The Sign of Jonah
Billions of children all around the world have heard and marveled at the story of Jonah and the whale. It is so widely told that it is almost a fairytale story. Everyone “knows” the story – or thinks that they do. When Jonah lived out his saga, he little expected that his experiences would be used by Jesus Christ as the only sign of His Messiahship.
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to devour, namely, Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
Few if any people in the Old Testament realized the prophetic significance of the extraordinary protection on God’s part to bring Jonah through the three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Jonah, by this miraculous intervention, became a type of Christ.
“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
It is made perfectly clear in the Scriptures that Jesus was not in the grave less, or more than three days and three nights – but exactly three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. God the Father resurrected Jesus to life after a full three days and three nights; proof that He is the Messiah. That is the only sign that Jesus ever gave that He is the Messiah. Jesus said:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a miracle; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39)
Jonah was sent to Nineveh with the prophecy that, “In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4).” That was God’s judgment. The Ninevites were a fierce people; a cruel, vicious, wicked people who crucified and impaled their enemy.
But a marvelous thing occurred: In His mercy and loving kindness, God granted the Ninevites forgiveness when they repented after fasting in sackcloth and ashes. Jonah’s prophecy seemingly failed. How could that be? It was because of God’s tender mercies and faithful loving kindness in action (Psalm 144:2). God told Nineveh they needed to repent – and they did, so God stayed the execution of His judgment. Jeremiah describes when God will pardon. God says:
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent [relent or concede] of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” (Jeremiah 18:7-8)
In today’s sermon we will refute what is commonly supposed by Catholics and Protestants alike; that Jesus was crucified on a Friday afternoon, and then resurrected at sunrise on Easter Sunday morning. (Do not believe that weak argument that Jews do not know the difference between a part of a day and an entire day.) You cannot figure three days and three nights between Good Friday afternoon and Easter Sunday morning. That is much less time than the three days and three nights – the sign of Jonah that Jesus said would be the sign that He is the Messiah.
God tells us to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Why is it that so few believe the clear word of God to question that Good Friday – Easter Sunday folklore that the Holy Scriptures in no way support?
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