Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Easter - The Sign of the Prophet Jonah
How often do to we hear that - especially when we think someone is exaggerating, really telling a whopper - and that ain't no Burger King (R) hamburger.
One of the biggest fish stories ever - as some may consider - is the story of Jonah.
This prodigal prophet ran when the Lord told him to preach those hated Ninevites. I don't blame him. Those Ninevites were not very nice. And that was an understatement.
While Jonah took the next boat for Tarshish - the opposite direction of Nineveh, a big storm hit. The sailors cast lots, and the lots pointed to Jonah as the cause of their distress.
Jonah confessed and to save the ship cast himself into the sea. The sea calmed. The sailors feared the Lord and offered sacrifices.
Meanwhile,the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow up Jonah. And he was in the belly of that fish for three days and three night. (Jonah 1)
Was God through with him? The Good Lord gave him a second chance.
And now for the rest of the story. ...
Inside the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed "from deep in the realm of the dead" (it seems he died in the fish) and the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. (Jonah 2)
Then, the Lord came to Jonah (very much alive) the second time and called him, again, to preach to the Ninevites. This time Jonah obeyed - sparking the biggest revival recorded in the Old Testament. All of the Ninevites from the king on down believed God and repented in sackcloth and ashes. And the Good Lord spared them. (Jonah 3)
Instead of rejoicing, Jonah was quite bummed out about it all and sulked. He revealed the real reason that he had run from the Lord: He knew the Good Lord was compassionate and merciful and would forgive the Ninevites if they repented after hearing his message.
But the Lord had a good talk with him. The God of Israel was also the God of the Gentiles, and He was concerned for the Ninevites, the little children, and the animals. (Jonah 4)
As echoed by the Prophet Ezekiel:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD,
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
but rather that they turn from their ways and live.
That is quite a fish story!
What does that have to do with Easter?
The Lord Jesus believed the big fish story. When His critics were hounding for a sign, He said these words:
A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a 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 something greater than Jonah is here. ...
Matthew 12: 39 - 41
Jonah did not survived in the fish. He died. The belly of the fish was "the realm of the dead" (Jonah 2:1-2). Yet, Jonah was spit out very much alive (Jonah 2:10) on the third day (Jonah 1:17).
Likewise, Jesus died and was buried and - like Jonah - rose from the dead on the third day.
The Book of Jonah is a critical book in the Old Testament in that it teaches the Resurrection.
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.
Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, ...
1 Corinthians 15:2-4
According to the Scriptures, dying and rising on the third day is the Sign of the Prophet Jonah.
The Resurrection is the Crux of Easter and the Gospel.
And what does the Lord requires of us in the 21st century AD? The same as the Ninevites in the 7th century BC. He asks that we believe Him. God is rich in mercy. (Ephesian 2:4)
To all my readers - have a Blessed Easter, this anno Domini (in the year of our Lord) 2011.
Question: Do you have any unusual Easter stories?
Photo from Wikipedia: Jonah and the Whale