On a recent flight from Indiana to Colorado with my wife and son, my mind went to the story of Jonah and his time in the belly of the whale. As I fought a migraine, my wife was experiencing the discomforts of first trimester pregnancy, and my son was acting the way two year olds act. It also happened to be one of those turbulent flights into the Rocky Mountain wind currents that allow you to imagine you’re on one of the wildest roller coasters Six Flags has to offer.
As I sat there rubbing my temples and comforting my son in that last row of the plane I looked up the aisle and imagined that this just might be a slight glimpse of the misery Jonah experienced as he rode through the sea accompanied by the nauseating smells and juices that exists within the guts of a whale.
As much as I would have liked to have escaped those circumstances I had no choice at 30,000 feet but to sit there, ride it out, and think about the comforts and quiet of resting in my own bed in a few short hours.
The Jonah analogy is one Jesus seemed to return to as his preferred symbol for transformation in life. Both Matthew and Luke’s gospel record a scene in which an antagonistic crowd of religious folks demand that Jesus perform an impressive and miraculous sign. Jesus responded, “The only sign I freely give away is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (See Matthew 16:4, Matthew 12:38-39, & Luke 11:29)
What did Jesus mean by this?