Skip to comments.The Gospel According To Jonah
Posted on 03/11/2011 6:57:20 PM PST by Gamecock
On Monday, my friend Collin Hansen (editorial director for The Gospel Coalition) posted an interview he did with me on the gospel according to Jonah. He writes, Were accustomed to describing the book of Jonah as that book about the guy who survived three days in a big fish. What if we began to understand it as a remarkable testimony to Gods extravagant, persevering grace, supremely demonstrated in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Those are the questions I seek to answer in my book Surprised By Grace: Gods Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. As part of The Gospel Coalitions commitment to Preaching Christ in the Old Testament, Collin asked me questions on how to see the gospel in the story of Jonah.
Surprised by Grace started out as a series of sermons on Jonah that I preached during the hardest year of my life. Preparing those sermons and preaching them proved to be a functional lifeline for me, not because of things I learned about Jonah (everything we learn about Jonah we learn by way of negative example), but because of things I learned about Gods amazing, sustaining, pursuing grace.
I learned that Gods capacity to clean things up is infinitely greater than our human capacity to mess things up. I learned about the stubbornness of God to accomplish his will, regardless of how hard we may try and thwart it. In fact, as I reflect on that painful season of my life now, I can honestly say that I am genuinely thankful for all the ache I experienced. For it was during this trying time that God helped me recognize, through the story of Jonah, the practical relevance of the gospelthat everything I need and long for, in Christ, I already possesses.
We cant escape a stark contrast in this storythe tribal heart of Jonah versus the missionary heart of God. These two mindsets involve fundamentally different values. The highest value of a tribal heart is self-preservation. A tribal heart exists solely for itself, and those who nurture it keep asking, How can I protect myself from those who are different from me? A tribal heart typically elevates personal and cultural preferences to absolute principles: If everybody were more like me, this world would be a better place. But for a missionary heart, the highest value isnt self-preservation but self-sacrifice. A missionary-hearted person exists not primarily for himself but for others. Its a heart willing to be inconvenienced and discomforted for the well-being of others. A tribal mindset is antithetical to the gospel. The gospel demands that we be missionary minded, because the gospel is the story of God sacrificing himself for his enemies.
Both these approaches are robustly present in Jonahs story. Jonah represents the best of a tribal mindset, the absolute best. Hes like the trophy-winner for tribalism. And Godever-gracious, ever-pursuing, ever-compassionatecarries the trophy for mission-mindedness. Jonah runs from his enemies; God runs toward his enemies.
Jesus says that he is greater than Jonah. He is the greater-than-Jonah who succeeded where Jonah failed. For instance, in sending Jonah as his messenger to sinful Nineveh, God showed his boundless grace and faithfulness. But centuries later, God sent another messenger to sinful mankind. Only this messenger went willingly and joyfully because he knew the heart of God. In fact, he was the heart of God. He would be called the Word because he himself was Gods message. He was everything God wanted to say to the worldall wrapped up in a person.
Instead of fleeing from Gods call in rebellion and running away from his enemies, this new messenger ran toward his enemies, in full submission to his Fathers will, despite what it would cost him. For we were enemies of God (Rom. 5:10)all of usso much so that we rejected and crucified his Son.
Fully knowing that this death was his destiny, this new messenger nevertheless pursued Gods rescue mission with a totally engaged heart. For the joy that was set before him, the Bible tells us, he endured the cross (Heb. 12:2) so that Gods enemies, you and I, could become Gods friends.
Like Jonah thrown overboard, this new messenger would be a sacrifice, with the result that others were saved.
This new messenger, like Jonah, would spend three days in utter darkness. But unlike Jonah, he would emerge with wholehearted determination to pursue his enemies with life-giving love. He went on this mission because he wanted tonot because he had to.
When Gods mercy was shown to Jonah and to his enemies, Jonah was intensely angered. But this new messenger was the happy extension of Gods grace toward his enemiesnot angry and embittered, but anointed . . . with the oil of gladness (Heb. 1:9). Jonah is all about self-protection; this new messenger is all about joyful self-sacrifice. So Jesus and his Good News, rescue of sinners, is all over this story of Jonah.
Most people inside the church, including ours, assume that the gospel is something non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, but after we believe it, we advance to deeper theological waters. The truth is, however, that once God rescues sinners, his plan isnt to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospeland since Christians remain sinners even after theyre converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. For our church, it was through probing the story of Jonah that we came face-to-face with the fact that the gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians.
We also came face to face with our own idolatry. Jonah was just as much in need of Gods grace as the sailors and the Ninevites. But the fascinating thing about Jonah is that, unlike the pagan sailors and wicked Ninevites, Jonah was one of the good guys. He was a prophet. He was moral. He was a part of Gods covenant community. He was one who kept all the rules and did everything he was supposed to do. He wasnt some long-haired, tattooed indie rocker; he was a clean-cut prep. He wasnt a liberal; he was a conservative. He wasnt irreligious; he was religious.
If youve ever read S. E. Hintons novel The Outsiders, than youll immediately see that the Ninevites and the sailors in the story were like the greasers while Jonah was like a soashe. Its easier for Christians to identify worldly idols such as money, power, ambition, greed. Its the idols inside the church that we have a harder time identifying. For instance, it was easy for Jonah to see the idolatry of the sailors. It was easy for him to see the perverse ways of the Ninevites. What he couldnt see was his own idolatry, his own perversion. Idolatry is not just a problem for non-Christians; its a problem for Christians too. For instance, we know its wrong to bow to the god of powerbut its also wrong to bow to the god of preferences. We know its wrong to worship immoralitybut its also wrong to worship morality. We know its wrong to seek freedom by breaking the rulesbut its also wrong to seek freedom by keeping them. We know God hates unrighteousnessbut he also hates self-righteousness. The book of Jonah wrecked all of us by revealing our idol-making hearts. Thankfully, while our idolatry reaches far Gods amazing grace in the story (and ours) reaches farther.
It is a story of sin and grace, of desperation and deliverance. It reveals the fact that while you and I are great sinners, God is a great Savior, and that while our sin reaches far, his grace reaches farther. This story shows that God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebelsa label that ultimately applies to us alland that he comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free.
I consulted almost every commentary on Jonah. Some were helpful (such as Calvins), some werent so helpful. Bryan Estelles book in The Gospel According to the Old Testament series entitled Salvation Through Judgment And Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah was very helpful. But it wasnt so much material specifically on Jonah that helped me see the gospel in and through the story as much as preachers and teachers who have taught me over the years to read the Bible Christocentrically: my professors at Reformed Theological Seminary like Richard Pratt, Mark Futato, Reggie Kidd, and Steve Brown, along with men such as Ed Clowney, Tim Keller, Scotty Smith, Jerry Bridges, Paul Tripp, Mike Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, Bryan Chapell, and so on.
I would recommend that preachers soak their hearts and minds in robust gospel theology, because only then will they be able to see the Christ-centered plotline that runs throughout the entire Bible and therefore be able to preach the gospel from every text.
For more resources on preaching and teaching Jonah, visit The Gospel Coalitions site Preaching Christ in the Old Testament.
Great book, highly recommend it!
Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
All well and good but the Jonah was dead for three days in the belly of the fish (just like Jesus was dead for three days in the belly of the earth), God did not preserve him from dying but resurrected him after he was vomited out of the fish after three days.
visit The Gospel Coalitions site Preaching Christ in the Old Testament.
Linkey is bad. Go here instead: Preaching Christ in the Old Testament.
While on that ship, Jonah was a type of sin. Notice that Jonah knew that he was the curse on the ship and crew, admitted his wrong, and told them that they needed to cast him into the sea. Sin doesn’t leave on it’s own, you have to want it removed....desperately. With the threat of death removed, the crew were now followers of the Lord.
Gospel? The ‘sign of the prophet Jonas’ was one of rebirth; death, buriel, resurrection. Jonah confessed his sin before God and the crew (repentance), He was buried at sea (water baptism), and rose from the sea a new and determined preacher( the Spirit is life); making the more than 400 mile trek to Nineveh, and preaching with such power and conviction that all of that city feared the Lord.
Sure, he fell into a carnal self pity, but hey, he was still an imperfect man.
The gospel of Jonah: death, buriel, and resurrection;......repentance (not my will, but thy will), water baptism (buried with Jesus), and gift of the Holy Ghost (new life!).
Jesus identified the ‘fish’ as a ‘whale’. Now, I’m not a expert on whale anatomy, but as mammals, they do inhale air in large cyclic ammounts, exhaling co2. By Jonah’s description, the place he was ‘entombed’ had seaweed. He most likely never entered any part of the digestive tract.
FWIW: William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (born July 13, 1972) is senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and a contributing editor to Leadership Journal.
He is a Florida native (born in Jacksonville) and grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. Before becoming senior pastor of Coral Ridge, Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) was the founding pastor of the former New City Church, which merged with Coral Ridge in April 2009.
What? How do you get *THAT* from reading Jonah, or anywhere else in the Bible?”
Jon 2:2-6 pretty much sounds like he’s dead to me, plus if this was meant to be a type of what Jesus was to go through it would fit much better if he was dead and then resurrected:
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, [and] thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." -- Jonah 2:5-9
"The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." -- Jonah 2:5-9
And God’s patience with those he loves/calls.
He will pursue us, discipline us, restore us....
Sola Deo Gloria!
I am so thankful that He does for most of the time I NEED pursring, discipling and restoring!
I am so thankful that He does for most of the time I NEED pursring, discipling and restoring!
From a cursory read of the passage in Jonah, it sounds like he is quoting/paraphrasing Psalm 18:5-6.
Jesus also references Noah as a type of what He was - a safe haven for those who follow him, as the ark was to those in it through the deluge of cleansing sent upon the world.
Many things/events/people in the Old Testament were types and shadows of what Christ would come to perfect.
`Jesus identified the 'fish' as a 'whale'`Matthew 12:40 is translated as "sea monster" in the NASB, and "huge fish" in the NIV. It's translated "whale" in the King James and ASV.
Jesus referenced the account of Jonah, but does not provide a more specific term than that used in Jonah of the creature that held him for three days.