Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah … saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah set out to flee … from the presence of the Lord.

And the people of Nineveh believed God. … But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled … at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. —Jonah 1:1–3; 3:5, 4:1–2, NRSV

Give us a sign.

One day, some Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus for a miraculous sign. Impress us, Jesus. Convince us, Jesus. We've heard rumors of your sleight-of-hand with water and wine, your conjuring tricks with bread and fish, your banishing stunts with demons and pigs. The word's out that you're Messiah: but we demand credentials. Give us a sign.

Jesus rebukes them: "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah" (Matt. 12:39, NIV).

A curious sign, this. Why not the sign, say, of Elijah? Now there was a prophet—calling down heaven's fire, outrunning horses, staring down kings. Why not Isaiah? A towering, glowering man, I picture him, all sinewy muscle and wild-eyed zeal. Why not Daniel? Serene and shrewd in the face of folly and evil, holding tight the truth amid a world glutted with pagan traps and trappings.

But Jesus said Jonah: the runt prophet, the rebel prophet, the sulking prophet.

Of course, the sign of Jonah is two-fold: it's an image of Jesus' dying and rising (Matthew's ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.