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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Jon; The Sign of Jonah

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Portraits of Christ
“The Sign of Jonah” – Jonah and Matthew 12:38-42

The Bible teaches what I call “the Law of necessity.”

  • It can be summarized this way, “Some things must, so that other things might.”
  • In other words, for some things to come true other things must happen before.
  • For example, Jesus said in John 12:24, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
  • Death of a grain of wheat must precede the fruit of harvest.
  • In Luke 24, Jesus also spoke about the law of necessity.
  • He explained, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.”
  • His death and resurrection were necessary because they fulfilled the ancient Biblical promises and prophecy God made long before.

The resurrection was the sign of God’s saving power.

  1. It was a necessary sign to authenticate Christ’s identity and message.
    • Without the cross and an empty tomb, we have no authoritative Word from God and offer no hope for sinners. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
  2. Christ’s resurrection was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, so that we might recognize Christ as our Deliverer. Let’s identify a few of these types, shadows and signs.

On the third day of creation, God brought forth life out of dry ground just as He brought forth the life of His Beloved Son from the grave on the third day. (Genesis 1:11)

  1. The burning bush was a sign of Christ’s resurrection. (Exodus 3:6; Luke 20:37-38)
    • Jesus interpreted the significance of the burning bush for us in Luke 20:37-38.
    • He said, “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
    • The burning bush was a visible affirmation that our God is the God of resurrection.
  2. We learn of Abraham’s faith and how it was tested when God called him to offer up his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice on Mount Mariah.
    • He traveled to the same site where Christ was later crucified in Jerusalem.
    • On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the mountain top.
    • Then he told his servant he and his son Isaac were going up the mount to worship God, but they would come back.
    • His brief remark reveals his faith.
    • He reasoned if God promised to bless all the nations of the world through his son, then if God asked him to sacrifice his only son, God was able to raise Isaac up from the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
    • Abraham’s God was the God of resurrection.
  3. Israel’s exodus from Egypt was made possible by the power of God.
    • He opened the Red Sea so His people could pass through on safe ground.
    • The same path that saved Israel swallowed up Pharaoh and his charioteers.
    • This took place the seventh month on the 17th day of the Jewish calendar. (Exodus 3:18)
    • This was the same date Noah’s ark rose from the flood waters and rested on Mount Ararat, as well as the same date Jesus would later rise from the dead.
  4. Another foreshadow of Christ’s resurrection is found when the Lord told Isaiah to tell King Hezekiah his prayer of repentance had been heard. (2 Kings 20:4-5, 8)
    • The Lord promised to heal the king.
    • He was instructed to go up to the house of the Lord.
    • On the third day the Lord promised to add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life.
    • Even as Hezekiah received an extension of his life on the third day, so Jesus was resurrected to eternal life on the third day following Passover.
  5. As Moses passed through the Red Sea on the third day after Passover, so Joshua and his people passed through the Jordan River on the third day.
    • Passing through the waters was a sign of passing from death to life.
  6. David was the prophet-king who foresaw Christ’s resurrection. (Psalm 16:10-11; Acts 2:30)
    • In Psalm 16:10-11, his words find fulfillment only in Christ’s resurrection, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
    • We know we are on safe ground to make such a claim when in Acts 2:30-32 we are told, “Therefore, David, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”
  7. Other Old Testament prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah spoke of the dead rising up to everlasting life. (Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37:5; Isaiah 26:7)

    Jesus of course was the greatest prophet of His own resurrection. (John 2:18-19; Matthew 27:63)

    • When the religious rulers of Jerusalem asked Him what sign would He show them to substantiate His claims, He answered “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
    • Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
    • Jesus was speaking about His body as the temple that would be resurrected.
    • The Pharisees didn’t forget His promise to rise from the dead on the third day.
    • That is why they went to Pontus Pilate after Christ’s death to insist His tomb be sealed tightly and guards be posted, to insure no one stole the body.
    • Throughout Jesus’ ministry, His enemies kept pressing him for more and more signs and wonders to authenticate His claims.

We shall look at one particular sign Jesus said he would give that would authenticate all He stood for. It was the sign of Jonah.

  • A sign is a divine sign-post directing us to faith.
  • Jesus had already performed many miracles: He stilled a raging storm, fed multitudes, healed lepers, opened the eyes of the blind, caused the lame to walk and raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead.
  • He told his critics that if He had done these things in the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long before.
  • His fellow Jews rejected outright His words and His works.
  • They regarded His miracles as insignificant and a waste on the poor and the sick.
  • They wanted signs on demand, spectacular, celestial fireworks to tickle their fancy—or maybe a lightening bolt or a pillar of fire to warm their night.
  • Like many today, they considered God’s primary job was to make all their dreams and aspirations come true.
  • Bored? Want more toys? Need a religious buzz? Seeking prosperity? Just call on the magic Temple Genie.
  • They reasoned if only they rubbed their dusty old vase with the right amount of religious fervor, faith and prayer, he will pop out to grant their wishes.
  • The Pharisees’ god was the god of health, wealth and prosperity—or else why worship him?
  • They believed God existed for them, but not them for Him.
  • Has anything changed since then?
  • So when the scribes and Pharisees wanted an encore miracle performance they insisted, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
  • They did this to tempt and test Jesus.
  1. He rebuked His tempters in Matthew 12:39 (Hosea 3:1; Luke 11:16; 1 Corinthians 1:22-23)
    • They were of the generation the Lord called spiritual adulterers. (Hosea 3:1)
    • They kept requesting signs but when they met Christ they didn’t believe in Him, even when He did incredible signs in their midst.
    • Jesus claimed there would be no sign given them except the sign of the prophet Jonah—and that sign was the resurrection.
  2. Jonah was a sign to Nineveh. (Jonah 2:10)
    • He was a real historical person, recognized by Christ as a prophet.
    • His name means “dove.”
    • He came with a message of peace through faith in God.
    • There are striking similarities as well as differences between Jonah and Jesus.
    • Jonah was a man of flesh.
    • Jesus was God in flesh.
    • Jesus was the ready obedient prophet.
    • Jonah, however, was a reluctant, disobedient prophet.
    • When the word of the Lord came upon him he was told to arise and go to Nineveh and cry against their evil.
    • But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the arch enemies of Israel.
    • Nineveh was a hot, arid city known for its dense urban population.
    • Their opulent lifestyle was harsh and cruel.
    • It was the birth place of idolatry and wickedness.
    • Jonah was caught in a dilemma.
    • Did he fear the consequences of disobeying God more than the consequences of obeying his call to go to Nineveh?
    • He believed it would be just like his God to show mercy and grace to Nineveh.
    • And this bothered him deeply because he despised these Gentiles.
    • So Jonah tried to run from the presence of the Lord.
    • He bought a one-way Mediterranean cruise ticket to Tarshish.
    • Tarshish represented that ideal place of escape to restart his troubled ministry.
    • In his mind, going to Nineveh or going to Tarshish was a no-brainer.
    • But the one thing he hadn’t considered was God’s determination to have his disobedient prophet complete what he was commanded to do.
    • A faithful God stopped this willful prophet.
    • The Lord turned the sea cruise into a tourist nightmare.
    • A great wind swept the sea into a frenzy.
    • The ship’s crew desperately tried to keep the boat afloat.
    • Finally, in desperation, after casting lots, they determined it was Jonah who was the cause of this calamity.
    • Gripped with fear, the sailors cast Jonah overboard.
    • Immediately the storm ceased.
    • But Jonah’s adventure was just beginning.
    • The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Him whole.
    • The fish’s stomach was like a dark, wet and smelly grave.
    • Jonah was imprisoned there for three days and three nights.
    • In the tomb he prayed like he had never prayed before.
    • He concluded, “Salvation is from the Lord.”
    • Then the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:10)
    • On the third day God resurrected the repentant prophet.
    • He picked himself up and went to Nineveh as God commanded.
    • His skin may have been ghostly white like a man coming out of a grave after being in the salt water and the intestine of a fish.
    • Jonah was a sign to Nineveh that they must repent or perish.
    • Sure enough, after three days of preaching through the city, they repented and were saved from destruction for more than a hundred years.
    • But this is where Jesus drew the parallel with Jonah and Himself.
  3. Jesus was a sign to Israel. (Luke 2:34-35)
  4. His resurrection was the sign of Jonah (Jonah 1:17; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
    • As Jonah was appointed by God to be swallowed up by a fish, so Christ was appointed by God to be swallowed up unto death.
    • As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, so Jesus was in the grave for this same time.
    • As Jonah was spit out on dry land after three days, so Jesus was resurrected from the tomb on the third day according to the Scriptures.
  5. Then Jesus spoke like the prophet Jonah to his doubters. (Matthew 12:41-42)
    • They would be judged by one greater than Jonah or even Solomon.
    • The men of Nineveh would rise up at the judgment condemning this generation, claiming they repented at the preaching of Jonah.
    • But Israel would not repent at the preaching of Jesus, Who was infinitely greater than Jonah. (1 Kings 10:1; Isaiah 25:8-9; Nahum 1:8; 2:6; Luke 12:48; John 20:29; 1 Corinthians 6:14)
    • Likewise, he said the Queen of Sheba will rise up at the judgment, as well to condemn this generation because it rejected Christ.
    • The Queen honored Solomon, the son of David, bringing him gifts of gold and silver while Israel rejected Jesus, the Son of David, and brought him nothing but grief.
  • The “Law of necessity” means “Some things must, so that other things might.”
  • It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day so we might gain eternal life.
  • But here is where our accountability comes to reckon.
  • Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
  • Our generation has the benefit of two thousand years of church history passed down to us.
  • Our generation has enjoyed the privilege of unfettered access to the Scriptures and to unparalleled opportunity to hear the Gospel preached.
  • Our generation has seen more biblical prophesies fulfilled than any other.
  • And yet there remains Christ’s promise that He will come again in glory and power to judge the unrighteous and reward the righteous.
  • But this hope seems to have little impact on our generation.
  • Just after Robby Robins completed his 30th combat mission in Iraq, he received orders to return home.
  • He decided to surprise his family in Warren, Pennsylvania by not calling them.
  • When he pulled up to his home three days later, he was surprised to see a large banner hanging on the garage that said, “Welcome Home Dad!”
  • He wondered how they knew he was coming.
  • When he rang the doorbell, the kids screamed, “It’s Daddy!”
  • His wife came running all dressed-up and looking great.
  • Marty was baffled that his family didn’t seem surprised by his return.
  • He asked, “How did you know I was coming home?”
  • His wife Susan replied, “I didn’t. But we thought when you could come home you would try to surprise us. So we decided to be ready every day in case this was the day.”
  • Are we ready for the day of Christ’s return?
  • Some things must that other things might.
  • Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead in three days, so that we might be saved from our sin and hope in the resurrection of the dead.
  • It will be a great glorious day!
  • Easter is Christ’s pledge that because He rose from the dead, so we shall be with Him forever.
  • If God raised up the Lord He will also raise us up by His miraculous power, as it is written in the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 6:14)
  • May we live everyday as if it could be the day of Christ’s return.
Hsa-Mal; The Minor Prophets ← Prior Section
Hab; The Mercy and Severity of God Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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