Jonah; An Old Testament Picture Of Christ
“As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, ‘this generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.’” – Luke 11:29-30
I have always had a deep interest in the pictures of Christ that we find within the pages of the Old Testament. One of these Old Testament snapshots of the Savior is found in the story of the prophet Jonah. That might somewhat surprise you, considering the fact that Jonah is primarily remembered for running from God. But a closer study of this reluctant prophet’s ministry will reveal our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a crystal clear way.
To begin with, Jonah offered himself up as a sacrifice to save his sea fairing companions. The Mariners on board the ship that day en route to Tarshish were frightened by a storm that suddenly arrived on the scene. This storm was so intense that the sailors feared for their life (Jonah 1:6). They decided to cast lots to determine “whose account the calamity” had come upon them (Jonah 1:7), and it was determined that Jonah was the cause of the raging storm. Because of this, Jonah freely and voluntarily offered up himself as a sacrifice and was dumped overboard. He was hurled into the raging waters of the sea to satisfy God’s wrath (Jonah 1:15). By doing this, he delivered and rescued the men on board from the wrath of God. Do you see the picture of Christ? Christ freely offered up Himself as a sacrifice. He was not forced to do this, but did so voluntarily (John 10:18). Jesus made Himself a sacrificial offering on our behalf, to satisfy and appease the raging wrath of God against sinful man. And by doing so, He rescues those who trust in Him from destruction and Hell.
But even more evident is the fact that Jonah was inside the belly of the great fish for three days. This is an obvious Old Testament picture and prophecy of our Lord Jesus, who was in the tomb for three days after His crucifixion and before His resurrection. Jesus even made reference to this. He said, “ For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).” But praise be to God, just as the big fish was not able to keep Jonah, neither could the grave keep Jesus! Jonah arose out of the Mediterranean waters to proclaim the message of repentance to lost people in Nineveh. Likewise, Jesus arose out of the tomb and spent forty days after His resurrection walking upon the face of this earth preaching a message of repentance. Adrian Rogers penned it quite well; he wrote, “Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.”
There is something else worth noting here. Jonah, a Jew, was called by God to preach to the gentile people of Nineveh. This calling upon Jonah’s life reminds us that all people groups, no matter their race or nationality, need to hear God’s message of repentance. All people need to repent of sin and turn to God. Likewise, Jesus died for all people groups, not just a certain tribe or tongue. God’s message of repentance is a message for every ear on the planet.
When you read the Old Testament, be sure to strap on your New Testament binoculars to see the story of Jesus all throughout its pages. The Old and New Testaments are interlinked with one sweeping story; it is the story of Jesus Christ. As a professor of mine put it, “The new is in the old concealed while the old is in the new revealed!” So ask God to give you the eyes to see Christ on every page in your Bible. After all, the Word of God is all about Jesus because Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1)!
– Pastor Eric