Jonah 1:1-17, Jonah 2:1-10, Mark 4:35-41, Colossians 1:15-20
When the Pharisees approached Jesus, seeking a miraculous sign as proof of His authority, He declared: “No sign will be given, except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 12:39). His response was not meant to fulfill the Pharisee’s demand, but to rebuke their unbelief. The sign of Jonah was a sign of judgment against this “wicked and adulterous generation.”
Jonah’s reluctance to fulfill his calling is somewhat notorious. God’s call to Jonah couldn’t be clearer: “Get up! Go!” Jonah got up, but he went the opposite direction. This was intentional, premeditated disobedience. He didn’t panic and run for a bit, then come to his senses. He ran, kept running, planned out a trip that would help him run further, then followed through with it— all in order to flee “from the Lord’s presence” (Jonah 1:3).
So why did Jesus point to this sign before the Pharisees? Because Jesus came, like Jonah, to an unbelieving generation, and His message was the same: “those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love” (Jonah 2:8).
We are quick to turn to idols. When danger and fear creep in, we often run to our comforts rather than to Christ. Perhaps, like the Pharisees, we run to the checklist of our good behaviors. Or maybe, like Jonah, we hide out, napping, while others face the storm. Our idols are not often made of gold. They reside in our hearts. We all have them. We think they can save us from emptiness or judgment. But “salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).
Like Jonah, we live in a “wicked and adulterous” generation. But the problem is not simply the culture around us. We ourselves have Jonah hearts. Although Jonah eventually did preach the message of God, he also quickly returned to his old ways, sulking at the mercy God showed Nineveh, spiritually blind to the fact that this was the very same mercy God had shown to him when God sent the fish to save him from drowning.
Like Jonah, we are quick to forget the mercy we’ve been shown, and quick to take for granted the grace we have received.
The sign of Jonah reminds us that another Jonah has come, One who did not flee from the presence of God, but was One with the Father; One who was not blind to this world’s spiritual plight, but opened the eyes of the blind. Jesus entered the belly of the earth willingly. He put Himself in our place, cast over the side into the deep, bearing our curse. This true and better Jonah is slow to anger and abounding in compassion.
Jesus, the One greater than Jonah, is here. He has calmed the storm of God’s judgment with His own sacrifice. As our lives were fading away, He raised us up from the pit. Despite all of our unfaithfulness, He offers His faithful love. Though we, like Jonah, often turn to Him only when our idols have come up short, still He hears our cries for help, calms the storm, and returns us to Himself.
May we, like the people of Nineveh, be quick to heed the sign of Jonah and repent, running to His faithful love.
Written by Caleb Faires