The Sign of Jonah, Jesus’ Call to Believe

Jonah

The Sign of Jonah

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a subject that is often viewed with skepticism or even outright rejection. What is the basis of that rejection?

As Jesus was casting out demons and teaching one day, He was accosted by the leaders of the Jews.

Luke 11:15-16 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  16  Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.

There was an outright rejection of His authority, even in the face of His power being shown. Those leaders of the Jews did not like Him, even though He demonstrated Himself to be the One of whom the Old Testament Scriptures had spoken. As John the Baptist sat imprisoned an wondering about the reality of Jesus’ ministry, he sent some of his own disciples to inquire about it.

Luke 7:20, 22 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ”  ….. “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

The fulfillment of prophecies from Isaiah 35:5-6 and Isaiah 61:1 were enough to convince that prophet. God had foretold the ministry of His Messiah in hundreds of ways throughout the entirety of the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled every prophecy, from His birthplace in Bethlehem, to being born of a virgin, to coming out of Egypt, and so on. He would fulfill others as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 with details down to the type of burial He would be given. And again, as He cried from the Cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” These words from Psalm 22 give a detailed description of His crucifixion experience, written 1,000 years prior. Jesus’ life was a classic lesson in homiletics, that is the method for presenting a sermon. One method is to first, tell your audience what you are going to tell them, then to tell them, and then tell them what you told them. A three-time repetition of the information. Jesus whole life, death and resurrection was done in this way.

Particularly, His three days in the grave were foretold from His own mouth on several occasions during His ministry. At the time recorded in Luke 11 (also recorded in Matthew 12), as He was being chided by the leaders of the Jews He rebuked them, saying,

Matthew 12:39-41 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  40  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  41  The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

The leaders of the Jews were fully aware of this and after His crucifixion pleaded with Pilate for an extra guard to watch over the grave to keep the disciples from stealing the body. (Matthew 27:62-64) It was not a lack of information. It was not even the credibility of the One who gave that information that made these men reject it. It was their unwillingness to believe. But why would the Jews be unwilling to believe the fulfillment of the prophecies of their own holy book? Because it conflicted with their idea how things ought to be. They enjoyed their position and power. Jesus preached against them (Matthew 23). Jesus held them to too high of a standard. Yet Jesus gave them a “sign,” a proof of who He was and what He was going to accomplish. The historical evidence is overwhelming. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that the Resurrected Christ was seen by more than 500 people. The resurrection was preached in the Jerusalem, where the greatest opposition was. No one ever produced the body, no one ever stopped the message from being preached. All of the disciples gave life, liberty and property to perpetuate this story.

The Apostle Paul preached this message. He had been one of its chief opponents. When he preached on Mars Hill in Athens, he said this, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,  31  because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”  32  And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter.’ “ (Acts 17:30-32) I would argue that it was not the resurrection that caused these people to mock, but the statement, “ He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.” We do not want to be judged and we reject a God who would judge us. If God has created the world (and it is impossible that He did not) and chose to enter the world to redeem fallen mankind; if He chose to die for the sins of the world; what are the odds that he would remain dead? ZERO! Though He died as a man, His sinlessness and Divine Nature would of necessity require Him to live.  As Peter preached at Pentecost he told the men of Jerusalem this (only fifty days after the crucifixion)

Acts 2:23-24 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;  24  whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

It is to be expected. These men were “cut to the heart” when they realized their sin and repented and that day 3,000 souls were added to the church. The resurrection is not a problem when we get the big picture. The leaders of the Jews would not believe and so Jonah, the prophet who came out of the belly of a fish (at least as good as dead) and preached to Nineveh is used as a sign against these men   “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:41)

Jesus had much greater signs than Jonah. He had the testimony of the Scriptures. He had the life that proved the validity of those Scriptures. And when He had done it all, He came to His disciples and taught them from the Scriptures that all that had happened was indeed foretold.

Luke 24:25-27 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”  27  And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Again, a classic lesson in homiletics. He told what would happen in the Old Testament Scriptures and by His own mouth. He did what He said He would do. Then He came back and explained to them what He had done.  The only reason to reject it is because of our own pride. It is not a lack of information, but a lack of humility that keeps us back. The challenge today is to hear His testimony, to understand His purpose, To acknowledge our need, and to see His mercy!

You can listen to audio of this message by clicking on the link below.

The Sign of Jonah

In Christ!
Kevin

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