Jonah – a man that was swallowed by a great fish and was spit up three days later and lived to bring a message of salvation to a terrible people.
Noah – a man that built a boat the size of a Ocean liner, filled it with two of every kind of animal. Rode out 40 days and nights of a cataclysmic downpour that flooded the entire earth…and lived to replenish mankind.
Two accounts – A man swallowed by a big fish and saved a people. And a man who built a boat and saved the world. Fairy tales? Some people think so. Even some who believe in God think that they are stories with good moral lessons but are not actual events that happened.
So what do you think? Did they happen just as the Bible describes? Or, are they so unrealistic that not even God could have orchestrated them?
To shed some light on these subjects, I thought I would see what Jesus may have thought about them. Did he, over the course of his ministry, mention them? And if so, in what context? Here is what I discovered.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus mentions both accounts. And by the manner of his speech, he believed that they were actual events. So in what context did he use them, and who was he addressing when he did? Here is where things get interesting.
- The Jonah/Noah context – One he referred to in his approaching death and resurrection, and the other he used pertaining to his second coming.
- The audiences – One group was the highest educated religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees. The other group were his devoted followers, the disciples.
Two significant events with two significant audiences and to put things in the proper frame, here is a brief timeline of where Jesus was in his ministry when he referenced both Jonah and Noah.
Jesus Ministry Timeline
His fame had spread through out all of Gailiee, Syria, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. He had taught in their synagogues, preached about the kingdom and healed all kinds of sicknesses and disease. He had performed various miracles and delivered those possessed by demons. Great multitudes followed him everywhere he went and amongst the crowds were scribes and pharisees.
Due to his radical teachings and works on the Sabbath he drew the critical eye of the Pharisees. They objected to his fellowship and engagement with “sinners” and performing miracles on the Sabbath. He was a dangerous law breaker in their opinion and began to plot to destroy him, Mathew 12:14.
About Jonah – The incident that brought on the reference to Jonah.
A person who was demon possessed, blind and mute, was brought to Jesus for healing in which he did. All those in the crowd were amazed and began to ask if Jesus was the Messiah. The Pharisees heard them and quickly responded by saying that the power that Jesus used to do miracles was from Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.
Jesus responded by saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to destruction. Every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” Matthew 12:25-26. He then says, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God as come upon you.” Matthew 12:28. Jesus then charges the Pharisee with committing the unpardonable sin…blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31-37
Their response? “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” His response was a referenced to Jonah.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three 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 at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12: 38-41
What the Pharisees were blind to see and deaf to hear was the prophetic response that they just received from Jesus pertaining to his death and resurrection.
Jumping a little ahead
Jesus is now at the Mount of Olives with his disciple. He had just spoke to them about the temple being thrown down and his second coming.
Their response, “When will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” One of His responses was a reference to Noah.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:37-39
Both Jonah and Noah – used by Jesus as references pertaining to his death and resurrection and his second coming. Both of these events were prophetic as Jesus spoke them. One has now been fulfilled, one is yet to come.
With events of such importance do you think that Jesus would use fairy tales as references? Especially to the Pharisees who had a vast knowledge of the scriptures?
I am confident to say that if Jesus wanted to be taken seriously, he would not have used fairy tales as comparisons to his upcoming death, resurrection and second coming.
Prophetic Event Fulfilled
For just as Jonah was three days and three 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. Matthew 12:40
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Luke 24: 6-7
Prophetic Event Yet to Come
The generation of Noah was exceedingly wicked, so much so that God wiped them off the face of the earth. According to Jesus, that is how the world will once again become before his second coming.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…”
He also tells us that the world will not be expecting his coming but when it happens, it will be too late for them to escape his judgement.
“…until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24: 36-39
God gave us His word. It is a book filled with truth not fairy tales.
I believe that Jesus was the son of God, without sin. If he believed in a literal Jonah and Noah…then to say otherwise, in my opinion, is to cast doubt on Jesus telling the truth.
I believe in Jesus teachings and promises. That he died for my sin. Was crucified, died, and rose from the dead. I believe that he ascended into heaven and is waiting for the appointed time of his second coming.
And one day, I believe, when all these things come to past and all of Christ’s followers are together with Him, we can look upon the strife and chaos of this world and happily say…once upon a time.
Click to read about Jonah
Click to read about Noah