Perhaps you have heard someone suggest that what really matters is on the inside. Or maybe you have heard the common proverb, “You cannot judge a book by its cover.” The suggestion is that what is internal is ultimately more important than what is external.
We certainly would not see this belief evident in commercials or advertisements we may see. How someone looks is the object of much attention when we look at advertisements. We need to be quite pretty, if we were to listen to what we are told, don’t we? We have to be thin, have skin without blemish, have the latest hair style, and spend a lot of money on those things that eliminate our not so pleasant physical characteristics. We may say that what really matters is on the inside, but it can be awfully hard to convince someone who looks only at the culture of advertising that this is really true.
But as we gain wisdom, we see that indeed the development of the internal really does matter. We also talk about substance over style, for example. I have heard studies that suggest when two people are married and experiencing true love, they continue to find each other more and more attractive, even as men may go bald, and extra weight might find itself on bodies. This is true because couples more and more appreciate the characteristics and qualities that really make human beings talented. We can quickly see the difference between those who are slick, but do not embody the long lasting characterisitics that we have come to value as human beings.
This is what Jesus is suggesting in the gospel. These external things, signs, might bring someone to curiosity, but if we think we can rely upon them alone, they cannot lead to the deep faith that lasts. In fact, if it is only signs that matter, then Jesus could be reduced to some type of freak show. The sign that will be given is only the sign that tells us what we already know. Namely, our lives put us in need of a savior.
That was the sign of Jonah. If the people of Nineveh did not change their lives, things would come to a bad end. “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.” The message of the gospel is that even though people ultimately changed because of Jonah or Solomon.
But as Jesus points out, he is greater than Jonah or Solomon. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is able not simply to provide human wisdom, but is the Son of God. But there are those who appear to be interested in Jesus simply because they have heard about the signs of Jesus and they simply want to see a little magic.
But the purpose of the signs is to lead us to deeper faith. It requires of us not simply the curiosity of a sign, but a change of the heart. It requires us to have the response of the Ninevites, namely to change our hearts and our lives. So, simply curious or ready for a change? The choice is yours.