“There is something greater than Jonah here.”
Speaking to the crowd in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells them they will be given the sign of the prophet Jonah. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus foretells of His own death and resurrection as the ultimate sign that will be given to validate His claims and self-understanding. The importance of the resurrection to the Christian faith can never be overstated. It is what we look forward to celebrating on Easter Sunday in several weeks’ time. As St. Paul tells us in his first epistle to the Corinthians
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Jesus gives this prophecy to those who were missing something right in front of them. For many, it was a big miss. And it was an intentional miss. I think this happens to us as well. How often do we miss the good times when they are gone, failing to maintain our attention when they were happening ‘live’. May we not miss God moving among and through us.
The connection to Jonah is powerful and multi-layered. After Jonah obeys God and preaches to Nineveh, something amazing happens. Nineveh repents. From the greatest to the least.
After Jesus completes the sign of Jonah, His death and resurrection, a revolution of repentance and faith begins. Just like Nineveh. This revolution continues up to our time. From the greatest to the least, across the world, we see a move of trust in the Lord since the time of the empty tomb. There has been a turning toward the true and living God. We should be careful not to overlook this move of God as it has many parallels to Jonah and Nineveh.