A sign like Jonah: 28 March 2015

The Two Marys at the Tomb is by Bartolomeo Schedoni’s who lives a brief and tormented life. His style  is highly innovative and unusual. He blocked out gestures, used violent light and dazzling whites, and created a perfect clarity of detail.

Matt 28 5 The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’

Jonah 2 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in for ever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

7 ‘When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 ‘Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 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.”’

We would not remember Jonah at all if he had merely been swallowed by a fish. The only element of the story that makes it memorable was that the prophet came out of the fish. "Out of the fish" makes Jonah a tale never to be forgotten.

Jesus said Jonah was a reminder of an oft-revealed plan: "This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation" (Luke 11:29-30). "For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights" (Matthew 12:40).

We would not remember the story of Jesus if he had been put in the earth and swallowed by rigor mortis and decomposition. Certainly, the cross is central to our faith. But if Christ’s life story had ended between two petty thieves on a dusty knoll, we would have no Easter joy. We remember Jesus because the earth, like Jonah’s bewildered fish, had to give him up again. Now we will never forget the wonder of Jesus’ story – dead, though not for long, then alive forever.

"He has been resurrected, just as He said," the angels announced. This reminds us that however the resurrection may have surprised the apostles, it did not surprise God.

Lord, you live, and because of that, so do I. You will never die again, and because of that, I too will find death of no eternal consequence. Help me worship you today, not like those who rained fickle hosannas on you as you rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, but with the surrendered heart of a true believer.