A: Matthew 12:38-40 reads as follows:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and 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.””
Note that Christ talked to the scribes and Pharisees, describing them as an “evil and adulterous generation.” He said that the only sign that would be given to IT was the sign of the prophet Jonah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so Christ would be three days and three nights — 72 hours — in the grave. Christ’s statement goes further, however. He made clear that He would not stay in the grave for less than three days and three nights, and, that He would not stay longer in the grave than 72 hours. As the sea monster vomited Jonah alive onto dry land, so Christ would be brought back to life and leave the grave after three days and three nights.
Scripture tells us that Christ did indeed fulfill this sign. The angel of the Lord told the women, “‘He is risen, as He said'” (Matthew 28:6). This means, Christ could not have been crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday, as this would not fulfill the sign of being in the grave for three days and three nights. Rather, Christ was killed on a Wednesday and placed in the grave on Wednesday afternoon, just before sunset. He was brought back to life three days and three nights later, leaving the grave on Saturday afternoon, just before sunset, as He said.
The Romans witnessed that the angel came down from heaven and rolled away the stone from Christ’s grave. They told the chief priests about it, but were bribed with money in order to conceal the truth (Matthew 28:11-15). The chief priests and elders willfully suppressed and denied the only sign for Christ’s Messiahship.
After His resurrection, Christ appeared to many, proving that He was the Messiah. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the numerous occasions when Christ appeared to His apostles and disciples. In that passage, Paul did not even list all of Christ’s manifestations (compare, for example, Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 24:13-35).
Christ, when a human being, did many signs and wonders. John said that He performed so many miracles that they could not even all be written down (John 21:25). However, none of these signs proved His Messiahship to the people. They might have recognized Him as a prophet, who was able to perform miracles, but those signs did not prove to them that He was THE Christ. His true disciples recognized Him as the Son of God, but this knowledge had to be revealed to them by God the Father (compare Matthew 16:13-17).
On the other hand, Christ’s resurrection from the dead as a glorified God being proved His Messiahship. The proof lies in the fact that He was DEAD, and that He would come back to life. He could not raise Himself up or bring Himself back to life. He said that “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30). Only God the Father could resurrect Him (compare Acts 2:24; 3:13-15). THAT FACT was the sign of His Messiahship. In other words, Christ said to the people, “If I die and if I am buried for three days and three nights, and afterward come back to life, THEN you will know that I am the Christ.”
We should be able to see clearly that this sign totally negates the false concept that Christ was killed on “Good Friday” and resurrected on “Easter Sunday” — as He would not have been in the grave for 72 hours. This sign also totally disproves the false teaching that Christ, when here on earth, was “fully God and fully man”; that only the “man part” died, but not the “God part”; and that the “God part” resurrected the “man part” — in other words, that Christ resurrected Himself. This false teaching of orthodox Christianity (commonly referred to as the “two natures of Christ”) denies the ONLY sign that Christ gave to “an evil and adulterous generation,” proving His Messiahship: He was dead and buried for 72 hours, and afterwards, God the Father brought Him back to life as a glorified God being.
Christ’s supernatural birth was not a sign to the “evil and adulterous generation” of His time, either, as they did not believe that He had been supernaturally conceived by Mary. They believed that Mary had committed fornication (compare John 8:41). The miraculous events at the time of Christ’s birth were, however, a sign to the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:12), as well as to Mary (Luke 2:19). Mary, of course, had already been prepared for Christ’s supernatural birth by the prior appearance and pronouncements of God’s angel (Luke 1:26-38).
For us who believe, Christ’s supernatural birth is a most important fundamental tenet — but to those who don’t believe, it can hardly be considered a sign. It is sad, however, that even many of those calling themselves Christians doubt that Christ was actually conceived in the way as described in Scripture. If they believe, however, that Christ was and is the Messiah, they MUST believe in Christ’s supernatural birth — AND in His existence as a God being, full of glory, PRIOR TO His birth as a human being (compare John 17:5) .
Our free booklet, GOD IS A FAMILY, explains these and other questions in much more detail.