Greater Than Jonas In The Magnificence Of His Message
(Matthew 12 Verse 41)
The believer, no doubt, is familiar with the story of Jonah as outlined in the prophecy which bears his name. Many and varied have been the attacks made by the sceptics on this inspired record: but the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ authenticated it is sufficient reason for the Christian accepting without reserve the facts divinely presented.
It is not our desire to lay emphasis on the indiscretions and defections of any servant of the Lord; but rather to place against the darkened background of the Prophet’s history the perfect life of the Lord’s flawless servant, our Lord Jesus Christ.
While there are some things which we may compare in the life of Jonah with some things in the life of Christ, there are numerous contrasts which, when examined, enable us to appreciate the perfection of the One whom God, by the pen of Isaiah, designated “My Servant” (Isa: 42).
Jonah was a servant of the Lord, and our Lord took the place of servitude that He might in perfection do the will of Him that sent Him and finish the work He came into this scene to perform. The claim of our Lord is, “I do always those things that please Him (the Father).” “I came … not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” Even toward the close of His earthly pathway Christ could say “Not My will, but Thine, be done.”
Jonah was a disobedient servant, electing to pursue a course contrary to the mind and will of God; a course which well nigh brought him to ruin but for the mercy of God. Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered. There never was any spirit of rebellion in the life and walk of our glorious Lord! When we review the service enacted for God His Father, we rejoice as He states, “I have finished the work which Thou gayest Me to do.” How many can truthfully say this at the close of their pilgrimage on earth? At the best we are unprofitable servants.
There was a moment in the experience of Jonah when he discovered and confessed, “Salvation is of the Lord.” In Christ we have the Lord of Salvation. Peter affirmed this in Acts 4:12, saying, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Christ Himself attested the great truth, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Now, “God bath made that same Jesus… both Lord and Christ.”
The greatest contrast in examining the life of Jonah and that of Christ lies in the character of the message each servant was commissioned to declare. Jonah was commanded, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me.” On receipt of such a message Jonah determined to run away from God. The message may not have sounded very palatable to the Prophet Jonah, but his responsibility was to obey, and carry out the divine instructions. It may not seem popular to be the bearer of sad tidings. Ahimaaz was the bearer of no tidings. Cushi was the bearer of sad tidings (2 Sam. 18:22-32). A man of Benjamin was the bearer of bad tidings (1 Sam. 4:12-22). Christ came with Glad Tidings. In Hebrews 2:3 we are informed that the great salvation “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord” was confirmed unto us by them that heard. The message of salvation had been declared by our Lord, and those who heard it continued to herald it. It is God’s Glad Tidings to men. Salvation is a blessing for those who are lost. Concerning this salvation the prophets have searched diligently. Associated with the Glad Tidings are two foundational truths, viz., “the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.” This salvation about which Christ spoke while here on earth has its initial experience in the soul of the believer: it has its progressive experience in the life of the saint, and it will have its consummation in the ultimate glory to which the Captain of our Salvation is bringing many sons (Heb. 2:10). What a wonderful message is this Great Salvation! It stands in marked contrast to the communication conveyed to Jonah and from which he recoiled and fled.
Another important contrast is in the fact that though Jonah was a prophet, in Christ there is the Prophet alluded to by Moses almost fifteen hundred years prior to Christ’s advent when he said “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of the brethren, like unto me: unto him ye shall hearken.” Peter, in Acts 3:22, attests the application of the inspired words of Moses as relating wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was that Prophet foretold by prophet and seer: One who has revealed through parable and exposition the future for those who love the Lord, and for those who decline His mercy.
To summarize, it should be noted that Jonah was a servant: Christ was the perfect Servant of the Lord. Jonah was disobedient: Christ became obedient unto death, and learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Jonah ran away from God: Christ lived in daily communion with His Father. Jonah learnt that “Salvation is of the Lord”: Christ is the Lord of Salvation! Jonah had a message for that “great city Nineveh”: Christ came with a message for “the little city” alluded to by the wise man Solomon (Ecc. 9:14). In point of fact He came, and through His wisdom delivered the city; for none could ever have conceived such a plan as that divinely wrought whereby salvation could be the enjoyed portion of the sinner who will believe and accept God’s provision through the sacrifice of Calvary. Jonah was a prophet whose spasmodic experiences reveal much of His self-will: Christ was the Prophet alluded to by Moses so long before of whom it truly was said, “Never man spake like this Man.”
The Lord Jesus Christ replying to the demand of the scribes and Pharisees who had asked that they might see a sign, stated emphatically, “An evil and an adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonah.” Then He alluded to the three days and the three nights during which Jonah was in the whale’s belly as a sign that “The Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Enlarging on this, the Lord made mention of Nineveh and indicated that the men there would rise in judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold a greater than Jonah is here.” Christ not only presented the truth in its most blessed aspect — salvation — but He oft-times warned of the wrath to come. If men repented at the preaching of Jonah, surely they ought to give attention to the warnings of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
The message in its magnificence has been heralded by Christ and we have caught the fire of such glad tidings. We cease not to make them known in this the day of opportunity. What a response to Jonah’s message! May there be a great response to the greatest of all messages, that joys untold, never to pass away, may be the portion of all who come under the sound of such a magnificent message.