Questions From Readers
▪ What was “the sign of Jonah” mentioned in Matthew 16:4?
In response to a request from the Pharisees and Sadducees for a sign, Jesus said: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”—Matthew 16:1-4.
These religious leaders evidently were looking for a visible sign from heaven before accepting Jesus as the Messiah, basing their expectation on a wrong understanding of Daniel 7:13, 14. They demanded that the Messiah meet their predetermined views, overlooking the marvelous things that Jesus was doing and teaching. (John 4:25-29, 42; 7:31; 9:30-33) So Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that the only additional “sign” that would be provided would be “the sign of Jonah.”
Many months earlier Jesus had mentioned “the sign of Jonah.” What he then added can help us to perceive his point: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”—Matthew 12:38-40.
Jonah was, in a sense, in Sheol, or the grave, when he was in the belly of the huge fish that swallowed him. (Jonah 2:1, 2) Then he came out, as if resurrected, to perform his prophetic assignment in Nineveh. It would be similar with Jesus but even more miraculous.
Jesus foretold that he would die and on the third day be raised from the dead. (Matthew 16:21; 20:17-19; John 2:19-21) When Jesus actually did rise from the dead on the third day, his disciples called to mind what he had said, and this strengthened their faith in him. (John 2:22; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Even some of the Jewish priests who learned of “the sign of Jonah” and the Christian message “began to be obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) But they certainly were in the minority. Most of the Jewish leaders who had refused to be impressed by Jesus’ marvelous works and teachings when he walked among them continued to be of the same mind. They rejected “the sign of Jonah,” Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on the third day.
▪ Why is the audience sometimes invited to stand for song and prayer at Christian meetings and conventions?
Song and prayer have long been part of true worship. (1 Chronicles 16:7-9; Matthew 26:26-30; James 5:13, 14) Thus, these are a normal and important part of worship at congregational meetings or assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Many songs are in the form of prayers or praises to God. When a large group unitedly stands for song and prayer it can be viewed as showing respect as they come before God with thanksgiving.—1 Kings 8:14, 22, 23.
It should be appreciated, though, that the Bible shows that praying or singing praises to God may be done in any posture. (Compare Luke 22:39-41; Acts 16:24, 25.) So there are no rules in this regard. If a person’s health or circumstances make it preferable for him to be seated during a congregation’s song and prayer, that is not wrong. Often Christians are seated when praying at smaller Congregation Book Studies, home Bible studies and at mealtimes.