When it comes to the Book of Jonah, most preachers tend to focus on God’s great mercy on the people of Nineveh and nothing wrong with that. After all, the story is an illustration of God’s “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)”.
Besides showing us God’s grace and loving-kindness, it also serves another very important purpose: As a sign that points to Jesus as the Son of God.
In Luke 11, after casting out a mute demon (a demon who makes people mute, not a demon who is mute), Jesus was surrounded by a crowd. Some among them accused Him of doing it by the power Beelzebub (the devil) and demanded a sign to prove it was not so.
And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say,“This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.
Then on another occasion, Jesus again used the “sign of Jonah” as His answer when He was challenged by the religious leaders.
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them,
“… Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
So apparently this is the sign (I believe it is only for the unbelieving Jews at that time) that will prove He is who He said He is. But what exactly is the sign of Jonah?
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Need I say more?
And more than just the number of days, they also mirrored each other in terms of what they experienced.
Jesus literally went through Hell (or Sheol) after His death on the cross…
Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison
(1 Peter 3:18-19)
… and look at how Jonah described his ordeal in the fish’s belly.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
Jesus was raised up by His Father on third day…
… Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
… and God brought Jonah back to earth from “Sheol” after 3 days.
So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
to be continued…