THE SIGN OF JONAH Matthew 12:39 - 41

By James Nair, Hyderabad

It is quite interesting to see why the Lord Jesus parallels the significance of His death and burial to the sign of Jonah, a runaway prophet who desired to run from the presence of the Lord. While most of the prophetical books warn nations of the judgment of the Lord, the book of Jonah successfully completes the mission of transformation of a heathen city, Nineveh – from the beasts to the king! And more surprisingly, not by a string of sermons or oracles, but this transformation was brought about with a mere warning by Jonah – Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Moreover, this complete book revolves around reforming a disobedient Jonah, rather than Nineveh, through God’s obedient creation – the sea, fish, mariners, people of Nineveh, plant and even a worm! However, the miraculous escape of Jonah was significantly important in the transformation of Nineveh, and in respect to the divine sacrifice of our Lord, we can think of it as a three-fold purpose.

1. God’s Judgment

The messenger has a greater impact than the message here. Jonah silently speaks to us, “If I’m not spared, you won’t be either.” The recipient of God’s judgment deep down in the waters was walking alive on the shore, still fresh with the signs of God’s judgment. He spelt fear to those around, and why would not one believe and repent?

Here is one who ran away from God, even to the depths of the earth – to die; here is a disobedient messenger of God, reprimanded in the sea. And now, his presence itself is enough for the city to transform – from the beasts to the king!

But a greater messenger we see in Jesus, an obedient Son, yet punished to bear man’s sins on the cross. He takes away the punishment of man, and if man would not believe in this great sign, God’s punishment is due upon him.

2. God’s Presence

Jonah ran away from the presence of the Lord, following the footsteps of his forefathers – Adam, Cain and many before him. And he was about to realise that even if he dwelt in the uttermost parts of the earth, His hand would lead him and hold him. He was alive now because of God’s ever-continuing presence.

The Lord prepared a fish for Him – how comforting is that to know, that God cares for us even when He punishes us, His presence is always with us – even in our deepest troubles, our darkest hours.

And where could one find a better example of His presence than in the death of the Saviour – He went further down than Jonah, to the ‘heart of the Earth’, the centre-most part or the hottest place inside the earth, to catch hold of us who were in the death and despair of sin.

God prepared a body for us – How truly is He our Immanuel, God with us! Jonah silently comforts us here – “Even in my darkest hour, I can feel His unchanging presence.”

3. God’s Love

The most comforting truth of this sign is the love of God to a wretched man. God prepared a fish to not just keep him alive, but also to remind him of his great love even in the slimiest, smelliest and darkest situation in the belly of the earth, and thereafter redeem him to the light above.

Perhaps, is this not the place he deserved to be, and yet he’s hopeful now to look to His holy temple – he sees a ray of hope to live again, through God’s love. He not only feels the hand of God holding him, but His love takes him to the shore again. There, as he walks in Nineveh with the sign of God’s judgment, he also proclaims God’s love, “He gave me life again, I’m redeemed and I’ll praise Him”.

There’s hope even in the deepest of deep that you could ever fathom. How it reminds us of the Lord, who not just went down to the centre of the earth, but he brought our souls up from the gravealive together with Him, and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places, to the praise of His glory – Marvellous Provision, Marvellous Love!

His powerful love catapulted us back to life – eternal life with Him. Let’s not be weary of His commandments and His purposes for us in this life. He uses us for His missions, for the praise of His glory, and therefore let us obey Him unflinchingly, going where He wants us to go, speaking what He wants us to speak.

When in fear and dismay, let us remind ourselves of His continuing presence – Lo, I’m with you always. Let’s obey Him at any cost and proclaim His love; what greater cost can there be, than His precious blood which He shed for us?





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