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Lesson 12: The Sign of the Prophet Jonah *

Introduction: Have you heard the expression, "It was all over except for the shouting?" That is where we are in our study of Jonah. Our Jonah story is over. If I were to grade Jonah as a prophet, it would be a pretty low score. How about you? What do you think about Jonah? When grading Jonah consider both his attitude and the result of his work. How do you think God views Jonah? That last question leads us into our study today. What kind of "shouting" follows the story of Jonah? Let's dive into the Bible and find out Jesus had to say about Jonah!

  1. Signs for Seekers?

    1. Read Matthew 12:38. For what are these Jewish leaders asking? Are they asking for Jesus' autograph? (They want Jesus to perform some sort of miracle so that He can prove Himself to them.)

      1. If you were Jesus, would this be an insulting request?

      2. What, if anything, do you think is wrong with this request?

    2. Read Matthew 12:39. Jesus apparently did not think this was a proper request. What did Jesus say was wrong with the request for a sign? (Jesus said they were a "wicked and adulterous generation.")

      1. Wait a minute! Read Luke 19:10. I thought these (wicked and adulterous people) were the target audience for Jesus!

        1. Has Jesus temporarily forgotten His mission?

    3. Move back in Matthew 12 and read verses 22-23. Isn't this a sign?

    4. Move back again and read Matthew 12:13-14. Isn't this another sign?

      1. Did you notice the reaction of the audience to each of those miracles? Compare the attitude of the "average Joe (Joseph)" with the attitude of the Jewish leaders? (Jesus had been providing signs. When the leaders saw the signs they decided to kill Jesus ( Matthew 12:14). When the average Jew saw the signs, it made him wonder if Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 12:23).

    5. What do these texts reveal to us about the reason why Jesus refused to give a sign in Matthew 12:39? (Jesus was willing to give a sign to those who truly sought knowledge. However, He was not giving signs to those who simply demanded them and whose minds were already made up to reject Him.)

      1. Do you find a lesson in this for your work today?

        1. Or, is this an area in which only Jesus can judge?

  2. The Sign of Jonah Versus the Sign of Jesus

    1. Read Matthew 12:39 again. Did Jesus completely refuse to give a sign to those who did not want to learn? (No. Jesus said they would get the "sign" of Jonah.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:40-41. When was Jesus three days in the heart of the earth? (After His crucifixion and before His resurrection.)

      1. Was this a sign for unbelievers? (It was the ultimate sign. Jesus coming back from the grave and being raised to eternal life goes to the heart of the gospel. It is the ultimate victory of God - defeating death and evil.)

    3. Jesus compares his coming crucifixion, rest in the grave and resurrection to Jonah's fish swallow, hold and burp. Let's compare Jonah and Jesus.

      1. Compare the mission of Jonah and Jesus?

      2. Compare the advance concerns of Jonah and Jesus about their reception? (As we have studied in these lessons, the Assyrians were savage. They amputated limbs, skinned people, and sealed them alive into walls. However, it was Jesus, not Jonah, who experienced a brutal death at the hands of His audience.)

      3. Compare the reputation of the audiences of Jesus and Jonah?

      4. Compare the attitude of Jesus and Jonah in presenting God's word?

      5. Compare the cultural differences faced by Jesus and Jonah? (A theme in our study has been that Jonah was reluctant to witness to the enemy. His audience was unworthy of his message in his eyes.)

        1. How does Jesus' background compare? (Jesus was our Creator. There was a much greater difference in our "worth.")

      6. Compare the hopes of Jesus and Jonah. What did each hope to accomplish?

      7. How are Jonah's three days in the fish like Jesus' three days in the earth? (I see at least two parallels. Jonah changed and agreed to witness to the Ninevites during the three days. That change brought salvation to the Ninevites. Jesus' three days and resurrection brought salvation to us. Jonah escaped death while in the fish. We escaped death through Jesus being in the earth.)

      8. How are Jonah's three days in the fish unlike Jesus' three days in the earth? (Jonah was thrown into the water by unwilling sailors who did not want to offend Jonah's God. Jesus was thrown into death by willing (or ignorant) Romans and Jews. Jonah was running away from his mission when he was tossed into the water. Jesus was fulfilling His mission when He was put in the earth. Jonah got into the fish because of his rebellion. Jesus got into the earth as a result of His love and obedience.)

      9. Compare the outcome for the cities which were the primary target of the messages of Jonah and Jesus? (After Jonah's fish experience the entire city of Nineveh repented and was spared. After Jesus' death/resurrection experience much of Jerusalem did not repent and it was destroyed about 40 years later.)

      10. Can you think of any other comparisons between Jesus and Jonah?

    4. What do you think Jesus' audience was thinking when they heard His words in Matthew 12:41? Would the Jewish leaders be insulted by Jesus reference to the Ninevites repenting? (Yes. Jesus was suggesting that the pagan citizens of Nineveh were more spiritually alert than the chosen people of Jerusalem.)

      1. Is Jesus' statement true? (Absolutely. Especially, remember that the city of Nineveh repented after only one day of warning and the repentance was total - from top to bottom. Jonah 3:4-5.)

        1. Is there a lesson or warning for us in the words of Jesus? (Being complacent in our "righteousness" is dangerous.)

  3. One Greater

    1. Matthew 12:41 ends with Jesus claiming to be greater than Jonah. List the ways in which Jesus is greater than Jonah? (Jesus is God while Jonah was a mere man. Jesus obeyed God the Father while Jonah did not. Jesus sought to seek and save the lost. Jonah sought to avoid and destroy the lost. Jesus gave His life for the world. Jonah gave just a few weeks to his mission. Jesus had a message of grace. Jonah had a message of destruction. As we have discussed, Jonah probably specifically omitted the grace part of his message. Jesus wanted to live. Jonah wanted to die.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:42. Who is the "Queen of the South?" (Quickly read 1 Kings 10:1-9. This is the Queen of Sheba.)

      1. Was this another insult to Jesus' listeners? (Solomon was a great king and the Queen was (again) a pagan who listened.)

      1. How do Solomon and Jesus compare in wisdom?

      2. Why will the Queen of Sheba stand in the judgment and condemn those who were challenging Jesus? (The Queen traveled a great distance to hear the wise words of Solomon. Jesus' challengers would not listen to His wise words even when He was standing right there.)

        1. How about you? Are Jesus' words easily available to you? Are you making an effort to listen to the One greater than Solomon and Jonah?

    1. Friend, are you looking for additional signs from God or have you seen enough? If you have seen enough, repent and turn your life over to Jesus. Follow the example of the citizens of Nineveh and not the example of those who had been blessed with a great knowledge of God but possessed hard hearts.

  1. Next Week: A Picture of God.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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