Jesus Greater Than Jonah

Jonah 1:17

For the past two Sundays, we have been having a sermon series through the prophet Jonah. So far our journey has taken us through the whole of  Jonah 1. We have looked at the Call of Jonah where we noted his disobedience to the call (Jonah 1:1-3) and the mercies and lovingkindness of God displayed even in disobedience: i.e. calling a pagan nation to repentance and chastising/discipline of Jonah for his disobedience.

The previous week we looked at The Sovereignty of God in Jonah. We identified God’s Sovereignty as having absolute control over all things (Jonah 1:14). God is Sovereign over the nations; He called a great city to repentance (Jonah 1:1). God is Sovereign over nature: He hurled a great wind and appointed a great fish. We also saw that there is only One True God. The mariners all called upon their gods (Jonah 1:5), but there is only One True God in the narrative (Jonah 1:9). And finally, we saw The Sovereignty of God In The Salvation of Sinners (Jonah 1:16). These mariners encountered God and the actions we read to give an indication that they believed God.

That’s by way of recap. This morning I want us to look at our text, that is, Jonah 1:17 in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40-41.

What Jesus does here is to point to Jonah 1:17 comparing that text to events in his life and boldly declaring he is greater than Jonah. In Matthew 12:40-41, we see some clear Christian doctrines mentioned by Christ: his death and burial, a coming resurrection and judgement, repentance.  I want us to consider especially Jesus’ words in the last part of v.41; “Something greater than Jonah is here.” What is this something greater? Obviously, it is Jesus Christ himself. What Jesus does is compare the events in Jonah 1:17 and arguing from the less to the greater, he declares himself greater.

In Christian theology, the Old Testament is affirmed as pointing to Jesus Christ. And as you read the New Testament, you see the apostles consistently pointing to Jesus Christ as a fulfilment of old testament prophecies. Jesus himself taught this (Luke 24:27;44). Now the Bible uses the word shadow and types in the New Testament to indicate a person, event or instruction which pointed to something in the New Testament from the Old. And mostly shadows and types pointed to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1-10). We will examine Jonah as a type pointing to Christ. Mind you a shadow is not the real thing. In this case, Jonah’s life and ministry pointed to Christ. And rightly so, the real is greater than the shadow. We will examine a few ways by which Christ is Greater than Jonah.

Jesus Was A Willing Prophet

One of the clear things we will see in the life of Jonah and Jesus Christ is the response to the assignment to preach to sinners. They were both sent by God to preach repentance to sinners (Jonah 1:2; John 3:17; John 17:4; John 17:18)

Now in these two assignments, we see a clear difference.

Jonah was a reluctant and disobedient prophet who fled from his assignment. Immediately the call came, he headed in another direction (Jonah 1:3). And throughout the narrative, we see this stubborn, selfish, proud and arrogant prophet who doesn’t want God to save sinners. Jonah was actually displeased when God didn’t bring judgement on the Ninevites after they repented (Jonah 3:10– 4:1-3). The guy is feeling suicidal because God has saved sinners.

Jesus on the other hand willing embraced the assignment and came down into the world to preach repentance to sinners. Jesus begins his ministry with these words: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Hebrews 10:7 tells us of this willingness. There was no reluctance at all in Jesus fulfilling his assignment. Jonah attempted to preserve his life by running from his assignment, but Christ willingly gave his life for the assignment (John 10:15). Christ died to save sinners.

Jesus Is The Messiah

Between Jonah and Christ, we are not just comparing two human beings. We are comparing a human being and God. Note how Jesus makes a distinction between himself and Jonah in Matthew 12:40: “For just as Jonah… so will the Son of Man”. The title the Son of Man is used to identify Jesus’ humanity, but more than that, it was a title that identifies him as the expected Messiah. In Old Testament religion, they looked forward to a promised Messiah who God will send to save people from their sin. The word Messiah simply means the anointed one. It is the same word translated in Greek as Christ, the anointed one. This anticipation of a Saviour was clear and evident among the Jews. In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, this was evident (John 4:25-26).

Jesus, therefore, is not just a Willing Prophet, He is the Messiah, the Son of Man. He is God in human existence when he came on the earth. Let me read a commentary note about the title Son of Man. 

This is the name Jesus used for Himself more than any other. It is used 83 times in the gospels, always by Jesus Himself. It was a Messianic title (Daniel 7:13-14), with an obvious reference to the humanity and humility of CHrist. Yet, it also speaks of His everlasting glory, as Daniel 7:13-14 shows (John MacArthur).

Jesus’ Death

Jesus is greater than Jonah in his death for sinners. Clearly, when Jesus mentioned Jonah, he was making reference to his death. Specifically his burial: “so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). This here is the gospel. That Christ died, was buried and rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Note how Paul consistently says “in accordance with the Scriptures”

The Lord appointed

Just as God appointed a big fish to swallow Jonah, Christ’s death was appointed by God (Acts 2:22-23). If Jonah was a sign, a miracle, then Jesus’ death and burial is a greater sign of God’s redemption of humankind. We must repent as we hear the teachings of a greater Jonah, Jesus CHrist

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