he tells them the ONLY SIGN they will receive is the “sign of Jonah.”  This is consistent with Jesus’ statement to the Jews in John 2:18; below is a comparison of the two texts:


·          “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”


·          “NO SIGN will be given to it EXCEPT THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” 


The analogy of Jonah in the belly of the fish corresponds directly to the burial of Jesus in the tomb for 3 days and nights.  Jonah being spit onto dry land by the great fish parallels when Jesus raises his physical body from a flat horizontal position to an upright, vertical position (standing up), AFTER God the Father raises him from the dead. 


The main point is this:  The people of Nineveh DID NOT SEE THE FISH SPIT JONAH ON DRY LAND and yet they STILL BELIEVED his message.  Jesus promises these hardhearted Jews only ONE SIGN… the same thing Jonah gave the Ninevites… repent.


The argument ends here Ari; no further proof is required, but I made a few more notes for you.  In John 2:18-22 was Jesus really promising the Jews he would reveal his physical body to them after the resurrection?  Not according to other texts that use the same Greek word (seemeíon) for “sign.”


·          Mark 8:11-12 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.  12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign?  Assuredly, I say to you, NO SIGN (seemeíon) SHALL BE GIVEN TO THIS GENERATION."  NKJV


In the Law given by God to Moses, we find a very important link to Matthew 27:37. 


·          Matthew 27:37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.  NKJV


The Law specifies that if an accusation is made of anyone deserving death in Israel, a minimum of two witnesses is required, but one witness alone is not allowable.  Turn to Deuteronomy 17:2-13 and read the entire context carefully. 


The Jews disobeyed their OWN LAW and had the Roman government act as both JUDGE and executioner of Jesus.  Neither God the Father, nor His son Jesus owed these stiff-necked Jews any visible “sign” because they had broken covenant with Him.  These were obviously the same Jews that Jesus had spoken to in John 2:18-22.


·          Matthew 27:39-43 and those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross."  41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  NKJV


In Deuteronomy 17:2-13 the following are fundamentals:


1.    There had to be evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses.

2.    A difficult matter had to be taken to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them, and they will declare to you the verdict in the case.

3.    The accused, if convicted, was to be STONED to death

4.    The first stones had to be thrown BY THE WITNESSES


The Jews violated all points of the Law, thereby nullifying any legitimate claims to its application.  Scores have been written on this topic, but the main sticking point here is Points 1 & 2.


Because the Jews handed Jesus over to Herod and Pilate, these Gentile rulers became the substitutionary “judge” spelled out in the terms of the Law.  Therefore, according to the Law, the “two witnesses” to Christ’s death would also be Roman Gentile guards (legally). 


According to the Law, if the Jews used the Romans to “destroy” the “temple” of Jesus’ body, they relinquished their legal right be witnesses to his death AND resurrection.  As a result, the TWO GUARDS, stationed at the tomb on behalf of and by the Jews, were LEGALLY witnesses of his resurrection for them, under the terms and requirements spelled out in Deuteronomy 17:2-13.


·          Matthew 27:62-66; 28:4-7, 11-16 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'  64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first."  65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how."  66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard… 28:4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.  5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."  28:11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.  12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,  13 saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.'  14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure."  15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.  NKJV


There you have it Ari; the Jews were given the sign of Jonah, just as Jesus promised.  The Jews had their two legal witnesses (the Roman guards) come to them and give an EYEWITNESS account to his resurrection.  They were legally accountable now.


Did the Jews repent once given the sign of Jonah?  No!  Instead, they blasphemed the Holy Spirit by paying blood money to the guards to spread a rumor that the disciples had stolen the body.


Aside from all these facts, and in spite of their unbelief, Jesus still gave the Jews a “sign” of when they were in the act of “destroying” the temple of his body; it is found in Matthew 26: when Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus to the Jews with a “sign” (seemeíon) of a kiss.


·          Matthew 26:47-48, 57 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.  48 Now His betrayer had given them A SIGN (seemeíon), saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him."  57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.


I’m out of time for today Ari, but this should sum it up.  Keep us in prayer will you, and come back to visit often!


Your friend in Jesus~


Craig B.


The Bible Answer Stand Ministry


1 Peter 3:15

Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. AMP




What sign did Jesus give the Jews - Part 2


Subject: RE: John 2:18-22




Thank you so much for your thorough response.  I do see now the fulfillment of the sign, although I’m not sure I accept all the points you brought up.


In my opinion, the sign of Jonah was more than the preaching of repentance; otherwise there would have been no need to mention the part about the Son of Man being three days and three nights in the belly of the earth (Matt 12:40) or raising the temple after three days (Jn 2:19).


However, the sign was fulfilled when the Jews were told about Jesus’ resurrection by the Roman guards and acted to cover up the truth.  If they had not believed the guards, they would not have paid them money or asked them to spread a false story.  So even though they did not physically see Jesus, they knew that Jesus had made His resurrection known to them through a report that they acted upon, demonstrating their belief that the report was true.


Regarding the Jews violating the four requirements of the death penalty in Deuteronomy 17:2-13, the Bible Knowledge Commentary says: “The council could give a guilty verdict, but the Jews at that time were not allowed to impose the death penalty. Only Rome could sentence to death.”  (on Luke 22:71).  Therefore, the Jews could not have violated the laws requiring taking the matter to the Levitical priests in the place that the Lord chose, nor stoning the person to death, nor witnesses throwing the first stones, since those laws were superceded by Roman law.  However, they themselves were the witnesses of His “blasphemy”, which they mistakenly attributed to Him, so in their interpretation of the Law, they were the witnesses, not the Roman guards. 






Hi Ari~


I agree with all but one of your points; the Jews did pass a guilty verdict, but did so illegally.  Besides that, they are not allowed to appeal to foreign government according to Deuteronomy 17; it is expressly forbidden.  Roman law never supercedes God’s law, regardless of what the commentaries say.  If the Jews remained true to the application of the law all the way, they could never have arrived at their verdict.  But their hearts were far from God anyhow, so it’s a mute point, since in their unbelief and hardheartedness, deception blinded them.


You see, my point was, they went to Pilate and said, “Our law says this man must die, but your law disallows us to put him to death.”  That was forbidden for them to go to Rome by God’s law.  In subjecting themselves and their law to Rome, they now become completely subservient to Gentile law, especially when they said they have no king but Caesar.  This is tantamount to then saying to Rome, “Here’s our law, we want you to execute it YOUR way.”  Thus the terms of the law are now applicable legally by Gentiles.


I can see your point about them being the witnesses, albeit false testimony, and therefore not in compliance with the terms of the law.  In fact, according to the law, a false accusation of this nature requires those that slander to be put to death


Just some additional thoughts Ari; I like discussing it with you.


Love in Jesus,




The Bible Answer Stand Ministry


1 Peter 3:15

Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. AMP




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