Apr 5 2013 - Luke 11:14-36 – The sign of Jonah
Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man who had been mute, giving him the power to speak. The crowds were amazed at what he had done, but some began to speculate that he was able to cast out demons because he possessed superior demonic power. Nevertheless, the crowds were eager to see Jesus do more that would amaze them. Perhaps with more signs they might revise their opinion of him.
Jesus tells them, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation..." (Luke 11:29-30).
In what way was Jonah a sign to the Ninevites? Jonah had been a rebel against God. God had given him a clear command, "Go to Niveveh...", and he had fled in the opposite direction. His rebellion had nearly cost him his life. He had been thrown into the sea and would have drowned had God not prepared a great fish which swallowed up Jonah and three days later spat him out on the sea shore. It's a remarkable story and the experience must have left its mark on Jonah. Certainly it persuaded him to walk the 500 miles to Nineveh to preach God's message to its inhabitants.
And don't you think they may have asked him why he had come? And he would have told them of his experience. Perhaps it was this experience of Jonah as much as his words "Repent or perish" that persuaded the Ninevites to turn to God. They had a sign in Jonah of the awful reality of the judgment that falls on those who rebel against God; but they also had evidence of God's remarkable saving mercy – "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs... Salvation comes from the Lord" (Jonah 2:8-9). If God could rescue Jonah using a great fish, maybe he would have mercy on them if they would only turn to him. Never underestimate the power of personal testimony.
Jesus tells the crowd that he is the sign that ought to bring this generation to repentance; he is for them the sign of Jonah. Elsewhere we read that Jesus likens Jonah's three days in the sea and the fish to the three days he will spend in the tomb. His death and resurrection is the sign that should bring this generation – our generation – to repentance. Here is evidence of the reality of God's judgment against sin and rebellion – he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Here also is the evidence of God's saving grace – he did not leave him to suffer corruption but raised him to new life for our sake. Judgment is not some tale made up to frighten us into conformity; it is an awful reality which has been made plain in the middle of history in the cross of Jesus. But neither is grace some vague hope; it is grounded in Jesus' resurrection from the dead:
Jesus our Lord … was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification... Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 4:24-25; 5:9).
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sign of Jonah. We give you thanks that our Lord Jesus suffered for us a cruel death on the cross, bearing the punishment for our sins. But, most of all, we praise you that he is risen – raised for our justification. He is more than a sign; he is our hope and our Redeemer. Strengthen our faith that we may never turn from him who is our life; keep us trusting him, following him and glorying in him. And may our testimony draw many others to him.