Reading The Book of Jonah as a Christian it is appealing to see a contrast, not only between Jonah and the nature of God, but also between Jonah and Jesus. I see at least four interesting comparisons.

Jonah hears “the word of the Lord” instructing him to “Go at once to Nineveh.” Jonah seeks to flee from the word of the Lord and heads for Joppa.

Jesus heard “the word of the Lord” telling him to go to Jerusalem to face the horror of injustice and suffering that was crucifixion. Like Jonah Jesus longed to flee from his destiny. Matthew shows Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane left his disciples and

going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…. (Matthew 26:39)

But, unlike Jonah, Jesus did not try to flee from God’s presence. Instead Jesus indicated immediately his willingness to submit to God’s undesirable will adding,

yet not what I want but what you want.

Am I Jonah determined to impose my will on the universe or will I set my course with Jesus and submit myself to the will of the One who speaks a word of truth in my heart?

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Jonah fleeing from God’s will finds himself in the midst of a storm with terrified sailors seeking to save their ship. The narrator says as the sailors worked,

Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep?’ (Jonah 5,6)

Jesus with his disciples in a boat, got caught in a storm. Like Jonah in the midst of the storm, Jesus fell asleep in the boat,

A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but Jesus was asleep. And his disciples went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’(Matthew 8:24,25)

Jonah slept the sleep of unconsciousness; Jesus slept the sleep of trust.

Am I Jonah asleep in the midst of the storm of my own denial and disobedience? Or do I sleep the sleep of Jesus in absolute peace because I trust deeply in the goodness of love that are embodied in the person of Jesus?

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Jonah was buried in the sea for his disobedience, but “spewed…. out upon the dry land” after “three days and three nights” in “the belly of the fish. Despite his dramatic deliverance, Jonah appears to have come back to the land of the living largely unchanged.

Jesus was buried in the ground due to the sins of others. After three days in the tomb, Jesus was “spewed” out again into life as an embodiment of the truth that life is stronger that death and love is more enduring and true than all the vengeance, violence and retribution of Jonah.

Will I rise with Jesus and live the transformed life that his resurrection promises to all those who live in the power of his risen life?

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Finally, Jonah’s tale ends with the angry prophet clinging to his unforgiveness and hoping for the destruction of Nineveh. Faced with God’s mercy towards the people of Nineveh the narrator says,

this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He at under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. (Jonah 4:1, 5)

Jesus, having suffered brutal injustice and vicious violence, had only forgiveness in his heart at the end:

Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34)

To the very end, Jesus embodied the merciful gracious and forgiving attitude that he shared with his Father.

Faced with the choice of being Jesus or being Jonah, I can only pray that I may not in the end be Jonah.