Christ and the Sign of Jonah

3 Jun

Christ and the Sign of Jonah

Read Jonah chapters 1-4.

I’ve always loved the story of Jonah. I enjoy sea adventures and missionary stories. I like that the Bible records people as they really are, with their
failures, weaknesses, biases, bad moods, and sins.  It reinforces the truth of Scripture and gives hope for someone like myself.
Jonah was a type of Christ in two ways; in the ways they were dissimilar and in the ways they were similar.

First in the ways they were dissimilar.  Jonah was called to preach to the Ninevites because of their great wickedness.  He was a prophet. Prophets prophecy. Instead he ran in the opposite direction and hitched a ride on a ship going to Tarshish, hoping to hide from God.  Jonah 1: 1-3

Whereas, Jesus, knowing what was awaiting Him in Jerusalem, did not shrink back from His mission, but, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem…” Luke 9:51

Christ was perfect, whereas Jonah was far from an exemplary character.  He was a disobedient prophet who thought he could hide from God.  He appears to be cowardly.  That’s our first impression of him because of his reluctance to go to the Ninevites, who were a feared people and enemy of Israel.
Yet, later on, we see his real reason for running.  It wasn’t fear of the Ninevites.  It was fear of the mercy of God on them.

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?  Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish: for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.’” Jonah 4:1, 2

To Jonah, who knew the character of God, it was just as he’d feared.  God would spare the Ninevites from wrath.  He would show mercy.  The last thing Jonah
hoped for was that God would show mercy to Israel’s most hated enemy.  They didn’t deserve it.  (But Jonah, that’s why it’s called mercy!) We are saved from
getting what our sins deserve.  I am saved from getting what I deserve, and you, Jonah are saved from getting what you deserve as well.  No one merits salvation by the works of their hands.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph. 2:8

Jonah was a type of Christ in relation to his judgment.  The scribes and Pharisees were asking for a sign, even though He had just healed a blind, mute,
demon-possessed man right before their eyes. Jesus did not do miracles on command. So He told 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.”
Matthew 12: 39, 40

Christ was like Jonah in that He suffered the judgment of God, and separation from Him for three days.  As Jonah was in his fish-prison for three days, so
Christ was in his tomb-prison for three days. Jonah realizes his watery grave is equivalent to being in hell.

“…Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice, For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all
your billows and your waves passed over me.”
   Jonah 2:2,3

For Jonah, the worst aspect of death was separation from the presence of the Lord.

I have been cast out of your sight.” Jonah2:4

For Christ, the worst aspect of the cross was the separation from His father.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34

Jonah now longs for the presence of God that he earlier sought to escape.

“Yet I will look again toward your holy temple.” Jonah 2: 4b

Jonah recognizes he is in the realm of death and only God can save him.

“Yet you have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. Salvation is of the LORD.” Jonah 2: 6b, 9b.

Jonah was as good as dead and restored to life again.  He fulfilled His mission and it resulted in the salvation of his enemies.  In the same way, but on a much
grander scale, Christ’s fulfillment of His mission, dying on the cross, being buried in the earth and resurrected resulted in the salvation of His enemies.
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”   Romans 5:10

When Jesus gives this cryptic message about the sign of Jonah to the scribes and Pharisees, he adds a condemnation.

“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.”   
Matthew 12: 41

Jesus is commenting on the efficacy of Jonah’s preaching. The Ninevites recognized the message of divine authority, even in the absence of miraculous
signs, and they responded with genuine repentance.  Christ does signs that no one has ever done, i.e. healing the blind and deaf, and yet the people of His
generation would not believe.  Therefore, their punishment is greater.

P– “Lord, give me the courage to share the gospel with others and not judge whether they ‘deserve’ to hear it or not, or whether I think they’re likely to accept my message. Soften my heart and help me to see them as You do, as You saw me when I was lost.”

Q– Do you ever feel that someone doesn’t deserve God’s mercy, like a child molester who repents before they die? Do you resent that they get that they will be in Heaven along with you, who have served God your whole life? God forbid! Don’t be like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Rejoice whenever you see God’s mercy to sinners, because He has extended it to you, too. If you feel this way, it may be that you think we are saved by                              works, or condemned because of our actions. No, it is all of grace. Our good works don’t merit Heaven for us; God’s grace does. The child’s molester’s sin doesn’t exclude him, because God’s mercy reaches the vilest sinner.

R– Ask God to help you to truly see both His holiness and your sin, and you’ll be amazed at His grace. If a superior attitude has kept you from witnessing to someone you feel is beyond the reach of God’s grace, repent and pray for that person. Ask God to save them. It’s hard to hate someone for whom you’re praying.

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One Response to “Christ and the Sign of Jonah”

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  1. Commentary on The Book of Jonah Chapter 1:11-12 | Study of the Word - October 29, 2012

    […] Christ and the Sign of Jonah (the-scarlet-thread.com) […]

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