And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
– Jonah 1:17 NASB
Of all the twelve minor prophets, Jonah is probably the best known. This owes, of course, to his peculiar maritime experience. So far as I know, none of the other eleven experienced anything quite so unusual and dramatic.
On the basis of this exceptional experience, Jesus prophesied an even more exceptional experience for Himself. This happened when religious leaders challenged Him to perform a miracle in order to prove Himself. Yet Jesus would only perform miracles to help people in need; He never performed “tricks” or used miracles to defend Himself.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 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. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”
– Matthew 12:38-41 NASB (The all-caps phrase is Jesus quoting from Jonah 1:17)
Granted, surviving three days in a cavity of some large sea creature is unusual and dramatic, but not nearly so unusual and dramatic as rising from the dead! Indeed, resurrection from death, never to die again, would qualify as “something greater than Jonah.”
Some people struggle to accept unusual and dramatic events described in the Bible, but this makes no sense. There are always events and circumstances in this creation that are going to stretch our imagination. For good reason people say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” A man named Robert Ripley even created a franchise of successful businesses with his “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” – strange but documented facts. There is no reason to disbelieve Jesus but willful defiance.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, thank You for being willing to experience something more gruesome and terrifying than what Jonah experienced. You did this on our behalf. Show me how I can live this day as a thank offering for what You’ve done for us…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.