Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ angry reply to some Pharisees and teachers of the law who asked for a miraculous sign. Jesus labeled them, and the crowd with them, a wicked generation; he told them they would receive no sign ‘except the sign of the prophet Jonah’.
Jesus told them that Jonah’s sign (the sign that he was sent from God) was his emergence, after three days and three nights, from the belly of the fish; and the sign of Jesus’ authority would be his resurrection, after three days and three nights, from the heart of the earth.
Jesus said that later, when God eventually sat to judge Israel, the Queen of the South and the people of Nineveh could be called as witnesses against them because of their faith; the Queen because she had travelled from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom and the people of Nineveh because they repented when they heard the preaching of Jonah.
But you, Jesus said, when one greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, is here, you refuse to listen, you refuse to believe the one sent from God.
In what way is Jesus greater than Jonah?
In every way; Jesus is greater in authority, greater in power, and greater in love. His gospel is greater, his resurrection is greater and the deliverance he achieved for us is greater. While Jonah, sent to preach, rebelled in pride, leaving Nineveh to judgment, Jesus, sent to die, obeyed in humility, lifting us to God. When the Ninevites repented, all Jonah felt was anger; he preferred to die rather than celebrate in Nineveh with them. When we repent all Jesus feels is joy; he preferred to die rather than celebrate in heaven without us.
Soon it will be Christmas; we will celebrate again the greatness and the here-ness of Jesus and all of heaven will celebrate with us. I imagine Jonah as a baritone.
‘And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’
Luke 2:8-14 ESV