The Only “Sign” of the Resurrection…..In the belly of DEATH.
Matthew 12:39-40 He answered “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Honestly, I can’t say that the story of Jonah and “the whale” has ranked high on my Easter weekend reading materials. But this year, due to a rare Easter week holiday spent in Branson, Missouri with Mike’s parents (Ray and Mary Chupp), it made it front and center. Some of you are aware that Branson, Missouri is the show capital of the Midwest. One particular show at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson this year is based upon the story of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. What a production! A huge cast of actors, live animals such as camels, trained donkeys, llamas, horses, a huge water buffalo, zebras, AND a huge helium filled fish made for a visual buffet. Our two daughters had no problem paying attention for 2 ½ hours! Jonah was thrown by sailors from a 50 foot, 30,000 lb wooden ship at the appropriate time and was swallowed by the helium filled monstrosity (or so it appeared). Video taken from inside the stomach of the fish documented Jonah’s peptic hair and skin treatments over his three day sea taxi ride to Ninevah as well as his change of heart and repentance to God for his disobedience. A highlight that brought tears to both Pam and my eyes was the song of deliverance sung by the choir of Ninevites when the 40 days passed and God was merciful to them, holding off on their destruction. As one by one the cruel and wicked men and women of Ninevah realized their sinfulness and fell down on their faces in sackcloth and ashes, our “hero” Jonah became severely distressed that his “crying out” had led to such widespread repentance.
The Sight and Sound theatre production of Jonah ended with Jesus himself appearing to Jonah to challenge him to repent of his own sin and pride and lack of mercy. Jesus revealed to the prophet that Jonah’s own experience with the mercy of God was a prophetic preparation for the ultimate display of God’s mercy in the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God for all mankind on the cross. As stated above in Matthew 12:39, Jesus told the Jews that Jonah’s sign was the ONLY sign they would receive and that the Son of Man would spend three days in the “belly of the earth”.
I’ve always been really hard on Jonah and his stubborn rebellion against being a messenger of mercy and hope. The Branson “Jonah” production added some creative license to the background of why Jonah might have really despised the people of Ninevah: they murdered his father in a raid on Jonah’s village. With the events of this week in Kenya and the attack and mass murder of a huge number of Kenyan university students by Islamic terrorists, especially targeting Christians, I can more easily understand the deep seated bitterness and anger that Jonah might have felt toward a group of people like the Ninevites. What if God called me to go to Somalia and cry out for repentance by the perpetrators of this violence? Would I go to the nearest port and run? Would I hunker down and hide? Would I explain to the Father that my own personal security and safety would be better for the Kingdom of God in the long run?
How incredible and moving it is for me to consider that Jesus didn’t respond like Jonah when given the charge by His Father to go to His Ninevah! He also faced a wicked and violent people whom He knew would hang him on a tree. His obedience would not result in immediate mass revival and repentance but ridicule, rejection, and death.
Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish could have come from our Lord Jesus from the grave:
Jonah 2:2 – 9 “ In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, “I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.” The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.”
The hope of resurrection: without it we’ve basically got nothing except this short bus-stop of a life in terms of eternity. I have to believe that this HOPE is all that many Kenyan families are hanging on to this tragic Easter weekend after so many young people died at the hands of evil men who really “knew not what they were doing”. Please join Pam and I in prayer for the 150+ families who are suffering so terribly this weekend with grief and for the nation of Kenya which has been rocked by terror repeatedly in the last 17 years. He is Risen…and we CLING to that FACT. We TRUST in that FACT. We want to nations to KNOW about that FACT….even those who desire the death and destruction of God’s children.
Mike and Pam Chupp
Mike and Pam Chupp