A Greater than Jonah
John Griffiths, Port Talbot, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
As we said in the preceding article, the correlation between Jonah and Jesus Christ is seen both by way of comparison and contrast. That Christ is greater than Jonah may be seen also in respect of His:
3. SIGNIFICANCE: as a sign.
(i) The Preparation of the Grave
‘The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah’, Jonah 1. 17 – A symbolic grave.
‘And he (they) made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich (man) in his death’, Isa. 53. 9 – A literal grave.
(ii) The Period in the Grave
‘And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights’, Jonah 1. 17.
‘So shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’, Matt. 12. 40. ‘He rose again the third day’, 1 Cor. 15. 4.
(iii) The Prayers for Deliverance
Of Jonah it is recorded, ‘I cried by reason of my affliction unto the Lord and he heard me’, Jonah 2. 2.
Of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says, ‘Who in the days of his flesh when he had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared’, Heb. 5. 7.
(iv) The Pangs of Suffering
Jonah: ‘the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me’, also, ‘The waters compassed me about, even to the soul’, Jonah 2. 3, 5.
Jesus: ‘deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me’, Ps. 42. 7. ‘The waters are come in unto my soul . . . I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me’, Ps. 69. 1, 2.
Jonah: ‘out of the belly of hell (Heb. sheol) cried I’, Jonah 2. 2.
Jesus: ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell’, (Gk. hades), Acts 2. 27.
Jonah: ‘I am cast out of thy sight’, Jonah 2. 4.
Jesus: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Ps. 22. 1; Matt. 27. 46.
(v) The Power of Resurrection
Jonah: ‘Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God’, Jonah 2. 6.
Jesus: ‘Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption’, Acts 2. 37. ‘Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father’, Rom. 6. 4.
(vi) Their Praise and Vows
Jonah: ‘But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed’, Jonah 2. 9.
Jesus: ‘My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him’, Ps. 22. 25.
(vii) Their Personal Deliverance
Jonah: ‘Salvation is of the Lord’, Jonah 2. 9.
Jesus: ‘Help me . . . deliver my soul . . . save me . . . thou hast heard me’, Ps. 22. 19-21.
Jonah: bleached by the digestive juices of the great fish (affecting his hair, skin-tone etc).
Jesus: bearing the marks of Calvary in His hands, feet and side.
(i) The Prophet
Jonah’s role as a prophet is confirmed by our Lord, ‘the sign of the prophet Jonas’, Matt. 12. 39. Jesus’ role as a prophet is predicted by Moses, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up like unto me; him shall ye hear’, Acts 3. 22.1
Moses predicted it but Peter and Stephen confirm that the Lord Jesus is the prophet of whom Moses spoke. The role of the seer was both to prophesy and to preach. A reading of Jonah leads one to ask, ‘Where is the foretelling?’ Jonah’s significant role is ‘forthtelling’ rather than foretelling. His life, however, is a prophetic parable of the nation of Israel. He was one of the earliest prophets to put pen to paper.
(ii) The Preacher
Of Jonah it is recorded, ‘Arise, go unto Nineveh . . . and preach unto it’, Jonah 3. 2.
Of Jesus it is recorded, ‘Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God’, Mark 1. 14. Also, ‘which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him’, Heb. 2. 3.
(iii) The Preaching
Jonah’s message was one of judgement with but a hint of mercy, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’, Jonah 3. 4. However, the timescale gives a hint of mercy, ‘yet forty days’.
Jesus’ message was one of judgement with great mercy. Because of their rejection of their Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem was predicted. The timescale, however, was nearer forty years than forty days. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Jesus’ message for the Gentiles is in complete contrast to the message of Jonah. His was a message of grace seasoned with judgement. How merciful God has been to the Gentile nations; already, the patience of God has been displayed for two millennia! This message is not limited to a great city but embraces the whole world.
Jonah’s message led to repentance, ‘the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas’, Matt. 12. 41.
Jesus’ message leads to repentance, ‘Repent ye, and believe the gospel’, Mark 1. 15. Gospel preachers do not always put sufficient emphasis on the need for repentance. As we have seen, it was in Christ’s first recorded message, and it was in Peter’s first message on the day of Pentecost, ‘Repent, and be baptized’. We often speak of the gospel message in terms of invitation. However, we need to redress the balance with, ‘but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent’, Acts 17. 30. Remember, the invitation is the invitation of a Sovereign, and it should not be lightly set aside.
(iv) The Product
Jonah witnessed a whole Gentile city repenting of their sins and believing God.
This might be the 120,000 of Jonah chapter 4 verse 11, or an even greater population if the 120,000 are babies who ‘cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand’. In either case, it is a finite number in view.
Jesus witnesses an innumerable company of Gentiles repenting of their sins, Rev. 7. 9. God is going to populate heaven with those made in the likeness of His Son.
(v) The Portrayal of the Character of God
Jonah expresses this privately in prayer, ‘I know that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness’, Jonah 4. 2.
Jesus expounded this publicly by His presence, ‘God . . . hath . . . spoken unto us by his Son’, Heb. 1. 2. ‘Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ . . . the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him’, John 1. 17-18.
(vi) Personal Traits2
Following his experiences, Jonah sat down on the east side of Nineveh to see what would happen now the Ninevites had repented. He was filled with anger, Jonah 4. 5, 9.
Before His ‘experience’ at the cross, Jesus stood looking over Jerusalem considering what would happen now the city had rejected Him. He was filled with anguish, Luke 19. 41.
Jonah concluded arrogantly and angrily, ‘It is better for me to die than live’, Jonah 4. 3.
What can we conclude concerning our Lord Jesus Christ? His death has brought life to countless multitudes. ‘But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’, 2 Tim. 1. 10. His life makes Him our great High Priest. ‘If . . . we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life’, Rom. 5. 10.
Jonah is a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ. He is a parable of the declension and renewal of Israel. Christ is pre-eminent – for He is greater than Jonah as a servant, as a sacrifice and a Saviour, as a sign, and as a Seer. Jonah is but the shadow. It is Christ who is the substance!
- See also Acts 7. 37; Deut. 18. 15
- Most of this article has been a comparison between Jonah and the Lord whereas their personal traits should be contrasted rather than compared.