Jonah 2 – The Sign of Jonah

For this week, please read through Jonah 2, particularly through the point-of-view of Jesus on Holy Saturday (the day between Good Friday and Easter).

Holy Saturday:

Holy Saturday is that time of remembrance of Christ’s descent to the dead (or the harrowing of hell) the occurs between Good Friday and Easter. In the Eastern Church, the book of Jonah is one of the seven Old Testament readings for this day. The reason for this reading on  Holy Saturday is that Jonah, and particularly Jonah 2, is not simply the story of Jonah, but is the story of Jesus.

The Sign of Jonah (Descent):

The gospels tell us that the Jewish leaders demanded a sign from Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah. Jesus responded that the only sign he would give would be the sign of Jonah. “‘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. 12:38-42, Luke 11:29-32. It is Jesus himself that draws this connection between himself and Jonah.

Although Jesus simply says that the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth, other parts of the New Testament affirm that Jesus was not simply in the earth, but in Sheol/Hades/Tartarus itself. Peter speaks of Jesus not being abandoned by God in Hades (Acts 2:31) and writes of Christ preaching to the dead who have been imprisoned (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6). Paul too writes of Jesus’s descent. Eph. 4:9, 1 Cor. 15:4. And, of course, we affirm Christ’s descent to the dead in the baptismal (Apostles) creed. 1979 BCP 304. The fish swallowing Jonah as a typology of hades swallowing Jesus is the first part of the story.

The Sign of Jonah (Ascent):

The sign of Jonah goes beyond simply the understanding that Jesus, like Jonah, will spend three days in the belly of Sheol. The Sign of Jonah is only complete when the fish vomits the incorruptible Jonah out. This is the second half of the sign. The Hebrew word for the fish’s action – qo – means to spew or vomit like a drunk (Jer. 25:27) or someone who has eaten something distasteful or bad (Prov. 23:8). The power of God makes the fish incapable of keeping Jonah within itself anymore. (v.10). In the same manner, so too does the power of God make it impossible for death to hold Christ as well. Acts 2:24. God made the fish vomit up Jonah, and so does God make the grave, Sheol, Hades, and death itself vomit Christ for it too becomes incapable of keeping him within its belly.

 “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 15:54b-57

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