One day when a group of scoffers called out for Jesus to perform some sign for them, he called them a wicked and adulterous bunch and told them the only sign they would get would be the sign of the prophet Jonah.
“Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so I, the Son of Man, will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mat. 12:39-40)
Here are some more similarities as well as some contrasts:
- Both Jesus and Jonah died, were buried, out of sight, away from God, after their death and before their resurrection. Jesus’ body in a grave, in the heart of the earth. Jonah’s body in a fish’s belly, in the heart of the sea.
- Both traveled down. Jesus from heaven to earth, to a grave, into the realm of the dead. Jonah down to Joppa, down into a ship, down into the hold, into the sea, to the bottom of the sea.
- The deaths of both provoked natural phenomena. At Jesus’ death the sun darkened and there was an earthquake. At Jonah’s death the storm stopped instantly and there was a great calm.
- The deaths of both provoked exclamations about the natural phenomena from bystanders. At Jesus death the centurion said, This was the Son of God. The sailors who threw Jonah overboard said, This was a prophet.
- Both were resurrected after three days. Jesus came out of the grave on Easter Sunday. Jonah was vomited onto the shore by the whale and was given new life.
- Both clearly knew the will of God. Jesus obeyed, only spoke and acted in accordance to God’s will. He went to Jerusalem to certain death. Jonah disobeyed, ran into the opposite direction and out of God’s will.
- Both were prophets and spoke God’s message. Jesus was eager to speak, throughout his life and to his disciples after his death and resurrection. Jonah was reluctant and only spoke God’s message after his resurrection.
- Both prayed. Jesus prayed throughout his life, for his followers and for the nation, in full submission to God. Jonah only prayed after his resurrection, for his own comfort and was angry at God.
- Both were executed. Jesus’ executioners didn’t understand what God was doing. They eagerly killed him without delay. Jonah’s executioners saw God at work. They killed Jonah reluctantly putting it off as long as possible, asking God’s forgiveness.
- Both were obedient. Jesus all his life long, even unto death. Jonah only after his resurrection.
- In both cases sleepers were awakened and scolded for not praying. Jesus’ companions slept and he awakened and scolded them for not watching in prayer with him. Jonah himself slept and the sailors awakened and scolded him for not praying for salvation.
- Both offered themselves to die in order to save others. Jesus was lifted up on a cross to die slowly and in agony and public shame over many hours. Jonah was drowned, a quick easy and private death.
- Both were resurrected. Jesus sent his disciples to preach to the world at enmity with God but loved by Him. Jonah was sent to preach to Nineveh, the enemy of God’s people, but loved by God.
- Both preached a message of warning. Jesus gladly preached out of love, did not want anyone to perish but all to repent. Jonah preached reluctantly, not wanting them to repent, but to perish.
- Both died and after three days were returned to life. Jonah was resurrected with the same body he had before, one that would die again of old age. Jesus was resurrected with a new, ever-living body.
This Holy Week, as we think about these similarities and contrasts between Jesus and Jonah, may we realize that by his Spirit, the resurrected Jesus in living his life through us. We are more than followers of Jesus; we have within us the capacity to be replicas of Jesus.
Just as he lived his life loving people and doing good, so we too can live lives loving people and doing good to those around us.