In her 1999 rom com “Runaway bride” Julia Roberts who plays Maggie Carpenter, finds love with columnist Homer Eisenhower Graham a.k.a “Ike” (Richard Gere). Adamant on breaking her panic streak over marriage which has left a trail of heart broken grooms at the altar, Maggie gets engaged again only to find herself back in the same scenario on her wedding day with Ike. On this occasion though, the groom refuses to leave it at this and pursues his bride with heart fully exposed and desperate. And spoiler alert – the couple, as probably suspected, tie the knot in the end, and of course live happily ever after.
The book of Jonah could be likened to such a love story. In this respect, God is the groom who loves the bride, that’s Jonah, and the people of Nineveh. Apart from God, there are no heroes in this bible story. God had sought after his bride for a good time. Both Jonah and the people of Nineveh, like the runaway bride had spurned God’s love, and fled from him. Encountering rebellion and unfaithfulness in those he cherished God nevertheless pursued them with deep longing and the offer of reconciliation. In reality, the story extends to every one of us, we are like the unfaithful runaway bride, we’ve rejected and fled from God to have life our way (Romans 3:23) yet God has pursued us with forgiveness for the purpose of lasting intimate relationship (Romans 6:23). This is grace – undeserved love and favour. Such grace is what we receive from Jesus’s death and resurrection.
In Mathew 12:39, Jesus refers to his burial and resurrection as “the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Here’s why:
- Jonah was buried in the fish for his sin, Jesus was buried in the earth for our sin.
- Jonah was raised out of the fish 3 days after his turning to God, Jesus was raised up from the grave on the third day because he never turned away from God the Father.
As noted, Jesus is the greater prophet, whose faithfulness even unto death for humanity’s mistakes means God’s grace flows freely to all who simply believe and depend on Jesus’s sacrifice. Importantly, as the reformers insisted in the 1600’s – no demographic, be it social standing, educational background, race nor personal achievement, holds any significance to the receipt of God’s grace bar faith alone in God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Moreover this grace is not just for the individual but for the world. God’s grace is the only true hope of peace for all of civilisation, a hope that not only sees us reconciled and tied to our Creator but also to each other.
In our so called postmodern era of scientific, technological and digital advancement, the plight of chasing our own ways rather than God’s has been all too vivid through reflective slogans of the times such as “Me Too” and “Black Lives Matter”. Scripture pointedly tells us that it’s new life found in Christ alone that makes lives and society look more like heaven than hell.
Looking at Jonah’s story we’re directed to Jesus, our groom, whose love though rejected by us all nevertheless pursued us to the depth of the grave to bring us to the height of resurrection life with God forever. What a glorious God we have!