O Come, Merciful Savior
Open Your Bible
Jonah 1:1-12, Jonah 2:1-10, Matthew 12:38-41
BY Guest Writer
If there was ever a reluctant preacher, Jonah was it. Not only did the prophet ignore a direct order from God to preach to the city of Nineveh, but he also headed in the opposite direction. Now, I’m not sure how thoroughly he thought through this particular plan, but it did not end well for him. All his running earned him was a near-shipwreck and a three-day/three-night stay in the belly of a great fish. And then he still had to go preach to the city of Nineveh.
The outcome was incredible, though. In fact, the turning of the Ninevites’ hearts may be one of the greatest revivals ever recorded. Jonah preached a seven-word sermon (Jonah 3:4), and everyone in the city fasted and repented, even the livestock! The story is a remarkable display of God’s mercy and His desire to extend that mercy to those who did not know Him. The Ninevites were not God’s people. They were outsiders, but through their story, God demonstrated His steadfast intention to redeem all the nations of the world.
In Matthew 12, Jesus references this famed story when pressed by the religious elite to prove the legitimacy of His God-given authority. In turn, He rebukes those leaders, telling them they are slaves to the spirit of the age, members of an evil and adulterous generation (vv.38–39). When I read these verses, I feel the tension there and wonder, Shouldn’t these religious leaders, the ones who were most familiar with the promises and faithfulness of God, be able to recognize the Son of God standing before them? Imagine them there, demanding that the Son of God demonstrate His authority! It sounds preposterous, but in some ways, it’s a demand I make of Him on a daily basis.
In Jesus’s rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees lies the opportunity to turn their hearts back toward the truth. In reminding them of Nineveh’s repentance, Jesus assures them, “something greater than Jonah is here” (v.41). He was speaking the absolute truth! While Jonah’s story was marked by disobedience, Jesus’s entire earthly ministry was built on obedience and submission to the will of the Father. Jonah desired to see the Ninevites destroyed for their sin. In contrast, Jesus didn’t come to condemn the sinful in the world but, in the greatest act of compassion, lived and died to bring all to everlasting life (John 12:47).
It’s my prayer that my own heart would be soft and receptive to the work of God in the world today, especially in places where I don’t usually expect to see Him. I don’t want to be so fixated on the busyness of being a Christian that I miss opportunities to walk in repentance and extend mercy to others. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and anticipate His return, let us aspire to emulate the compassionate nature of our Savior—the perfect example of grace, mercy, and obedience.
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.