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Jonah’s no Jesus

ModifiedJonah’s story ends abruptly. We’ve been given narration, dialogue and miracles. Like so much of the Bible we’ve been told what sounds like a tall tale— but haven’t been told what we are supposed think or conclude. All that is truly clear is that Jonah is not on the same page as his sender or the citizens of Nineveh.

We also know Jesus will eventually use Jonah as a parallel to himself. He’ll say, “What happened to him (Jonah) was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God” (Luke 11:29-30).

But another thing is clear. Jonah is no Jesus. The teacher himself said, “Now someone greater than Jonah is here.” (v32)

In other words, in some ways Jonah prefigures One who is like him, but also different— and far greater.

So we have this much— Jonah is in the Bible not only because of the prophet’s Jewish ancestry but also because he has reluctantly accepted a bit part in a far greater drama.

Is there any point in thinking more about other elements of the story? For example, what about when Jonah is asleep in the boat that is suddenly caught in a storm that is threatening to sink the ship? Do we hear any echoes in something that happens later? In light of what Jesus would later signal— that there is both comparison and contrast between himself and Jonah, could there be any value in thinking more about these comparisons and contrasts— even if it feels at first as if we are just speculating?

Hang with me :-) …. Let’s stay with the comparisons and contrasts that we see in this Jonah who is no Jesus—sleeping in a ship caught in a miraculously terrible storm. We might already know just enough to realize that we’ve been given permission to reflect and guess until the story takes on fresh and helpful life… (i.e. that the parts of the Bible can be considered and explored in the light of the whole)

Looking back would such reflection have been the kind of thinking that might have been done by a generation immersed in the stories of the Scriptures of Israel– now challenged by Jesus to believe (that in some unexplained way) these Scriptures helped to tell his story?

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19 Responses to “Jonah’s no Jesus”

  1. bubbles says:

    Mart,thank you for these thoughts. I’d never thought about the parallel between Jesus being asleep in the boat and the same thing happening with Jonah. I learned something new this morning.

  2. SFDBWV says:

    Ok Mart I will “hang” with you as we try and wring out more from the story of Jonah. I see the goofy fish picture has a “twilight zone” look to it.

    As been said repeatedly by some of us the whole of the Torah or OT, the story is all about God. God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    OT/NT; Old Testament- New Testament. Testament- to testify, a covenant between God and man, a statement, testifying to the fact, “last will and testament.”

    From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is all about Jesus, especially in comparison. Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus shows us the difference between the light/good and the darkness/evil and we eat the bread of life at communion symbolically taking Him in to our beings filling us with the His essence in every part of us by sustaining us. The Hebrew did this in the desert with manna. Everything in Scripture is a comparison or precursor to Jesus the Messiah.

    After Jesus comes and the Holy Spirt given we read of another storm at sea in Acts 27 with a different delivery of Salvation for those involved as well as to those to who would receive the message as a result, but all still receiving mercy.

    Though Jesus shown that He is able to calm the storm, sometimes it is the storm that gets the attention of the recipient of the message, not the message itself.

    2 degrees and clear this morning.


  3. remarutho says:

    Good Morning BTA Friends —

    In the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel it says:

    “Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’”

    In the first chapter of the Book of Jonah it says:

    “But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, ‘How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.’”

    The disciples call upon Jesus expecting Him to save them. And, He stills the storm (He says, “Hush, be still.”). By contrast, Jonah is silent until the crew casts lots and discovers that he is the one who must explain himself (“What shall we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”)

    Though both men were asleep, and though the people aboard the storm-tossed boats look to both Jonah and Jesus to do something about their deliverance — only Jesus has mastery over the wind and the sea. As for Jonah, his reluctant witness of the Creator God brings the crew to faith for the moment. They pray to God:

    “Then they called on the Lord and said, ‘We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.’”

    The crew of the ship threw Jonah overboard — they sacrificed him — and afterward on a calm sea they “feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”

    Jesus’ disciples saw the calm sea around them after the Lord rebuked the storm and asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

    The two stories reveal two different men. Jonah was driven to obey God at last — but Jesus did everything in obedience to His heavenly Father from the beginning.


    31F and foggy in the valley this morning.

  4. poohpity says:

    It would seem that there is relevance to the parts of the prophets stories that Jesus used to tell of His fulfillment of prophecies but to me it is really going out on a limb of speculation using others parts like the calming of the storm after He woke from His nap in a boat comparing that to Jonah being asleep in the hull of a ship. Of course I can see the similarities of them both being asleep during a storm but one was the cause of the storm and the other was the One who calmed the storms, big difference. The refection for me would be that we can cause storms in our lives or at times they can just happen not because of anything we did but there is only One who can give us calm during them, deep inside of us or either calming the storms literally out side of us and obviously Jonah was only a man not capable of either.

    Sometimes we can get caught up in the parts of scripture that like the Jewish Rabbi’s still do today getting all weighed down in the weeds that the greater lessons get lost in over thinking things.

  5. poohpity says:

    Gee, Maru it looks like we were on the same train of thought. :-) It made me smile after I posted to read what you wrote.

  6. joycemb says:

    Yes Mart obviously Jesus revealing Himself as the Messiah would have had to find Himself in scripture his hearers were steeped in, else He would have been just another prophet; one of hundreds of His day. Even though this was a new way of promoting himself the validity of ancient scripture was widely accepted and revered by the Jews. Imagine their shock at the great Revealing! Of course their world as they knew it was turned upside-down, and to further complicate matters the inclusions of Gentiles–the very ones Jonah was sent to witness too– would also become recipients of God’s amazing grace. Whew! What times those were! God bless the reading of His holy scriptures.

  7. remarutho says:

    Good Morning All —

    Yes Pooh!

    It seems to me when Jesus answers the peoples’ demand for a sign in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, He is drawing on at least a couple of features of the ancient story of Jonah:

    1) The Ninevites, who responded in faith to God’s Word, will rise up on the last day (at the judgment) and condemn the generation who met Jesus in the flesh and did not believe in Him. Jonah was a sign to Nineveh when he preached the impending destruction of the city and they believed. Jesus is bringing much more than just preservation of a city. He is bringing the cleansing of sin — eternal life — and still these sign-seekers doubt Him. The Ninevites did better.

    2) Also, Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights — and then returned to dry land alive. Jesus will be resurrected to new life after the same period of time, though His resurrection is much more than the mere deliverance Jonah experienced. He will live forever, as will all who believe in Him. Asking for a sign is to reject the super-abundant grace God offers in His Messiah.

    Jesus declares the religious leaders to be blasphemers because they claim to believe God — yet they cannot see the signs and wonders God is performing in Him before their very eyes. Thus, if they have seen the light (Luke 11:33) just like the light of a lamp, and hide it away, they are filled with darkness, not light.

    Even we, reading the Scriptures as we do at such a distance of culture and time, easily see how foolish the people are who have seen God’s wonders in Jesus and still ask for an additional sign! God is giving them signs left and right. Did they not perceive their own foolishness?

    Maybe they are all asleep in the boat.


  8. joycemb says:

    Yet even Jesus’ disciples didn’t fully understand His fulfilling of the scriptures. They viewed them on an earthly, physical level as a King that would rule the earth, the ground they walked on at the time. Foolishness or blindness though not fully revealed until the resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit? Even Mary didn’t recognize her beloved friend until He spoke her name and God opened their (disciples) eyes to see Him. They may have felt foolish, I myself would have been overcome with gratitude to be chosen to know Him. As I am now.

  9. joycemb says:

    Yes speaking of miracles, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit was to witness the miracles of God and not attribute them to Him. This was serious business causing eternal separation from God. Lord have mercy.

  10. tracey5tgbtg says:

    Thanks Mart for this post. I enjoy questions that make us look at the Scriptures and think about what we never saw before.

    Pooh,as you said, only One can give us calm in the storms. I am thinking that not only does He give us calm in the storms, but He causes the storms to be and sets us right in the middle of them.

    God is in control. If there is a storm, and we are caught in the middle, God knows it. He has us there for a reason.

  11. Mart DeHaan says:

    Contrast and similarity. Both help to tell the Story. If you’re skeptical, try brainstorming both before forming conclusions about the dangers of speculation—or of getting lost in incidental details. I promise to jump in with both feet before we’re done :-)…

  12. joycemb says:

    Thank you Mart. As a favorite apologist (Ravi Zacharias) says; Let my people think!

  13. joycemb says:

    Speaking of thinking…..Street I was praying for you this morning and am wondering how your heart problem is affecting you these days.

  14. cbrown says:

    Thanks Tracy, now I see it. The book of Jonah and the “whale’is a good example of lessons in scripture of God’s sovereign will and purpose.But unlike Jonah, Jesus offers salvation in Love to the world.

  15. poohpity says:

    OK Mart but if I get lost in my speculations or in the weeds don’t let me wonder to far. :-) Cause I do have a real big imagination, so I will give it a go before I quash the idea.

  16. poohpity says:

    Here are some contrasts;
    1. Jesus ran to His biggest fear(Cross) while Jonah run away from it(Nineveh repenting)
    2. No one was beyond the need for help in Jesus’ mission but Jonah was prejudice filled with anger and hate about his mission.

    1. God’s personal care of both.
    2. Both were sent for redemption of people who did not deserve it.

    Have to give this more thought.

  17. bubbles says:

    How interesting! Thank you! I love learning things like this. I hadn’t thought about synthesizing the lives of Jonah and Jesus. It helps understand Jesus more deeply.

  18. Mart DeHaan says:

    Good! Comparing and contrasting what we know about Jonah and Jesus doesn’t need to be dangerous. It isn’t a matter of changing the meaning of the text. It’s a way of wading into the interaction between an inspired subplot and the bigger story it is helping to tell.

    What’s the point? Am thinking that reflecting on the Scripture like this can help us take the next step of seeing ourselves in light of the similarities and differences we uncover.

  19. street says:

    Comparing and contrasting
    thinking of contrasting jonah and nineveh with me and a loved one who doesn’t make it to heaven. the brutal reality is that there will probably people i know who will not be saved and the difficulty of dealing with this sorrow. you think you have tears now…..
    i remember david begging for a son not to die….the answer was no. david did understand he would go to him. he found hope.

    remembering Luke 14:26

    the amazing thing is that some are saved. there is absolutely no soundness or any redeeming quality in us worth saving. He chose to save some anyways. our value comes from Him and faith is an expensive and precious gift from God.

    going to see a back surgeon tomorrow. had surgery ten years ago and have not worked since. i have made up my mind to have surgery. i know it could end up getting worse.

    as for my heart, it is in Jesus hands. i look forward to the day it brings Him only Joy.

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