Men are all alike. They let signs mislead them. And signs are not exclusive to the men of God. False men also perform signs. Jesus spoke, saying: “For there will arise false christs, and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones” (Matt. 24:24). Satan’s prophets are specialists on signs and prodigies, according to Paul: “Even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). False prophets abound because men like signs. But Jesus was not in agreement with signs. One day Jesus cast out a dumb demon, and the dumb man spoke. The multitude was amazed, but soon someone said: He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Someone else said: Perform a sign from heaven and we will believe in you (Luke 11:14-16). They had seen the dumb man speak. Why ask for another sign? Jesus did not comply with the request. Another day, around the Passover, Jesus saw the moneychangers in the Temple selling oxen, sheep and doves. Then, he cast them out of the temple with a whip, saying: Do not make a market out of the house of my Father (John 2:13-16). The Jews said to Jesus: “’What sign do you show us, seeing that you do these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple! Will you raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21). The resurrection of Jesus was a sign only to his disciples (John 2:22). Therefore Jesus did not perform signs to the Jews. Another day the Pharisees said to Jesus: “‘What must we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ They said therefore to him, ‘What then do you do for a sign, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you do?’” (John 6:28-30). Jesus’ answer confounded them, for they were incredulous.
There was a time when Jesus gave a sign to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they approached him: “‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matt. 12:38-40). Everybody understands that Jesus was speaking of the time he remained in the tomb, and therefore the following problem was created: Jesus died at approximately 5 pm on Friday. In order to stay for three days and three nights in the bosom of the earth he would have had to stay there until 5 pm on Monday. But Jesus rose up on Sunday, at 4 am, that is, 37 hours until the end of the three days. There is no explanation for this mystery, literally speaking. It can only be spiritually solved, for Jesus was speaking in parables: “Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the multitudes; and without a parable, he didn’t speak to them” (Matt. 13:34). We find the same declaration made by the evangelist Mark (Mark 4:33-34).
Luke does not say that to remain under the earth is the sign, Luke says that Jonah is the sign: “For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will also the Son of Man be to this generation” (Luke 11:30). Let us analyze allegorically the narrative of the book of the prophet, for we read in Psalm 78:2: “His tabernacle is also in Salem; His dwelling place in Zion”.
- The sea is a figure of nations, peoples and languages (Rev. 17:15).
- The ship is a figure of the Jewish people passing through the story of the kingdoms of this world, for great nations and great kingdoms oppressing Israel do not exist any longer, but Israel stands until today.
- Jonah sleeping deeply in the ship’s hold is Jesus, humble, poor, and unrevealed for thirty years (Jonah 1:5).
- The shipmaster that woke up Jonah is the Holy Spirit who led Jesus to the baptism, the initial step of his work (Jonah 1:6; Matt. 3:13-17). When Jesus was baptized the heavens opened up and the Spirit of God came down upon him in the shape of a dove. And the name of Jonah means, “Dove”!
- The storm brought about by Jehovah, as we read in Jonah 1:4, is Jehovah blinding the eyes of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and of the princes and priests of the temple of Jehovah, for Paul reveals to us this truth: “In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them” (2 Cor. 4:4). Obviously Satan is not God, for he is a fallen angel (Luke 10:18). But Paul clearly spoke: “THE GOD OF THIS WORLD.” If we say that Satan is God, we are saying that there are two gods, but as there is only one God, the one who did blind them was Jehovah, the god of this world, for he himself commanded Isaiah to make men blind (Is. 6:10). He declares to be the god of the kingdoms of the world. The very blindness that Jehovah caused led the Jews to unbelief in Jesus (John 12:37-41). And it also gave start to a furious religious persecution against Jesus with the purpose of destroying him.
- Jonah as thrown in the waters with the purpose of saving the ship and its crew is Jesus rejected by his own (Jonah 1:10-11). Caiaphas, the high priest, prophesied the death of Christ (John 11:49-53; Jonah 1:7-15).
- Jonah swallowed by the fish is Jesus devoured by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the princes and priests of the temple (Jonah 1:17). The great fish is the religious power. Jonah devoured by the fish signifies the certainty the leaders had of killing him, having as weapon the law of Jehovah. They cunningly tried to catch him in some contradiction in order to kill him (John 5:15-16). Also because Jesus declared that God was his Father (John 5:8). Jesus told them: “Didn’t Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill me?” (John 7:19). The Jews, full of anger, banished Jesus from the city and took him to the brow of a hill to throw him off the cliff, but Jesus went away (Luke 4:28-30). They planned to stone Jesus for saying that he existed before Abraham (John 8:56-59). Jesus spent his time escaping the murderous hands of his persecutors (John 10:37-39). The persecution was such that Jesus could not relax. He did not have a place to rest his head (Matt. 8:19-20). After the prophecy of Caiaphas, the high priest, they decided, once and for all, to kill him (John 11:49-53). From there on Jesus could not walk openly any longer (John 11:54).
Jonah in the belly of the fish is a figurative language of the Bible (Job 20:15-19). The Pharisee declared that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub (Matt. 12:22-24). Scoffing, they called Jesus, Beelzebub (Matt. 10:25). To them, Jesus was demon possessed (John 7:19-20; 8:48,52; 10:20).
The pressure was such, that Jesus, in his flesh, offered up prayers and petitions with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7). It was as if Jesus, surrounded by the religious men of his time, were in the belly of hell. In this, Jonah was the perfect figure, for in the belly of the fish, “… Jonah prayed to Jehovah, his God, out of the fish’s belly. He said, ‘I called because of my affliction to Jehovah. He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried. You heard my voice’” (John 2:1-2). And Jesus, in the belly of the priests and Pharisees, prayed, and his anguish was such that he said: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” In his agony His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:42-44). This is the sign of the prophet Jonah: not exactly the time he remained in the bosom of the earth, but the cruelty he suffered in the hands of the religious leaders.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira