THE SIGN OF JONAH
Mark 8:12; Luke 1129, 30; Matthew 12:39-41
Mark 8:11 says, “Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.”
In spite of the many miracles Jesus had already performed, the Pharisees would not accept them as evidence that He was the Divine Son of God. So on this occasion they demanded that He show them a special sign from heaven. We don't know exactly what kind of a miracle they wanted to see. It would appear that they demanded a miracle come right out of heaven itself and not from Jesus alone. They wanted some kind of stupendous miracle to convince them. They had ignored all the great miracles He had already performed, and this demand irritated Jesus. One gospel. writer said, “He sighed deeply in His spirit.” Another reports Him saying, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Still another reports Him saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.”
Some people find a problem in the way Jesus answered the request of the Pharisees. In Mark's account Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” In Matthew's and Luke's accounts Jesus says, “No sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.? .For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh so will the Son of man be to this generation.”
First, there seem to appear to be a contradiction between the two reported sayings of Jesus. One saying is, “No sign shall be given at all” and the other is, “no sign except the sign of Jonah.” There is really no contradiction here if we study all three accounts of this conversation.
When Jesus said, “No sign shall be given to this generation, “ He meant that He was not going to give the Pharisees some kind of fantastic miraculous display from heaven, some super miracle from heaven. In other words He was not going to give the Pharisees some kind of a miracle which they demanded. On the other hand when He said, “No sign shall be given this generation except the sign of Jonah,” He meant that one more tremendous sign would be given to that generation, and He called it the “sign of the prophet Jonah.” They would receive no other miracle than that sign of Jonah. Thus, that generation was to receive no miracle such as the Pharisees demanded, and the only additional sign or miracle that they will receive is the sign of Jonah the prophet. In one sense they will receive no sign and in another sense they will receive a sign. one of God's choosing and not their choosing.
Another controversy arises in passage about the sign of Jonah.
What was the sign of Jonah? Matthew 12: 40, 41 says, “For as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” Luke adds this to that statement, “As Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation.”
Since Jesus was to be a sign to that generation as Jonah was a sign to Nineveh, we must first determine in what way was Jonah a sign to Nineveh. The word sign here refers to a miracle of some kind. Jonah had been commanded to preach to the city of Nineveh. Jonah hated those people and he flat refused to go. To get away from God he boarded a ship for Spain and thought that would solve his problem. However God caused a storm to hit that ship and when the sailors found out that Jonah was running away from his God, they threw him overboard. He was swallowed by a big fish and remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. That may have been the first submarine ride. After three days the fish Jonah repented and asked God forgiveness. The fish spit him out on the ground, and he hit the ground running for Nineveh. and he really preached to them. His sermon was, , “Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The people believed him, repented and God changed His mind and did not destroy the city.
Now what was the sign of Jonah to Nineveh? Jesus said, “As Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation.” What was the evidence that he spoke with authority? What we the miracle that caused those people to listen to him? The miracle was that that God had miraculously preserved His life in the belly of a big fish for three days and nights. . Thus the sign of Jonah was the three days and nights he spent in the belly of the whale and came out a live. It was almost a resurrection from the dead. It was a miracle. Doubtless it was this miracle, this three days in the belly of a fish and the preserving of his life that convinced those people of Nineveh to believe that God sent him and he was speaking the truth. The sign of Jonah to Nineveh was his resurrection from the dead.
In like manner the sign of Jonah to that generation to which Jesus was speaking was to be the resurrection of Christ. Jonah was a type of Christ and the Holy Spirit used the experience of Jonah in the whale as a prophecy
of Jesus being three days and nights in the belly of ground. and then rising f rom the dead. The resurrection of Christ would be greatest of all the evidence that Christ was the divine Son of God.
Another thing about this passage that disturbs some people is that Jesus was not in the grave a full three days and three nights. He was in grave two full nights and parts of three days. He was in the grave on Friday, Saturday and a part of Sunday. He was in the grave Friday night and Saturday night. How long was Jonah in the belly of the whale?. Evidently, he was not in the whale exactly three twenty four hour days and nights to the very minute. Was he in the whale exactly three days and nights to the minute. If he was a minute off then what is said about him would not be true. Did God keep hi;m in the whale by clock time to the second.? Who knows. The meaning is he was in the whale three days and night in round figures.. The Holy Spirit chose this as a prophecy of Christ, and He clearly revealed that Christ was not in the tomb exactly three days and nights. The Holy Spirit gave the prophecy and explained it fulfillment in the New Testament. The apostles were guided into all truth and had their been a problem they would have corrected it. There is no problem, only an apparent problem. No one knows the exact time situation of Jonah in the whale. The prophecy was given in round numbers, not precise numbers.