He (Jesus) answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except for the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
~ Matthew 12:39 (NIV)
In the fall of 1985 a 45-ton humpbacked whale, supposedly heading for the warmer ocean water to the south, made its way into the San Francisco Bay, swam up the Sacramento River, and “landed” in a slough. A great deal of effort was required to get it back to its original habitat.
Human beings also go off course at times. One who did so deliberately was the prophet, Jonah. God had called him to preach the Word in Nineveh, the pagan capital of the Assyrian Empire. But like the whale, he got into the wrong channel. Instead of going east to Nineveh, he boarded a freighter at Joppa and sailed west on a ship that was bound for Tarshish on the other end of the Mediterranean Sea. But God put Jonah back on course. During a severe storm, Jonah was cast overboard and was swallowed by a large fish. Preserved alive, the prophet heeded the second call from God and preached repentance in Nineveh.
Jesus referred to Jonah’s experience and applied it to himself: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). By being crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, Jesus Christ put a lost and floundering humanity back on course—the course of salvation by faith in him.
Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you keep your people on course, prevent our floundering, and give us boldness to do your will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.