The Sign of Jonah

Jonah and signs of redemption. Roman Sarcophagus , 4th century

In the gospels Jesus usually bases his teaching on the Old Testament. Even a prayer that seems uniquely his, like the Lord’s Prayer in today’s gospel from Luke, is inspired by Jewish prayer, especially the psalms.

New Testament writers also use the Old Testament freely for their own purpose. Luke’s use of the Book of Jonah, in the 11th chapter of his gospel which we read next Monday, is an example. To those demanding a sign Jesus says “ no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation… At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. (Luke 11:29-32)

Luke’s gospel sees all nations– even the Ninevites who enslaved the Jews– offered divine mercy in Jesus Christ.

We look to the scriptures to discover ourselves, but we also discover in them the church and the world we live in. The Old Testament readings from Jonah,  Malachi and Joel, read this week,  were written in  post exilic times, commentators say, when Jews returning from exile were set on creating a safe, exclusive religion in their homeland. 

Jonah and the post-exilic prophets remind them God’s plans are greater than theirs. God wants to save Nineveh. Luke sees in his gospel the same plan of God. All nations are called.

A reminder for our church and our world today as well?

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