Running with Jonah

Do we really want to be closer to God?
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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 ...

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