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What’s Your Sign?

sign

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

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3 comments on “What’s Your Sign?

  1. This sign certainly points us in the right direction Reed. Indeed he who loves much has been forgiven much! What a Saviour!

  2. There was yet another lesson which the book of Jonah had for the Israelites of Jesus’ day. The Ninevites immediately repented at the preaching of Jonah, even though there was far less evidence than that which the Israelites of Jesus’ day had witnessed. And, compared with Jesus, Jonah was not nearly as important, or, I think, as persuasive or powerful in his preaching. If the Ninevites could repent with so little evidence, then surely the problem with the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, was not a lack of evidence. The problem was not one of evidence at all, a problem which would be solved by some compelling sign. The problem of the scribes and Pharisees was the same as Jonah’s, and thus no evidence could change their willful rejection.

  3. We think of the relationship of the figures, the Prophet Jonah and the Christ Jesus, as signs which refer to the past – and yet, for Jesus, the relationship of the sign of Jonah is cast (or directed) into the future, and perhaps Jesus especially draws our attention to read signs forward just as he read the sign of Jonah onto his own future death and resurrection. If we are to learn to read signs we must be prepared to establish unexpected relationships of meaning that are as open to the future as they are to the past. To the extent that reasoning itself can be understood as the reading of signs, we do well to ask what it means to have our reasoning shaped by the reading of signs given to us in Scripture. One so paradigmatic of Jesus’ self-description as the sign of Jonah might give us pause to reflect that the way Jesus reads could teach us the way (or direction) God reads.

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