Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Jonah 3:1-10 + Luke 11:29-32
“Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
Signs are important in the Christian journey. Jesus speaks of two signs in today’s Gospel passage. He says that both Jonah and the Son of Man are signs for others. But Jesus says more. He explains that “as” Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, “so will” the Son of Man be a sign to “this generation”.
So we need to ask first how it was that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. The Old Testament Book of Jonah presents Jonah in two ways. First, Jonah preaches the need for repentance throughout Nineveh. Second, he is thrown overboard into deep waters and is swallowed by a large fish where he spends three days, all because he is the scapegoat for the affliction facing his shipmates.
Given all this, how does Jonah foreshadow Jesus serving as a sign to Jesus’ own generation? First, Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God. This proclamation always begins with preaching the need for repentance and conversion. His preaching, however, along with His saving works, inevitably lead to His condemnation. Jesus rhetorically asks His co-religionists, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” [John 10:32]. This reflects what the Beloved Disciple declares in the prologue of his Gospel account: “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” [John 1:11].
Jesus’ rejection reaches its climax on Good Friday. Yet we need to reflect upon the plain fact that Jesus’ rejection continues today. His rejection, which the story of Jonah foreshadows, is shared in today by each faithful member of Christ’s Body who lives and breathes in this fallen world. At His Last Supper Jesus declares to His disciples, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” [John 15:18].