Text: Jonah 1:11-17, Matthew 12:38-41
This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan.
Every summer of my childhood, our family minivan would drive to the Florida Panhandle, where my grandfather could be found reeling in his excitement about our annual deep sea fishing trip. Papa was a seasoned fisherman who always came home with a net full of snapper and stories, but they never included seasickness. I, on the other hand, could become nauseated at the mere mention of our packed pimiento cheese sandwiches or the squid bait blood splatters. You heard me.
I’d spend most of my time on a half-bench in the fetal position, dreaming of still land and real bathrooms. So when I read Jonah’s story and about a storm hurled by God that was only getting worse and worse, I begin to reach for my saltines.
The boat’s floorboards must’ve groaned in protest with each violent rock and sway of the water. The helm would’ve been rendered useless, the compass indifferent, “as the ship threatened to break up” (Jonah 1:4). As the ocean continued to rise, the sailors’ knowledge and skill would’ve run dry in the face of the tempest. And whether or not the men were made physically ill by the storm’s churning, each was squirming in the waters of his own sin (Jonah 1:5).
“What should we do to you to calm this sea that’s against us?” they asked Jonah (Jonah 1:11).
I remember asking the first mate of the fishing boat a similar question. Surely there was a pill, lotion, elixir, balm, trick, cure—something, anything to soothe the sickness. His answer couldn’t have been more frustrating. “Look to the horizon,” he said. “Don’t look anywhere else until it’s over.”
Jonah’s response to the crew’s question was just as confusing.
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea so it may quiet down for you, for I know that I’m to blame for this violent storm that is against you” (Jonah 1:12).
Imagine the mariners’ confusion. Certainly there had to be a better way, right? One that didn’t involve anyone getting hurt? So they began rowing, but the sea refused to let them go. Even the most well-prepared ship struggles to cross an unruly ocean.
How many ways do I try to life-jacket my own soul, but end up drowning it instead?
The sailors realized they couldn’t correct the sin that had started the storm; they had to throw it overboard. The same goes for us and our sin—except it would take more than throwing it overboard. Our sin would have to be crucified.
The men tossed Jonah into the sea, and they were saved from the water’s rage.
Another group of men nailed Christ to a cross, and we are saved from sin’s wrath.
For three days, Jonah was inside a fish. Death did not claim him.
For three days, Jesus was inside a tomb. Death did not defeat him.
And by His victory, we are swallowed by grace and forever fixed to eternity. We don’t belong to death, either.
When I row away from my rough edges, I’m also running from my rescue. We can stop running. We can rest in the One who came to quiet the storm (Mark 4:39). Even as the sickness of sin rumbles and stirs around us, may we glue our eyes to the horizon to see our coming Rescuer. Amen.
“And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”