Jesus In Jonah

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Obedience Produces Transformation

Jesus is revealed in Jonah as obedience brings transformation to humanity.

Jonah and Jesus were sent first to Jews and then the Gentiles.

  • Both preached messages refused by Jews and accepted by Gentiles 
  • Interestingly both slept in a boat in a storm.
  • Jonah spent three days in the belly of a fish before coming up and rescuing Nineveh from sin as Jesus spent three days in the tomb before coming up to rescue all humanity. (Jon 1:17, Matt 12:40)

Jonah is an amazing story of the God of second chances and his amazing grace in our lives. God is so gracious he allowed Jonah to be thrown up. He could have caused him to come out the other end of the fish.

Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the LORD came to Jonah: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. NIV

What was his problem? Why not just obey? Isn’t it always easier to see things looking back? How many times have you asked yourself, “What was I thinking?” God’s not limited to time so this is always his view. If only we could learn to do what God says to do when God says to do it.

There were some extenuating circumstances here so let’s cut Jonah some slack. Ninevah is arguably the most corrupt civilization in history of the world. They would filet people alive just for fun. Archaeological discoveries reveal barbarically horrific torture as an expression of psychological warfare to their enemies. Enemies were impaled publicly on poles and their hands and fee cut off for all to see. Human skulls were stacked as totem poles on the sides of the road.

No wonder Jonah didn’t want to go tell them to repent. Regardless of his reasons or excuses God’s plan was to reach this seemingly unreachable city.

Jonah 3:1-3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. NIV

3 days proclaiming God’s Truth! Interestingly there is a theological discussion about the three days from when Jesus was crucified to when he was raised. Where was he and what was he doing during these three days? At the bottom you will find an extensive look at the verses to evaluate this idea.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. NIV

When Jonah got in alignment with his assignment then Ninevah, the capital city of paganism, turned in one day. 

The problem in our world is not the abundance of darkness. The problem is the absence of light. 

2 Chr 7:14 If my people called by my name pray and turn from their wicked ways I will hear from heaven and heal their land. NIV

Your decisions affect more than just you. Your life is a point of entry for God’s Kingdom to invade the earth and push back darkness! Matt 16 tells us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church!

Ps 24:7  Lift up your heads, O gates, & be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!  NAS

Believers are gates through which God releases the influence of heaven in the earth!

The influence of heaven is released as we love, serve and give and this is why we are here as a church family! 

GP4RL: Call somebody and invite them to join you tonight at the Destiny celebration.



Jonah 4:6-7 Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.

Jonah then gets angry about the grace God shows them.

Jonah 4:8-11 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” 10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” NIV

One of the great lessons of Jonah's failure and forgiveness is that God can continue to use those who return to Him. Thankfully, we serve the God of a second chance.

Moses murdered a man and God called him. Elijah quit and complained and had suicidal thoughts then God re-commissioned him. Peter denied the Lord and then God used him at Pentecost. Mark deserted the mission team at Pamphylia yet God moved upon him to write the second Gospel.

Peter must have been so fascinated to be used by God – not when he denied Christ but when he later spoke on the Day of Pentecost.

Your mistakes don’t threaten or limit God.


I Peter 3:18–19 says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison” (ESV). The word spirit refers to Christ’s spirit. The contrast is between His flesh and spirit, and not between Christ’s flesh and the Holy Spirit. Christ’s flesh died, but His spirit remained alive.

First Peter 3:18–22 describes a necessary link between Christ’s suffering (verse 18) and His glorification (verse 22). Only Peter gives specific information about what happened between these two events. The KJV says that Jesus “preached” to the spirits in prison (verse 19). However, the Greek word used is not the usual New Testament word for preaching the gospel. It simply means “to herald a message”; the NIV translates it as “made proclamation.” Jesus suffered and died on the cross, His body being put to death. But His spirit was made alive, and He yielded it to the Father (Luke 23:46). According to Peter, sometime between Jesus’ death and His resurrection Jesus made a special proclamation to “the spirits in prison.”

In the New Testament, the word spirits is used to describe angels or demons, not human beings. In 1 Peter 3:20, Peter refers to people as “souls” (KJV). Also, nowhere in the Bible are we told that Jesus visited hell. Acts 2:31 says that He went to Hades (New American Standard Bible), but Hades is not hell. Hades is a term that refers, broadly, to the realm of the dead, a temporary place where the dead await resurrection. Revelation 20:11–15 in the NASB and the NIV makes a clear distinction between the Hades and the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the permanent, final place of judgment for the lost. Hades is a temporary place for both the lost and the Old Testament saints.

Our Lord yielded His spirit to the Father, died physically, and entered paradise (Luke 23:43). At some time between His death and resurrection, Jesus also visited a place where He delivered a message to spirit beings (probably fallen angels; see Jude 1:6); these beings were somehow related to the period before the flood in Noah’s time (1 Peter 3:20). Peter does not tell us what Jesus proclaimed to the imprisoned spirits, but it could not be a message of redemption since angels cannot be saved (Hebrews 2:16). It was probably a declaration of victory over Satan and his hosts (1 Peter 3:22; Colossians 2:15). Ephesians 4:8–10 also seems to give a clue regarding Jesus’ activities in the time between His death and resurrection. Quoting Psalm 68:18, Paul says about Christ, “when he ascended on high, he took many captives” (Ephesians 4:8). The ESV puts it that Christ “led a host of captives.” The reference seems to be that, in paradise, Jesus gathered all the redeemed who were there and took them to their permanent dwelling in heaven.

All this to say, the Bible isn’t entirely clear what exactly Christ did for the three days between His death and resurrection. From what we can tell, though, He comforted the departed saints and brought them to their eternal home, and He proclaimed His victory over the fallen angels who are kept in prison. What we can know for sure is that Jesus was not giving anyone a second chance for salvation; we face judgment after death (Hebrews 9:27), not a second chance. Also, He was not suffering in hell; His work of redemption was finished on the cross (John 19:30).



Everybody knows about Jonah. People who have never read the Bible know enough about Jonah to laugh at a joke about him and the "whale." Jonah has entered our folklore. There is a playful aspect to his story, a kind of slapstick clumsiness about Jonah as he bumbles his way along, trying, but always unsuccessfully, to avoid God.

But the playfulness is not frivolous. This is deadly serious. While we are smiling or laughing at Jonah, we drop the guard with which we are trying to keep God at a comfortable distance, and suddenly we find ourselves caught in the purposes and commands of God. All of us. No exceptions.

Stories are the most prominent biblical way of helping us see ourselves and saving us. Stories, in contrast to abstract statements of truth, tease us into becoming participants in what is being said. We find ourselves involved in the action. We may start out as spectators or critics, but if the story is good (and the biblical stories are very good!), we find ourselves no longer just listening to but inhabiting the story.

One reason that the Jonah story is so enduringly important for nurturing the life of faith in us is that Jonah is not a hero too high and mighty for us to identify with - he doesn't do anything great. Instead of being held up as an ideal to admire, we find Jonah as a companion in our ineptness. Here is someone on our level. Even when Jonah does it right (like preaching, finally, in Nineveh) he does it wrong (by getting angry at God). But the whole time, God is working within and around Jonah's very ineptness and accomplishing his purposes in him. Most of us need a biblical friend or two like Jonah.