The mission of our day is God’s mercy made available for people of all color, creed, and culture. From every dark and hidden corner to every great and wicked city of the world. The message of that mission is that God cares for all people, and He loves all people, and He has made a way of hope for all people. As noble and glorious as that sounds, there is also a painful reality that comes with it. Not everyone wants God's mercy, nor will they love Him back - most will reject His gift to them. The word about that rejection for us on the inside is this... in spite of what we think, feel, or want, God loves and cares for the ones on the outside too - and until such time as we hear differently (like Jonah) that is our mission and that is our message! He loves (as we all sang the song growing up) all the little children of the world - and He wants us to tell them, sometimes over and over again!! It is not far from what Jesus said,
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."
Jonah, as everybody at Reunion knows by now, is a story about a prophet and about a “great fish,” which, by the time Matthew wrote his biography of Jesus, had been transformed in the popular imagination into some species of whale (Matthew 12:40). In the Good News Bible, for example, a series of twenty-one sketches trace the course of Jonah's story—but there is no picture of the whale! Such a huge creature, however (as we have learned), cannot be so easily dismissed from the prophetic themes and messages of Jonah. There are spiritually significant connections to Jonah and his story everywhere.
The most significant is a primary connection of the Jonah story with our hope in Christ, and then our call from Christ that comes from the New Testament. Jesus said,
“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”
Jonah’s experience of being swallowed and then delivered is understood by most all non-liberal theologians as a type of preview of the death and resurrection of Jesus - it is called a Christo-logical interpretation. This interpretation of the Jonah story gives us a pretty clear preview of the story of Jesus. It is also called it a "type and shadow." Let me explain.
Front and center of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, is Michelangelo's Jonah and the Great Fish. Knowing that the bible is filled with people of much more significance and impact, I wondered how did the little and bizarre story of Jonah occupy such an important position in historical art and the creative mind and beauty of Michelangelo? The answer of course was in the words of Jesus... "behold, something greater than Jonah is here." By now I hope that we have all agreed that there is something extremely unique about Jonah in the Bible and his story to us. Think for a moment about the four weeks we have invested into Jonah. Let me tell you what has been happening - full circle it has been a process of us making connection to Jonah - and then the connection of Jonah to Christ - Christ to Jonah - moving then to the connection of Christ to us, completed with the connection of us back to Jonah. Interesting, right? So, to finish this series I want to walk us back through the connection of Jonah to Christ. Let’s answer a couple of important questions.
Does the Old Testament and its characters and covenants truly connect to Christ and the New Testament covenant?
If so, doesn't that make Jonah and other Old Testament prophets like him not only relevant, but vital to our understanding and revelation of faith?
Jonah was a type of Christ in that he was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Just as he underwent a typical death and resurrection, so our Lord Jesus died and was raised for our justification. After Jonah was typically resurrected from the belly of the fish he went to the Gentiles. After Jesus was raised from the dead He went, though His apostles, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Another significant example is that Jonah is the only Hebrew prophet (Old Covenant) called by God to address and deliver a salvation message to a nation other than Israel, making him (in this context) a pre-cursor to the New Covenant to be revealed to all people of all nations and through the person of Jesus Christ.
These Jonah images portray and prefigure Jesus's prayerful agony as he accepted his bitter cup of suffering in Gethsemane, his being lifted up, and his feeling forsaken on Calvary. These were followed by the images of his death and resurrection ministry. In Jonah's miraculous third-day deliverance from the Lord's great fish, you and I can easily visualize the dynamic image of Jesus's rising from the dead with his third-day resurrection. Jesus himself called attention to this likeness when he referred to it with His disciples as "the sign of Jonah." The miraculous image of Jonah's mission and message to Nineveh's and their repentance followed by an era of peace and the fear of God, in a worldly city provides images that symbolize the Lord's second coming as the world's Savior and Judge.
So Jonah was considered the first “ecumenical” of the Hebrew "Old Covenant" prophets, reminding not only Israel but all peoples that "God the Creator of all" exists, loves and cares for all. When I look at Michelangelo's painting it says far more to me than... "here is a painting of the rebellious prophet whose God caused a great fish to swallow him because he refused deliver a message that would save the enemies of his people." What I see is the heart and Spirit of the same God who not only raised Jesus from the dead, but also the same God who created the heavens and the earth, and the God who spoke not only through the Hebrew prophets, but also through the sacred writings and self-sacrifice of generations of believing gentiles - consisting of all race, creed and country. I see the God who spoke through the thinkers, the orators, the artists, the poets, the musicians, the singers and songwriters, and through men and women both willing and unwilling, approved and unapproved to show His unfailing and unending love for all mankind. That is a type (reflection of) and shadow (of things to come) of Jesus and His unrestricted and unending love.
The God of the Bible both Old Testament and New, has never been the exclusive property of rabbis and, theologians, scholars and priests, professors and preachers. It has never been the sole possession of nations, religions, kingdoms and cultures. Though many have tried to lay exclusive claim to its content and universal authority and influence, it's only possessor and authority is itself and the God who inspired it by His Spirit. Christ remains the Word of God, given to all, and for all.
The Bible and it stories, its lessons, its truth, its meaning, and its hope has always been the book for all the people. Red, yellow, black, and white. Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, and Christian. Heterosexual, homosexual, gay, straight, gender-specific, gender-not or gender-neutral. Accepted or rejected, obeyed, disobeyed, believed or not believed - the Bible is the everlasting word of God for all people. And that is our 521 Multiplied connection. What God has given to all of us at Reunion is not just for us - it is for all the people and must be multiplied.