The Sign of Jonah
In the Gospel today Jesus grows frustrated with those who are following him not because they want to believe in his message but simply because they are entertained or amazed by the things that Jesus does. “Show us another sign” they keep begging.
Jesus glowers and tells them that there is nothing he can do that will satisfy their curiosity until they come to understand the sign of Jonah. I was wondering about that sign and what exactly Jesus might have meant by that.
We are pretty familiar with Jonah’s story, its one of those that seems to get handed down easily simply because it’s such a riveting tale. God asks Jonah to serve as His prophet to the Ninevites and Jonah wants nothing to do with it. Fearing God, Jonah runs away and jumps aboard a ship bound for who knows where. At sea a storm breaks out and Jonah suspecting that God is not pleased with his behaviour tells the frightened crew to toss him overboard, and they do. Jonah, instead of drowning, is swallowed whole by a big fish and spends three days and nights in the whale’s gut contemplating his next move until at last he is heaved by the bloated whale onto the shore of the land of the Ninevites.
Now that seems a pretty good sign, one that would make you sit up and take notice. Jesus would also provide such a sign as he goes on to spend three days in the belly of the earth waiting the day of resurrection. So that could be the sign he is talking about.
Another sign from Jonah is his prophetic voice. When actually agrees to preach to the Nivevites they actually situp and take notice, they listen to what it is that Jonah has to say even though the message is difficult. Jesus also preached and taught. His message had challenges for sure but it was also about love and mercy and forgiveness. Surely that could have been the sign that he was talking about.
But the sign that I think had the greatest effect was not the sign that Jonah gave but the sign that Jonah witnessed. That sign was that the people actually changed. Their hearts turned right around and they realized that they were on wrong path and they wanted to do something about it. This sign made Jonah mad because he thought the Ninevites should be punished for their behaviour. God saw the sign and he was very happy and he continued to love the Ninevites.
Maybe this was the sign that Jesus was hoping for. He was pleased that the people loved to be healed and that they liked to listen to his words. But he really longed for them to change their hearts. He was looking for conversion, the sign of Jonah.
Look around you, are you heading the right way?
What is there in Jesus words that give you hope?