The Sign of Jonah.

    The “Sign of Jonah” Matt 12:39, He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

     This one and only sign began with the wicked city of Nineveh and the prophet commissioned to go there. Jonah’s refusal led him to the contrary, and he ran off on a ship full of pagans instead. The Lord gave him a task which he chose not to bear making his disobedience to God’s Word more sinful than all those onboard. Rather than preach, he fled in the opposite direction with sailors & goods bound for Mediterranean seaports. At this, the Lord sent a terrifying storm when they reached the high seas. With the ship on the brink of destruction the crew started praying; “every man to his own god”! In their crisis they were blinded to the only true God and the hidden motives of this new Hebrew passenger. The quick moving facts in this story share only sketchy events. This leaves most readers with an imaginary tale – But the Lord Jesus gave these pages a much weightier purpose in the days to come.

     The raging sea grew worse and the cargo had to be thrown overboard. Then it occurred to these mariners this abnormal storm must be punishment from a powerful God meant for someone onboard. Surprisingly Jonah was sleeping below deck when they rushed to wake him and made him pray to any god he knew to better their chances. This trouble brought out Jonah’s true identity, and he told them the Lord would only be satisfied if he were thrown overboard. Convinced of this, a decision was made and he’s given over to certain death apart from the innocent crew. Every sailor had deep regret and the fear of God for having a part in this. When the sea grew calm these men repented with sacrifices and vows of commitment to the God of Jonah. This resulted in Salvation from shipwreck and inside the eternal soul of everyone onboard. Meanwhile, Jonah who took away God’s wrath for their sake was swallowed by a giant sea creature. God had prepared a 3 day meeting with death for this purposeful prophet, and it’s this very situation our Lord Jesus speaks of as being an important symbol to describe himself.

     Now Jonah’s prayer from inside the leviathan’s belly proclaims the Lord’s saving Grace. This prophet’s recommitment began in the depths of doom; his hope reached Heaven from the pit of darkness, the Word of God was spoken in praise, and thanksgiving was made from his watery grave. Then Jonah is spit out on the dry ground and journeys to Nineveh to bring the Lord’s warning. Everyone there repented at one sentence from God and mourned for fear of condemnation. Jonah’s arrival brought a divine crisis and miracle of faith, bad news and good news at the moment he got there. The final outcome of the narrative; everyone received the gift of Salvation, the mariners on the ship and the inhabitants of the city, but the challenge of righteousness remains only for the prophet himself. It’s here where he’s overwhelmed and angry, and he wants to die in self-reflection. It’s at this point where Grace, Mercy and the Power of Salvation is celebrated among the converted heathen, but an unforeseen outcome has disconnected our seemingly zero-purpose Prophet. So the Lord added to his defeat using a symbol of truth - a blessed shady green vine on the outside, but a corrupting worm on the inside as a sermon for his soul.

     The “Sign of Jonah” poses some tough questions to ponder. With such contrast why did our Savior associate with him - symbol for symbol? Why did Jesus choose to use Jonah’s story to represent the death and resurrection of the Messiah amidst so many better examples? He said Jonah’s days spent inside the belly of death is the only visual sign given of His authenticity because of having the same resurrection from the grave. This means Pharisees asking for a visible sign from Jesus then, is the same as the so-called righteous asking for visible evidence that we are His Body today. Not only that, this same metaphor also gives the Ninevites authority to serve as judges over our state of repentance to God’s Word. Jonah as being the sinful faith carrier represents Jesus in becoming sin and numbered with the transgressors for us. Jonah & Christ are chosen messengers which surrendered to death in the Holy Spirit, and were ordained with the transmission of faith which happens in their presence. Both were entombed in the depths where Salvation is completed to redeem the hopeless, AND, the sins of man were taken to the grave for the purpose of leaving it empty, setting souls free to newness of life.

    Note the Sign of Jonah is sacrifice, and meant to be an example of delivering the Word of God in sacrifice, which saves fallen mankind from the condemnation to come. Jonah was buried in baptism and the empty fish is the same as the empty tomb. Yet for an unknown reason he neglected God’s Word to people “on the outside”. In his final statement it seems he counted on God’s love and predestined election to accomplish the task without having to leave his house. And in both cases the doom fell on him because his knowledge led to disobedience - leaving him with a corrupting worm inside the green vine of the living Gospel. Thanks be to God for His Mercy upon everyone in this story because we are the same as everyone in it. The same living Word is alive and active in us as the Body of Christ with the same relevant sign in God’s plan of fulfillment. The Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba were not born into the nation of the “elect”. How sad it is they will judge those who are. We are called to those outside the chosen! This is the sign given to those Pharisees in the past, AND their counterparts of today. The final verdict from the Sign of Jonah: Death is always converted into Life, and the cycle never ends. Do not distance yourself from the vital role you have in this.

Teaching Staff at Bethany EPC

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