I have decided that the next time someone asks me “What’s your sign?” I will reply “The sign of Jonah!”
“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” This was the text for our discussion at Up Town this week as we sought for some understanding of what the ‘sign of Jonah’ might be.
The obvious first place to start is with the idea that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and that Jesus would be in the tomb for three days. The great miraculous sign Jesus would give this unbelieving ‘religious’ generation was that of his resurrection! If that were the only meaning of this ‘sign of Jonah’ it would stand as a mind blowing implication! The resurrection of Jesus is pinnacle of God’s plan for salvation. As a sign there could be no better one, and yet there is more to this sign.
Jonah went on to call the people of the great city of Ninevah to a change of heart and ways. The Assyrians of Ninevah were the ‘Hells Angels’ of nations. There was no more barbaric society. They were feared and loathed. Jonah was reluctant (too mild a word?) to take the message of repentance to them lest they should actually respond. He as a typical Israelite much preferred that Ninevah receive a full measure of justice at God’s hands. He did not want to see God have mercy on the populous city but longed for fire and brimstone. Nevertheless Jonah preached and Ninevah responded and God extended mercy. This too is the sign of Jonah. In response to opposition from the religious world Jesus promised this sign. It is surely about his death and resurrection but it also includes the good news going out and being received by the unlikely and the undeserving.
As we looked around the room we realized that we were a part of this continuing sign! We are an object lesson to the world. Jesus has conquered and we, the unlikely and undeserving, are testimony to the scope of his mercy!
I have the honour to be involved with the unlikely and the undeserving, of whom I am chief, and to see the God of mercy give us another chance. It is those who know we don’t deserve it who love him most. Society may continue to devalue those on the fringe but the ‘sign of Jonah’ tells us differently.
What’s your sign?