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Sabbath School Lessons on Jonah
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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
- Signs for Seekers?
- 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.)
- If you were Jesus, would this be an insulting
- What, if anything, do you think is wrong with this
- 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.")
- Wait a minute! Read Luke 19:10. I thought these
(wicked and adulterous people) were the target
audience for Jesus!
- Has Jesus temporarily forgotten His mission?
- Move back in Matthew 12 and read verses 22-23. Isn't this
- Move back again and read Matthew 12:13-14. Isn't this
- 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
- 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.)
- Do you find a lesson in this for your work today?
- Or, is this an area in which only Jesus can
- The Sign of Jonah Versus the Sign of Jesus
- 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.)
- Read Matthew 12:40-41. When was Jesus three days in the
heart of the earth? (After His crucifixion and before His
- 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.)
- 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.
- Compare the mission of Jonah and Jesus?
- 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
- Compare the reputation of the audiences of Jesus and
- Compare the attitude of Jesus and Jonah in presenting
- 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.)
- How does Jesus' background compare? (Jesus was
our Creator. There was a much greater difference
in our "worth.")
- Compare the hopes of Jesus and Jonah. What did each
hope to accomplish?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- Can you think of any other comparisons between Jesus
- 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
- 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.)
- Is there a lesson or warning for us in the words
of Jesus? (Being complacent in our
"righteousness" is dangerous.)
- One Greater
- 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
- Read Matthew 12:42. Who is the "Queen of the South?"
(Quickly read 1 Kings 10:1-9. This is the Queen of
- Was this another insult to Jesus' listeners? (Solomon
was a great king and the Queen was (again) a pagan
- How do Solomon and Jesus compare in wisdom?
- 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.)
- How about you? Are Jesus' words easily
available to you? Are you making an effort to
listen to the One greater than Solomon and
- 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
- 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.