Seeing Jesus Christ in the Old Testament Book of Jonah

Seeing-and-Finding-Jesus-Christ-in-the-Old-Testament-book-of-Jonah1When most people think of Jonah in the Bible, they think of the reluctant prophet who ran from God’s missionary call and was then swallowed up by a fish.

I think of my Sunday school’s flannel graph of Jonah and the great fish. Who could forget a man spending three days inside the belly of a sea monster?

As great as that story is, only remembering the “fish story” part of Jonah means we miss the larger picture of what Jonah is really about.

Jonah is a book about God’s sovereign control over earthly events, our need to repent of selfishness and hypocrisy, and His loving and gracious heart for repentant sinners.

The themes of this book, like every Old Testament book, point to the main focus of the whole Bible: the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Seeing Jesus Christ in the Old Testament book of Jonah will greatly aid us in understanding Jonah and how Jesus could refer to Himself as, “something greater than Jonah” (Matthew 12:38-42).

Comparing and Contrasting Jonah and Jesus

1. Jonah was a prophet preaching a message of repentance (Jonah 1:2, 3:1-4). Jesus was a prophet preaching a message of repentance (Acts 3:22; Mark 1:14-15).

2. Jonah ran from the difficult calling God gave Him (Jonah 1:3). Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father’s will and went to the cross.

3. Jonah slept on a ship during a storm caused by his own disobedience and offered up his life to save those on the ship (1:4-12). Jesus slept on a ship during a storm, calmed the storm, and would later offer up His life to save those who were disobedient.

4. Jonah claimed to fear the Creator God who had authority on earth (Jonah 1:9). Jesus is the Creator God with the supreme authority over all the earth (John 1:3; Matthew 28:18).

5. Jonah spent three days inside the belly of a great fish because of his own sin. Jesus spent three days inside the belly of the earth because of our sin.

6. Jonah knew that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves” and He is the only source of salvation from the Lord (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 4:12).

7. Jonah despised God for showing grace toward repentant sinners (Jonah 4:2). Jesus modeled God’s grace toward repentant sinners (Luke 19:10).

8. Jonah lacked concern for the salvation of people from other nations (specifically the Ninevites). Jesus loved the world so much that he gave his life to ransom people to God “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

9. Jonah was angry enough to die because of God’s grace toward sinners (Jonah 4:3). Jesus was compassionate enough to die because of His love for sinners (1 John 3:16).

10. Jonah cared exceedingly about a plant that provided him comfort (4:10-11). Jesus cared about a whole multitude of people enough to deny himself and His comfort to reconcile them to God (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Are you more like Jesus or Jonah?

God’s grace made Jonah angry and flee from the presence of the Lord. He didn’t want to share about a gracious and merciful God to a bunch of sinners who didn’t deserve it. Only after a series of miracles does Jonah decide to obey God, and when God uses Jonah’s actions to save a whole city of people–Jonah is furious.

Jesus is strikingly different than Jonah. He humbly followed His Father’s will and shared His heart for rebels–enough to give His live to save them.

Does that describe you? Do you share God’s heart for the lost, or do you reluctantly and half-heartedly perform the ministry God has given you?

If you find yourself like Jonah, you are not alone. We can easily become jaded in our evangelism and our heart toward unbelievers–but don’t forget that God’s slowness to anger and amazing grace extends to you as well. Repent of your Jonah-like attitudes and ask God for His heart for the world and for the strength to carry out the ministry He has given you. Colin Smith shares the following prayer that you can make yours today:

“Lord, make me less like Jonah and more like Jesus. Save me from being the kind of person who cares more about my comfort, my reputation, and my success than I do about the people You are calling me to serve. Help me to keep all of my dreams on Your altar and be ready at all times to respond with faith and obedience to Your call.”¹

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Author: Kevin Halloran.

¹Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life. Colin S. Smith

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.