“As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.“ Luke 11.29-32
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1.1-2
When I think of the story of Jonah, I think about his obedience, and him being swallowed by a whale because of it. VBS’s all across the nation are using this “happy” story of Jonah with a giant whale made out of cardboard to illustrate this story. The children love the whale and talk about a very shallow (yet child friendly version) of a very difficult story. For the story of Jonah is about sin, evil, repentance and disobedience. Only God’s mercy saved Jonah from running away and the city of Nineveh from possible demise and destruction.
Jesus compares his coming to that of Jonah to the Ninevites. He calls the current generation “wicked” and how the only sign given to them will be “the sign of Jonah.” Just as Jonah was a sign of God’s faithfulness in the midst of evil, so Jesus’ coming to earth, suffering, death and resurrection is a sign of God’s offer of redemption to a world deep in pain. Jesus isn’t just comparing himself to Jonah, he says his arrival is even greater than that of Jonah.
Why would God care so much about humanity that he would send Jesus, Jonah, John the Baptizer and scores of Old Testament prophets to his people Israel? What would motivate him to go out of his way to rescue us from the penalty of sin and death?
We know the answer, even if we don’t understand it — it’s his great love for his creation. Paul writes in Romans 5.8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And again he writes in 2 Corinthians 5.14-15, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
God’s love motivates him to save us. His mercy, compassion and grace is so great that God chooses to help us. I mean, he created us, he gave us the ability to choose him or to choose evil. And when we choose evil, just as the Ninevites did, offers a solution. He offers his mercy.
The sign of Jonah and the sign of the coming of the Son of Man to previous and current generations should be good news to us. It should be news that we hear, share and spread.
Have you received this news into your heart? Have you said yes to the love of God and so been compelled to love God and others? Have you shared this love? Reaching out to your neighbor, serving the hurting, encouraging the broken? Why not do so this very moment. Be his hands and feet. Reflect his heart and remind the world that God so loved them that he sent Jesus.
This sign is good news indeed.
“O Lord God, I am a messy part of your creation. You made me in your image but my freedom has given way to sin. Redeem me O Lord! Hear my confession. Receive my cries of mercy. Rescue me from the pit of hell, from the depths of Sheol. I need your love. I need your grace. I desire to know you and walk with you in the coolness of the garden as did Adam before the fall. Come now, Holy Spirit, save me. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen