Art Pilgrimage: Station #20
The Sign of Jonah
So, how do you like that image of Jonah? He looks rather bleached, maybe the fish's stomach acids had something to do with that.
Me? Well, I cannot begin to imagine living quarters inside a fish that allowed him to survive this hard lesson. Nor begin to feel what he must have felt to be confined in there, or sloshing around.
But, it was a whole lot better than thrashing about for his life in the tempestuous waters of the sea. And there inside that specially-prepared-for-him fish belly, he uttered a beautiful, powerful prayer. He described his desperation as he was sinking to the very depths, hopelessly banished by God for running away from Him. And, still inside the special fish, he continues to praise and thank the LORD God who brought him up from the pit. He cried out to God as he was drowning and the Lord heard him. Truly those who cling to their old worthless gods are missing the grace that could be theirs, he says. So, is he willing now to go preach this to the Ninevites?
The Lord commanded the fish to spew him out and gave Jonah a second chance to obey Him and go to Nineveh. That great city experienced an amazing revival. God had compassion on the helpless thousands, even the cattle are mentioned. However, Jonah was not so gracious. He had been preaching doom and damnation. When they repented and God changed His mind, Jonah couldn't handle it.
There are so many rich lessons in this story.
It could be argued that this was not one of the parables, but Jesus chose to bring it up, to confront the scribes and Pharisees with this story they knew well. Why?
In his second year of ministry, Jesus is at the peak of popularity and beginning to have a lot of opposition from the Jewish leaders They accused Him of breaking the Sabbath, of using the devil's power to cast out demons, and even plotted to kill him. Jesus argues with them very logically and from their own scriptures. They say they want to see a miraculous sign.
His response, "Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah." What in Jonah's story was to be a sign to them? "as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights." After Jesus rose from the grave, I wonder how many remembered the sign of Jonah?