I love the book of Jonah. I resonate with the fractured obedience of the missionary prophet. I am grateful for the theme of God’s relentless pursuit of sinful Gentiles. I find great comfort in the absolute sovereignty of God over all things, whether they be worms, whales, or wills. I love the impossibility of the entire story. A God who chases rebels with mercy! A prophet in the stomach of a massive fish!
At one point in Jesus’ ministry some religious teachers were demanding a sign from him to demonstrate his authenticity. He told them that the “sign of Jonah” would have to do (Matt 12:38-39). In Jesus something and someone far greater than Jonah was present (Matt 12:41). He, the truly obedient prophet and missionary, had come bearing God’s word of grace and command of repentance. He points out the folly of those who ignore his word and refuse to repent. Though the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah the hearers of Jesus are insanely refusing to heed his message (Matt 12:41).
The most important connection between Jonah and Jesus is also the heart of what Jesus calls the sign. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days so Jesus will be in the ground for three days (Mt 12:40). The fish could not stomach Jonah because the sovereign command of God would not allow him to do so.The fish had no other choice but to vomit Jonah out onto the shore. This is how it was with the grave of our Lord. It was impossible for death to hold Jesus (Acts 2:24). This great fish was used to digesting all its prey—never once was it unable to keep a victim down. Jesus was another story. Just like God commanded the whale to spit up Jonah so he told the grave to give up his Son. The grave had no choice.
In the person of Christ death is unraveled and defeated. Death swallowed the Savior whole only to be destroyed from the inside out. Death devoured the wrong enemy when he consumed Christ. The resurrection is nothing less than the implosion of this last great enemy. He is our Champion. He is our Hero. He is our Savior. He wages war on our behalf. He rescues us from the clutches of sin and death. The sign of Jonah is the sign of a death and resurrection for the salvation of the world.