(May 1, 2020)

Jonah 1:17And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” –

There is one question that someone eventually asks about Jonah: “Did it happen?” That is, was Jonah literally swallowed by a fish, or is the story more like one of Jesus’ parables? Each group seems shocked at the other group’s question. I think it is a fair question; it is essentially asking what genre this Book is. I think you can question the Bible all you want; it is the Word of God; it is stronger than any test.

It reminds me of the story that goes something like this: someone once asked a famous pastor if he was going to defend the Bible against its critics. The man paused and said, “Defend the Bible? I’d just assume defend a lion. You don’t defend the Bible; you open its cage and let it roar.” What do I think? The Bible says a big fish swallowed Jonah; so I say a big fish swallowed Jonah.

Now, three points:

First, this is stunningly creative. A big fish? Would you have thought of that? I would have thought up a thousand different ways of dragging Jonah to Nineveh before coming up with a whale loogie. …why is it that the older we get the more we tend to lose our sense of wonder?

Second, consider: some people—working on translating this whale passage—have wondered if Jonah actually died while inside the fish. This would mean he died… and was raised. Death and resurrection. We have already noted Jesus’ talk of “the sign of Jonah,” and Jesus’ Resurrection. …Fun to think about.

Third, if the common question is “did this happen to Jonah?” Don’t forget to ask the uncommon question: “Has it happened to you?” Have you been so stuck in the circumstances of life that you cried out to God? That you received New Life? That God met you right in the place of death, and life has never been the same since? Do you know God like this? If you have not been stuck in life, or if you are not now—you will be.

This question about Jonah’s fishing trip points us to the most fundamental question of the Bible: Not “what?” or “when?” but “Who?” Who is this God who loves us and gives us New Life? Who is this Jesus? It’s not a question of theory, but of reality. And if you experience new life from Jesus while reading the Bible, then you know what it means to say: “The Lion has been let out of its cage.”  And that’s when you will truly understand Jonah.