In part one and part two of “Jesus and Jonah,” we saw two reasons why Jesus pointed to Jonah as a sign to the unbelieving Jews.
First, Jonah’s “resurrection” from the fish foreshadowed Christ’s upcoming resurrection. God used this resurrection to affirm Christ’s ministry and message as authoritative. Second, Jonah’s “resurrection” demonstrated God’s power to conquer opposition and offer mercy—to His own rebellious followers as well as His enemies.
Faced with a Choice
After referencing the story of Jonah, Jesus applies it practically and poignantly to His audience. He uses the sign of Jonah to challenge the people who had seen His miracles and heard His teaching, yet still did not believe Him. Essentially, Jesus asks, “My message carries the authority of God, and God has the power to conquer your rebellion and offer mercy. So why don’t you believe?”
The story of Jonah stands as an example of God’s gracious forgiveness, and provides a sign to those who have not yet believed or repented. Jonah experienced God’s forgiveness when he prayed in repentance (Jonah 3). The Ninevites experienced God’s mercy when they responded to Jonah’s message.
Jesus stated that those who rejected the sign of Jonah—God affirming the message of repentance, authority, and forgiveness—were an “evil generation” (Matt. 12:39; Luke 11:29). “Evil” here carries more meaning than simply an ethical or moral wrong. The word is used to describe the Devil, often in the phrase, “the evil one.” Jesus labeled these people’s unbelief as devilish behavior. Earlier in both Matthew 12 and Luke 11, some people credited Jesus’ power to Beelzebub, or the devil. Their attribution caused Jesus to strongly condemn their words, stating that those not with Him were against Him (Matt. 12:30; Luke 11:23). In essence, those who oppose or reject Jesus join forces with Satan.
Not only did the people act in a way characteristic of the devil, but also they committed spiritual infidelity by their unbelief. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God uses the picture of marriage to depict His relationship with Israel. But Israel often rejected God and embraced idols instead, committing what God labeled as “spiritual adultery.” Here, the people knew the prophecies about the Messiah. They saw Jesus’ actions and heard His teaching, but they still would not believe. They had rejected God for something else.
Our Hope in Christ
The resurrection of both Jonah and Jesus gives us hope today. One greater than Jonah humbled Himself to become human, live without sin, and pay for our deserved punishment by His sacrificial death. But He did not remain in death. His return to life proved His authority and power. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God mercifully provided a way to restore our relationship with Him. We must recognize the sign of Jesus. Like Jonah, Christ spent three days and nights cut off from life. Greater than Jonah, Christ rose to declare His authority and power to grant us forgiveness. Believe, rejoice, and hope in God’s forgiveness through Christ.
Born in Chicago but raised out West in a pastor’s family, Jason Ehmann has been involved with ministry all his life. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Bible and a master’s in Counseling, Jason has served as youth pastor, senior pastor, and now president at Positive Action. Today he helps pastors and teachers show God’s glory and grace to their students. A big fan of coffee, Jason also enjoys skiing and football, as well as art and design. He and his wife live in North Carolina with their four children.