I am convinced that God is longing to take us deeper into Jesus’ death and resurrection this Easter and beyond.
I have been meditating on Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40 “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
In the past I interpreted Jesus ’offer here to give his contemporaries the sign of Jonah as something less than the signs that people craved. But Jesus really wanted to do far more for people. He came to die at human hands to undo the power of sin and death forever. He carried the world’s sins and sicknesses, violence and oppression with him to death and burial into the heart of the earth. He did this in total submission to the Father’s will, yielding himself up to death. He showed us the way into the deepest place of baptismal death, demonstrating total trust in God.
Baptismal death is the way forward to life empowered by the Spirit– who raised Jesus from the dead.
Think about Jonah. When the storm was raging, threatening to sink the boat, the pagan sailors are described as knowing that Jonah was fleeing God’s Presence. “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” they asked him (Jonah 1:11). Jonah responded: “Pick me up and throw me into the sea (1:12). Rather than take the whole ship down with him because of his rebellion, Jonah submits to God’s judgment– or to the consequences of his rebellion. He cries out from inside a fish that God sends to swallow him:
“You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All your breakers and billows passed over me… I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever. But you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. (John 2:3,6).
Jonah partially embodies baptismal death and new resurrection life that Paul describes in Romans 6. “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Resurrection power follows baptismal death in the life of Jonah and Jesus. Once vomited out by the whale Jonah heeds the original call to preach to his national enemies, the people of Ninevah. The anointing was apparently so strong on Jonah’s preaching that the whole city believed in God, repenting in sackcloth and ashes visible on everyone from the King to the animals.
After Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptations we see amazing power and authority. Fishermen drop their nets and immediately follow him and everyone who is sick and demonized are healed and delivered (Matt 4:18-25).
Yet the sign of Jonah Jesus describes does not include the resurrection. The sign Jesus leaves his compatriots with and us too this Good Friday is simple and radical: submission to God to the point of death.
Today I feel called by the Spirit to once again lay down my life, my agendas, my theology, my everything in total submission to the Father. Jesus himself calls disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow him. Where he goes is to the cross. It is there that he saves us as we are crucified with him—the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
God can only resurrect the one who has died. This Good Friday and Easter weekend let us yield ourselves totally to God— not out of despair but in hope: ”But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you” (Romans 8:12). Blessed Easter death and resurrection.