In recent weeks as I have been preaching through the book of Jonah in our Sunday morning services, I am deeply grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for His validation of the story of Jonah. The book of Jonah is one of the books that is most criticized by those who are skeptical of the inspiration of the Word of God. In the case of the book of Jonah, we have the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ who on three different occasions makes statements supporting the authenticity and genuineness of Jonah’s experience. In the first of these incidents, we find the religious leaders accusing Jesus of getting His power to heal a blind and mute man from Beelzebub (Satan) and then asking Him to give them a miraculous sign. We read Jesus’s response in Matthew 12, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous 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 the 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 one greater than Jonah is here,” (Matt. 12:39-41 NIV). The teaching in this passage is very clear that Jesus is using Jonah as a sign of His own resurrection that will follow His crucifixion and burial. There can be no misunderstanding of Jesus’s words regarding Jonah being a sign in this passage of Jesus’s own resurrection. The men of Nineveh standing up and condemning Jesus’ generation is an amazing verification of the miracle of salvation that occurs in Jonah 3.
In the second passage where Jesus mentions Jonah, we have Jesus getting out of the boat in the Galilee region and being confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees who came up testing Him and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. His response included this statement, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah”. And he left them and went away”, (Matt. 16:4 NASB). In this passage, the sign that Jesus is referring to is again the sign of His resurrection from the dead. Just as Jonah had been three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Lord Jesus Christ will be in the grave for that period of time, and then He will reappear to provide deliverance and salvation for all those who have put their faith and trust in Him.
In the third passage, the context and the place are different, as well as the significance of the sign that Jesus shares. The other incident had taken place in Galilee while this statement appears to have taken place in Judea. Jesus did at times use the same illustrations and stories and sometimes there are slight variations because there are different events taking place. Here we read, “And as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, this generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites so the Son of Man will be to this generation,” (Luke 11:29-30 NASB). Jonah being a sign to the Ninevites has nothing to do with Jesus’s resurrection, which isn’t going to occur for another 800 years. I believe Jonah being a sign had a lot to do with his appearance which had been greatly altered by three days in the belly of a great fish. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. John MacArthur’s study Bible where he writes, “It is generally believed that acid from the fish’s stomach would have bleached Jonah’s face, thus validating the experience,” (page 1296). Part of Jonah’s amazing results in preaching in Nineveh was the condition of his own presence.
I find great comfort in the fact that God can use Jonah even after Jonah had blown it so severely. Our God is a great God of second chances. I’m also very thankful that the Lord Jesus gives us New Testament instructions concerning the little but significant book of Jonah. I’ve always been amazed that the book of Jonah finds its way into the Hebrew Scriptures because the Israelites tended to be very exclusive in the things they included in the Word. But it is included in the Holy Scriptures because it is the Word of God and Jesus certainly verifies and testifies of the value and worth of the book of Jonah. I also find it very interesting that the book of Jonah ends so abruptly in chapter 4. What happened next in Jonah’s life? All that we can surmise is that he repented or otherwise we would not have the book of Jonah in the Holy Scriptures. I also believe that the abruptness of the ending of the book of Jonah means that the fifth chapter remains to be written in our lives. How do we respond to the broken and needy world all around us? Do we have God’s heart of love or Jonah’s hardened heart against God’s grace and mercy? How will you write the end of the book of Jonah in your life?
All for God’s Glory,