Jonah, Jesus, and You!



April 16, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

The First Lesson; Jonah 2:2-9

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 28:1-10

Epistle Lesson; Colossians 3:1-4

The tomb is empty. Jesus is risen! This morning I want to begin, not looking at today, not going back 2,000 years to the time of Jesus, but I want to begin by going 800 years before Jesus was born and was crucified and rose again. I have entitled my message for today,

“Jonah, Jesus, and You!”

Jonah lived about 800 years before Jesus and was called by God to go, and preach to the Ninevites. Now, that was something Jonah didn't want to do, because the Ninevites, well, Nineveh was the capitol of the empire of Syria. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel. Jonah didn't want to go, and proclaim a message to them. He knew God was merciful, and gracious. He didn't want those from Nineveh to be saved. So, instead of listening to what God said, he disobeyed God. Instead of going to Nineveh, he wanted to go in the opposite direction. He wanted to go to Tarnish. Instead of going east, he went west. Instead of going by land, he went by sea.

Jonah paid the fare, and got onto a ship heading for Tarnish, when a tremendous storm came. The sailors who were on that boat were experienced sailors, and they had never seen a storm like this previously. They started to ask everybody,

“What is it you have done that a storm like this has come upon us?”

Jonah admitted, “It is because of me that this storm has come.”

Those sailors asked, “What should we do?”

Jonah said, “Throw me overboard into the sea.”
Now, those sailors treasured life, and they didn't want to do that to Jonah, and so with all of their might they tried to row back to shore, but the storm was so great, they couldn't.

That is when they heeded what Jonah had said, and they threw him overboard. The storm ceased, and those sailors were saved. But now, Jonah is sinking down into the water. We might say Jonah was going through the valley of the shadow of death. Well, the portion of scripture Pastor Bartels read earlier, was the prayer Jonah prayed, when he was in the belly of that great fish. It is really a prayer of deliverance, and thanksgiving. When things were at its most critical, and when Jonah's soul was in great distress, he turned to the only place he could go, and he entrusted himself into the hands of his Heavenly Father, God, his Heavenly Father.

A lot of times, when we see a picture of Jonah in the belly of the whale, or you see cartoons about it, you see Jonah kicked back in a Lazy Boy Chair in a living room type setting, with the living room lamp on, don't you? Well, that is not the accommodations Jonah was experiencing. It was complete darkness. It was a terrible situation he was in. But, notice the prayer he prayed. A prayer of deliverance and thanksgiving. It is pitch black, and it is not like he had his scriptures in front of him, so he could just flip through, and look at what it is God was saying to him. You know where he had Scripture? He had Scripture right in his head. After all, consider what Jonah was praying, and these are from the Psalms. The Psalms were written 200 years before Jonah. I am going to read a few portions from the Psalms. Hear Jonah, as if he is saying these things.

Psalm 30: “O LORD, my God, I called to you for help. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave. You spared me from going down into the pit.”

Psalm 18: “The cords of death entangle me. The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me. The stairs of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD.”

Psalm 118: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His mercy endures forever.”

Jonah had scripture, and hymn verses, (because the Psalms are hymn verses), in his head. And, when he was in great distress, he went to those places that brought him great comfort, hope, and peace.

That is one of the things I love about teaching Catechism Class. Sometimes, when in teaching the Catechism, we will come across a portion of Scripture in the Catechism book. I will see a smile come across the kids' faces, and ask, “Why are you smiling?”
They will be, like, “We memorized that Bible passage not too long ago!”

I agree, “Well, you are right!”

That is also why I love looking at you, when we are singing hymns. I don't know if you have seen that before, or not, but I do love looking at you, when we are singing hymns. The reason I love to do that is, because I know many of you know those hymns from memory. It is not just something you are reading from a page, but it is something you have right here, in your head. When you are going through times of distress in your life, you can think about what God's Word has shared with you, and you can think about what the hymn writers have written for you.

It was Jonah who deserved death for disobeying God. But, it is God who shows extraordinary mercy with Jonah. And, in sharing that extraordinary mercy with Jonah, three days after he was in the belly of that fish (different translations of Scripture say), “He was spit up on the shore”, or “He was vomited up on the shore”.

And then, Jonah did go to Nineveh. He preached a message to the Ninevites.

What happened? They repented.

God had mercy on the city of Nineveh, and He did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.

Well, the very last thing Jonah prayed in our Old Testament Lesson was this.

“Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

“Salvation belongs to the LORD.” The Hebrew root word for 'salvation' is 'yesua'. It is where the Greek name, 'Jesus', comes from. Salvation does belong to the LORD, because salvation is given to you, and to me, through Jesus.

But, this morning, we don't just consider what Jonah went through. Today, we also look at what Jesus went through. You see, it was Jesus, Himself, who said Jonah was a type of Christ. Jonah is a picture, and points us to Jesus.

For these last few days, leading up to today, we considered some of those prayers Jesus was praying - prayers of deliverance, and thanksgiving.

       -Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, Jesus prayed:


may this cup be removed from me,

yet not my Will,

but yours be done.”

“My God, my God.

Why have you forsaken me?”
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus was praying a prayer of deliverance, but also of thanksgiving.

During the course of His ministry, there were a few times the religious leaders came to Jesus, and said, “Show us a sign that you are from God.”

Jesus said, “No sign will be given to you except the sign of Jonah, for just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, and three nights, so the Son of Man is going to be in the heart of the earth for three days.”

Jesus was saying He was going to be going into the grave, but on the third day He would rise from the dead. That is what scripture says for you, and for me.

“Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins,

but He was raised to life for our justification.”

What Jesus did in being delivered over to death was to do exactly the thing we needed to pay for our sin.

But, it is now through His glorious resurrection, and through your faith in Jesus, as your Savior, that God now sees you through Jesus, as if you had never sinned.

Four years ago, there was a remarkable event that took place. Up the coast of Nigeria there was a Nigerian tugboat that overturned, during a turbulent storm. Of the twelve people on board, eleven people perished. The tugboat sank perfectly upside down in one hundred feet of water. Inside of that tugboat there was one four foot air-pocket in which the 29 year old cook, a man by the name Harrison O'Kene found. Here, Harrison O'Kene survived in this four foot air-pocket for three days.

A search, and rescue team was sent out. On the third day, they were knocking on the hull of the ship, and they only thought they would be finding dead bodies. But, they heard a faint knock in return! Those search, and rescue divers found their way into the ship. They found their way into this four foot air-pocket and when that scuba diver saw a hand coming at him, he was terrified, until he got into that air-pocket and found Harrison O'Kene alive, after three days of being trapped in that air-pocket!

He had a lot of nitrogen in his system, so they had to take great care to get him out of there. He was in a decompression chamber for a couple of days to get his oxygen level back up. In those days after his recovery, you should hear what he says. He was saying a prayer of deliverance, and thanksgiving, when he was in that air-pocket, he was praying Jesus would deliver him. He was also coming before the Lord with thanksgiving, just like Jonah did.

       -Harrison O'Kene was as good as dead, but he was raised!        -Jonah was as good as dead, but he was raised!

       -And, it was Jesus, our Savior, who was dead, but He was raised! The tomb is empty.

Jesus is risen!

Our scripture for today now makes a connection with you, and Jesus' resurrection. It says this in the book of Colossians,

“You were raised with Christ.”

You see, in life you go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, just like Jonah did, just like Harrison O'Kene did. We do too. It is we, who are going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. May we, like Jonah, and may we, like Harrison O'Kene, come before the Lord with prayers of deliverance, and also prayers of thanksgiving.

The final result is already shared with you, because notice the verb tense. It doesn't say, “You will be raised with Christ”, a future event. But, it is a past event.

“You were raised with Christ ,

and now you are hidden with Christ in God.”

It is a tremendous thing that our Savior, Jesus, did on Good Friday. He paid for our sin by His death on the cross. Now, as we gather together for Easter worship services, we are reminded God accepted the payment Jesus made for our sin. Eternal life in Heaven is yours! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!