by Pastor Red
If you think back to all the stories from the Bible that you remember from childhood, the more miraculous ones crop up first. Creation, David versus Goliath, the Feeding of the Five Thousand all convey the wonder of God doing fantastic things on this earth to show His power, protection, & even grace. But it is the tale of Jonah that receives more than its share of disdain & derision from critics who want to tear down the Bible's authority.
To those who only want to poke fun at Scripture, the account of Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is an easy one to get their hooks into. Not only the idea of a fish large enough to swallow a full-grown man is ludicrous to faithless ears, but Jonah's survival in the animal for three days just adds more fuel to their fire of picking away at the message this episode was written to tell.
It would be only just one more jab against the faith & God by unbelievers, another easily dismissed jibe from those who work every day against God, if even some Christians, pastors & professors no less, didn't follow in the disbelieving trail. Yes, there are pastors & professors who proclaim their faith while openly denying & declaring that Jonah's account of the fist was just a fairy story. These so-called myths were written to teach a lesson, like Aesop did with working ants & lazy grasshoppers, but were never meant to be seen as real. Not only does the Bible contain myth & legend, but only the most weak-minded or childish would actually hold these miraculous stories as being true, real, & actual occurrences. And they go on to say that we can discount these stories without hurting the truth of the Gospel, because these stories are only illustrations of Gospel truths.
Well, if this is true, then they should be introduced to that infinitely childish Jesus of Nazareth. He knew that the life of Jonah was real, all of it. Jesus himself said, "An evil & adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days & three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days & three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation & condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, & behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:39-41).
Jonah is more important than people see because he was a sign pointing to Christ. He showed the power of God that leads to forgiveness & salvation. In fact, Jonah's salvation & new life came through certain death, came through the darkness & isolation of someplace as close to the grave as possible, without involving tombstones & coffins.
Yes, Jonah's ordeal in the fist is extraordinary & miraculous & impossible & hard to grasp, but he was only dealing with a giant fish & three days lodged in its gizzard. If Jonah is a fake, then what about Jesus himself? What about His very real death? What about His three day stay lodged in the tomb of death? What about His return to life on Easter morning? We cannot fool ourselves into thinking we can dismiss Jonah without dismissing our Savior because Jesus ties Himself to the prophet by His own words.
If God can do the impossible by creating the universe in six days, if He had the forbearance to wait thousands of years to save the world through His Son, if He could do the impossible by uniting Himself to human flesh to be the God/man, if He could die on the cross to destroy death & rise again to prove that sin & its curse is destroyed forever, if He could offer this hard-fought prize to all who call upon His name, then why could He not have a giant fish swallow a rebellious & hard-hearted prophet to teach him, & so many other believers, a lesson in forgiveness & pure grace?
Yes, the Bible contains stories of great wonder & fantastic events. Yes, the Bible has stories were God is working in strange & marvelous ways on this earth. Yes, all of these can ultimately only be held in faith, but it is God who gives us that faith to hold fast & tight to all of His Word. All of His Word points toward Christ & His crucifixion, Christ & His salvation. Just like we cannot remove one stone in a wall without weakening the whole structure, we surely cannot remove a single episode or sentence from Scripture without denigrating the whole of God's work of forgiveness for us. He Himself has said, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, & if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life & in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).