The Sign of Jonah.
[Matt 12:38-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32]
Mt 16:4 "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.
1. Running away from God?! (v.1-3)
Jonah tried to run away from God – go our own way – disobedience. Jonah had done nothing to be put in prison for, but he was going his own way, not the way God told him to. Twice it states "from the presence of hwhy " - he was trying to run away from God! (cf. v.10). A futile endeavour (cf. Psalm 139:1-12 - esp. v.7)
God told Jonah to prophesy against Nineveh the capital of Assyria was one of the cruellest regimes ever known to man – God was not ignorant of what the Assyrians were doing, the atrocities that they were committing. They had multiplied to the point where He could overlook them no more. Jonah was to speak against it - announce God’s judgement against it. They couldn't escape God's judgement.
Jonah couldn't run away from God, neither could the sailors, neither could Assyria neither can we! We can try all we like but we cannot escape God. We will be held accountable to Him and face His judgement. (Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way) – going our own way is rebellion. I wasn't a criminal according to the law of the land, but I am still a rebel, worthy of stoning. Some people spend their whole lives running away from God, but ultimately, it cannot be done. We all have to face God's judgement (Heb 9:27).
2. Judgement from God. (v.4-5)
Jonah couldn't escape the storm got him – where did the storm come from? (v.4) – the LORD hurled a great wind. God is a God of wrath – of judgement. He hurls His wrath against those who go against Him! There is a consequence for going our own way. You cannot flee from God! He hurled a great wind. There is always turmoil and storm when we make our plans to leave God out - to get away from Him. Disobedience brings trouble. It not only affects us, it affects those near to us. Jonah, by his action, imperiled the lives of all those on the ship with him. Our actions have consequences for others. Our disobedience brings disaster on all those around us.
- Great storm but Jonah was asleep - there was another who slept right through a "great storm" when a boat was in danger of sinking (cf. Matt 8:24). Jonah’s life was a prophetic picture of Jesus.
3. Futility of man's efforts and religion. (v.6-9,13)
It must have been some storm! Seasoned sailors were terrified and suddenly became very religious - hard living sailors usually only think of god when they see their end as being imminent. Frantic action was taking place on board as they threw the cargo from the ship in a desperate attempt to lighten the ship and keep it afloat, on top of this sea that was towering over them. The sailors called upon their gods but it didn't accomplish anything. They each had their own god, many different ideas and religions, things we put our trust in – but when it comes to the crunch they are powerless and ineffective – futile. Some say it doesn't matter what you believe as long as your are sincere and have faith. But there is only One maker of heaven and earth, One God to whom we are accountable – how tragic to sincerely serve a religion only to find that when it comes to judgement it is the wrong one and is powerless to save you.
These superstitious sailors took the storm as an omen – when things go wrong we always seek to blame someone. The sailors were right - indeed this calamity was on account of someone. And that someone was Jonah. Previously Jonah was just a fare, a passenger and of no particular interest. But now that it was determined that he was the cause of this great storm they were suddenly very interested in who he was.
But many do not have any religion, they are good, kind considerate men – they don't want a fellow humans to die (v.13) they rely on their own efforts to save themselves – row with all their might, lighten the ship, do all they can – but it doesn't avert the judgement. Some rely on keeping rules, living a good life, being a decent person – but it does nothing to save you from God's wrath. What then is needed?
- they did everything in their power to fight against the storm - pitted all their strength rather than meet God’s exacting and costly requirement. How futile! They knew the storm was from God - they were fighting against God! How could they row and prevail when God Himself had set Himself against them?! Still they tried (as do we all) to do it in their own human strength rather than to submit to God’s requirement – what was God's requirement?
4. Turning aside God's wrath by sacrifice. (v.10-12)
- now what was to be done to appease this God who was so angry? They ask Jonah, since He is his God - they were used to the concept of propitiating angry gods - an offering or punishment was required to turn away the god’s wrath. – their god had to be appeased so they brought a sacrifice to please it [flowers for the wife]. They realized that they were being punished for Jonah’s sin - some punishment had to be carried out on Jonah ("what shall we do to you?") so that the punishment may be lifted off of them. - Jonah told them what to do with him in order to appease God"s anger: - his sin was the cause of this trouble and if punishment was exacted on him, then the sea would become calm. But he also know the price - the wages of disobeying God, of sin, of willfully rebelling against His specific command (Rom 6:23) - DEATH - the price was a soul. His soul had to be taken in order to deliver these sailors in the boat with him. they must pick him up and throw him into the sea. Just as punishment was lifted off of us and carried out on Jesus - Jonah pictures punishment being born on him so that others may be saved. They had to carry out a punishment on Jonah, then the storm would cease - God’s anger would be turned aside. God is angry and something has to be done to turn that wrath aside – propitiation (making things good again). A sacrifice is needed to turn away God's anger. Jonah was the cause of God being angry, his life had to be offered up to the storm to turn away that anger. Some victim has to bear the wrath of God's judgement. Jesus said that Jonah was a picture of His burial – Jonah being thrown to certain death in the raging sea is a picture of Jesus taking all God's wrath for our evil upon Himself. Why did Jesus die? Because I deserved death penalty – death had to be exacted to appease God's wrath against me. But Jesus was offered up instead of me! God's wrath has been turned aside! Jonah pictures a propitiation, just as Jesus was our propitiation (cf. Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Jesus also offered up His soul in exchange for the deliverance of us (cf. Isaiah 53:12 He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.). Jonah willingly offered up his own soul, just as Jesus offered up His. Note they say "innocent blood" - in the typology of Jonah in regard to our Lord’s death, that it is mentioned that it was "innocent blood" (v.14) - an innocent soul, his blood offered in substitutionary sacrifice for the souls of those perishing.
- Being fine humanists, the sailors could not accept such a severe requirement - they couldn’t cast another fellow human being to his death in that storm-tossed sea. Desperately they tried to row to shore - anything rather than accept the voluntary offering of a substitute soul in their place. That is why today people try to keep the law, do good, afflict themselves - man’s pride wants to do it by his own strength. IT IS FUTILE! Man cannot save himself! The storm increased even more! How much it takes before we finally give up fighting against God and trying to do things ourselves!
5. The Sign: death, burial and resurrection. (v.14-17)
Finally they realize the utter futility of their desperate efforts - they gave up the struggle and called upon God before they had prayed each to his own god (cf. v.5) - now they acknowledged the One true God’s absolute supremacy and called upon His Name!
They prayed - genuine prayers from desperate hearts - no formal going through the motions - this was real! They fulfilled God’s requirement and threw Jonah overboard - the requirement that pleased hwhy (cf. v.14), Jonah’s soul on their behalf, having been offered, propitiation was made - God’s wrath was turned aside, Divine justice was satisfied and the sea ceased its raging.
God was in absolute control - He appointed a fish to swallow Jonah. This He did to save Jonah’s life - but greater and more significant purposes were behind this - not merely saving Jonah’s life, but Jonah’s life experience was a living prophecy – he acted it out in his life.
 Mt 12:38-41 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgement, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Jesus spoke of the sign of Jonah – what was it?
Disobedient though he had been, God used Jonah to be the prophet of the greatest and most significant event: the death, burial for three days and three nights, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! Repeatedly Jesus directed attention to this "sign" - yet no one understood its significance. Jonah’s soul (innocent blood) had been offered up to propitiate God’s wrath in order to provide deliverance/salvation of the souls on board ship. Jonah was a picture: he "died" was "buried" in the depths of the sea in the "tomb" of the fish’s stomach for three days and three nights until he came forth alive, "resurrected", life from the death, three days later. The "tomb" (belly of the fish) could not hold him. The sacrifice of Jonah was received by God - the storm ceased and the sailors were saved. God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus – how do we know? Because God raised Him from the dead. Everyone dies, and they stay dead, because all have sinned. The fact that God raised Jesus vindicates His innocence, that there was no sin in Him , death had no hold on Him. God raised Jesus to life, showing that He had accepted Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. The resurrection proves that Jesus is indeed God and is sinless, that the sacrifice for sin has been accepted and our sins which He took upon Himself have been removed. Sin, guilt are gone. God Himself says "their sins and evil deeds I will remember no more" "There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus". God's anger is against us no more! Hallelujah!
6. Repent and believe. (3:5-10)
But how does this become true for you, personally. Following the "resurrection" repentance was preached to the Gentiles and they responded - turned from their wicked ways and were saved from God’s wrath. How did the Ninevites respond to this sign? (read 3:5-10). They repented and believed. What is the response that is required of us to Jesus' death and resurrection on our behalf: repent and believe. I said at the beginning that we have each gone our own way – repentance is turning around – stop going our own way, living for ourselves, and going God's way. A change of thinking from being self centered to having the mind of Christ, the mind of the Spirit directing our life. We believe, put our total dependence upon Jesus' righteousness and not on our own efforts, rely on His death and resurrection on our behalf. When we have turned from our way, we die to our life and now Jesus lives His resurrection life in us. We live by total dependance upon him. What about those who don';t repent and believe? Like those in Jesus' day:  Lk 11:29-32 Jesus said “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 will the Son of Man be to this generation.“The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgement and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgement and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Nineveh repented, so must we, because we have had a greater revelation in the death and resurrection of Jesus than they had in Jonah. They took the lesson from Jonah, have we responded to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah?