Sign of Jonah

What is the sign of Jonah that Jesus is speaking about?

When reading the Gospels, we see that on more than one occasion Jesus was challenged to make a sign, perform a miracle. Now such a sign or miracle was to be the proof of his identity, of his call and mission. However Jesus knew that such a sign would not trigger faith.

Let’s read then the event regarding Jonah, where it first comes to our attention in the Gospels, Matthew 12:38-40.

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.

Here we have the first clues for the context – story of Jonah, three days and nights… Immediately we see a parallel with Jesus’ experience of death and resurrection. For this to be a sign, it should happen first, so Jesus foresees His suffering, and talks about a time when people will reflect on His suffering and resurrection. The calming of the storm came only when Jonah was thrown in the water to die, as outcast, as guilty, even as cursed.

Jonah is not the perfect model for Jesus. Accordingly, some things might be parralel, while other will not be. We can expect even a huge difference between the two. However, Jesus choses this unlikely propeht as an object lesson for a strange generation pretending to be the people of God.

If we read the same dialogue of Jesus, as presented in Luke, things get perfectly clear.

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:29-30)

What is the sign? Or the better question is who is the sign? Jonah himself was (“became”) a sign for the people of Nineveh.

He did not do any miracle, he was only subject to miracles: calming of the storm, staying alive in the fish’s belly, seeing the plant growing overnight. Probably the greatest miracle was witnessing how the people of Nineveh converted to his message, how the king himself and the nobles came down from their positions of power to listen to God’s message sent via a humble “ressurected” messenger. In other words, there was no miracle performed by Jonah (like healing the sick, for example, or raising the dead), it was only preaching the word, God’s word. And preaching it from his own experience.

Jonah was a strange man for the people of Nineveh, coming with a radical message from God. He got this courage and determination after being rescued himself from a three days and three nights imprisonment in the belly of the fish. And later delivered a message of 40 days of grace until a potential destruction would come over Nineveh. His personal story of repentance and coming from the dead was to be the object lesson for the people of Nineveh to return from their rebellion and come to a better life.

Probably we can draw now some parallels. The axis is clear: Jesus says “so will the Son of Man be to this generation”. The sign itself is Himself. Nothing more, nothing less. His presence in their midst was a sign in itself.

Jonah did no miracle except probably telling them his own miraculous story. Jesus did all the miracles, and yet they did not believe him. No wonder (if you read on) Jesus continues saying that at the judgment day, people of Nineveh will condemn people of Jerusalem…

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 12:41)

Jonah preached to the Gentiles and they listened, Jesus preached to His own and they did not. Nineveh was a great city, a three days journey was needed to cover it all (all the streets) – Jesus’ Mission was also for three years, going all places from Judeea to Galilee and Samaria. Jonah preached a message of warning, a destruction coming in 40 days. Jesus warned the same and the destruction of Jerusalem came exactly after 40 years. It was indeed “this generation”.

People of Nineveh repented. People of Israel were still on probation time. We are also.


Can we imagine the Gospel writers, inking these words… seeing the actual fulfilment in their own personal story, in the story of the city and nation they loved, in the story of their resurrected Lord? Preaching the same message while time lasts. We need no signs, nor a greater sign, we need no more prophets or miracles. The more we get these, the more we are condemned by our own rebellion.

Just believe Him and His word. He is greater than Jonah.

You are gods. Really?

“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (John 10:34) Questions: Who are these “gods”? Are there more “gods”? How do you explain this Bible text?

The context of Jesus’ words – John 10

Reading the whole passage of John 10:22-39, we discover that Jesus was being pressed to give a clear-cut answer to the question – “Are you the Messiah?” (v. 24). So, we have to keep in mind that such a context was a highly explosive one as the Messiah was the fulfillment of the Jewish aspirations and expectations (Matthew 11:3), the One sent by God as His representative. Accordingly, one either was the Messiah, or was just claiming such a title, by blasphemy.

Evidently, Jesus was fully aware He is the Messiah, as He confirmed that to others – for example to the Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26); to the group of the twelve apostles (Matthew 16:16-17); later on, to the council of the high priests and elders (and this claim led Him directly to death, Mark 14:61-64). In the same time, Jesus knew that such a claim from Him, without the proper context, will have a side effect – unbelief and continuous hardening of the heart (see also the high tensions in Luke 22:66-71). This was already obvious many times before (John 10:25-26). They did not believe him because of the prejudices they had against Him, that is against His way of showing how Messiah would really look and act like (the same can be seen in Peter’s reaction when Jesus spoke about a suffering Messiah, Matthew 16:20-23).

Jesus then pushes the discussion by saying “I and the Father are one” (v. 30). In His mind, that meant that His plans and the plans of His Father are one, that He is following the directions of His Father (see also John 5:19). However, taking it as an assertion, the Jews were ready to stone Him (John 10:31). Questioned by Jesus about their intentions, they justified their anger by indicating a blasphemy in Jesus’ sayings (v. 33). The main accusation was clear – “You, being a man, make yourself God”.

Here Jesus confronts them on their field of expertise – the Scriptures. Quoting a verse in Psalms, He points out that the Scriptures spoke like He did, calling some humans “gods”. Let’s get there and see the passage for ourselves – Psalm 82 (please take your Bible and read it).

The context of Jesus’ quote – Psalm 82

Psalm 82 presents a heavenly setting, a “divine council” where God sits in the midst of some “gods” (v. 1).

However, these so-called “gods” are being judged by God (v. 1-2) and even accused for showing partiality to the wicked (v. 2). Furthermore, they are being urged to do justice, to rescue, to deliver the ones oppressed (vs. 3-4). The conclusion is that such judges have no knowledge and are walking in the darkness (v. 5).

Then, God speaks to them as in a review: He commends them for being “gods”, for being “sons of the Most High” (v. 6). Yet, due to their faulty judgment, He says, they are going to die like “men” and fall like any human “prince” (v. 7).

In the end, the psalmist speaks again, as he puts all his trust in God, who is going to rightly judge the whole earth (v. 8).

As this was the psalm Jesus quoted, let us see what’s about this expression “you are gods”.

What does it mean – “you are gods”?

In Jesus’ own words, He explains that “He” (God) named these persons as “gods”, as they were the ones to whom “the word of God came” (John 10:34). It is evident that God sees His representatives on earth as “gods”, as “sons of the Most High”, as they are to judge and make justice according to His will.

The word for “gods” is “elohim”, which is used also in Exodus 7:1, where God makes Moses “a god” for Pharaoh. In other words, by receiving his message from the God of heavens, and now presenting it to the ruler of the nation, Moses acts to Pharaoh like a god speaking to a human. Moses is a man, no doubt about it. But he acts like a god to the ruler of the nation.

The same perspective as in Psalm 82 is to be found in Psalm 58, where in verse 1 the psalmist calls the judges/rulers also “gods”. As the psalm continues it is evidently that these “gods” are not ruling the way God wants – see the solution in verse 11, where in the end God is the one who judges on earth.

Again, the same setting is to be seen in Isaiah 3:13-15, where these corrupt judges are confirmed to be “elders and princes of the people”.

It becomes clear that these “gods” are not true to their calling. In the same time, some true “gods” would be the ones that follow their heaven commissioned task, that is fulfilling the will of the Father, the Most High, the Lord God of hosts.

Jesus as a Son of God

There is no question that Jesus really fulfilled such a task from His Father, as it is evident in texts like Luke 4:18-21, when preaching in Nazareth, or the one in Matthew 11:2-6, with a message to John the Baptist. While the rulers of this earth, be they kings, judges, priests, are not ruling according to God’s will, Jesus was one that did, as He was the one “consecrated” by the Father and thus “sent into the world” (John 10:36). He plainly told them: “I have shown you many good works from the Father” (John 10:32).

He admits having said that “I am the Son of God” (v. 36). There is absolutely no question about it. He did it. He believed it. He was indeed!

In the same time, He urges them to review what they perceived as an assertion and even blasphemy, to judge it objectively and see if He was doing or not “the works of My Father”. Evidently, He was a “god”, was a “son of the Most High”, because He was consecrated, sent into the world and here He fulfilled His Father’s will up to the end (see John 17:4 and Luke 22:42).

The passage moves toward an abrupt ending with Jesus affirming again His special and close relation to the Father, by using a language that in their uncircumcised ears was like another blasphemy: “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). The story ends with Jews ready again to arrest Him…

Conclusions

We can step on sure grounds saying that Jesus acted like a real Son of God, He was right in presenting Himself as a Son of God. The accusers could not understand because they were not His sheep (John 10:26) – not listening, not discerning His voice, not knowing Him nor His Father.

The passage does not speak about humans becoming divine, about men becoming gods. However, in representing and reflecting God’s character on earth, humans are seen and appointed by God the Most High as “gods” (Exodus 7:1). Remember Matthew 5:9? (please open your Bible and read it).

If God’s word is spoken to you, then you become a “god” to our fellow men, with such a heavenly task of showing the character of the Father, doing His will, making justice the way He would. On the contrary, be you a “god”, if you are corrupt and departing from the plans of the One that called you, then you are surely to end like any mortal, falling to the ground (Psalms 82:6-7).


„We should be called the children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that is did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Census in the Bible, a blessing or a curse?

Hi. Having read in the Bible about census, I found it out repeatedly and I remember sometimes being mentioned as a sin. Why would it be so?

Census in the Bible is basically counting heads of people, men, for different purposes:

  • knowing the number size of each tribe or clan (Numbers 1:2),
  • having the numbers of all who serviced for the Lord at the temple (1 Chronicles 23:24);
  • taxing those of a certain age (Exodus 30:12)
  • making aware of military force, men of war able or missing (Numbers 26:2; 31:49; 2 Chronicles 25:5);
  • strangers living in the people of Israel (2 Chronicles 2:17);
  • Jews living in Israel, subject to Roman forces (Luke 2:1-5; Acts 5:37).

A census would be ordered by God, or by kings, (see Roman ruler in Luke 2:1-5), and observed to fulfillment by the military (1 Chronicles 21:6), or religious leaders (Numbers 7:2).

The first census was ordered by God (Exodus 30:12), and each was to pay a ransom for himself. It was a proof that God knew each and everyone of them, as they were being covered, protected by Him. However, the tribe of Levi was not to be counted along with the others (Numbers 1:49), but separate (Numbers 3:39), counted against the first-borns of every family (Numbers 3:40-51).

One census event stands out in the Bible (2 Samuel 24). King David was the one ordering it, and commander of special forces Joab was to arrange it. The king said he wanted to “be made aware of the total number” (24:2). The results of the census included 1,100,000 men who drew the sword in Israel, and 470,000 in Judah (21:5), without counting Levi and Benjamin as “what the king had commanded was unethical to Joab” (21:6).

“Unethical to Joab”? We all know how ruthless was Joab himself – killing Abner by deceit (2 Samuel 3:27), covering David in killing Uriah (2 Samuel 11:6).

What seems to us normal, even strategically for any war commander, it was in fact an act of unfaithfulness, defiant to God’s providence. If we read the same story from Chronicles, it is clear that “Satan attacked Israel by inciting David to enumerate a census” (1 Chronicles 21:1).

Where was the problem?

Counting and evaluating the results would most probably lead to one of the two dangerous paths:

  • having great numbers, the kings would boast about it, weighing human powers and leaving God outside of the picture; the same for any tribe that might pretend supremacy, or for any leader, political, religious, tempted by numbers and multitudes.
  • on the other hand, having low numbers would mean that God had not been providing for them as promised – “the Lord had said he would make Israel as numerous as the stars of heaven” (1 Chronicles 27:23).

As David was wrong, yet a sincere man, soon after that “David’s conscience troubled him after he had taken a census” (24:10), acknowledging he had been “very foolish”, and had “sinned greatly”; or “acted wickedly” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

Aware of this situation, and the two dangerous paths, we should be mindful that God counts each one of our very hairs (Matthew 10:29-31), as a sign of powerful and all-covering protection. As for the seen human forces, they are always outnumbered by the unseen, heavenly sent ones, as we read in 2 Kings 6:14-17:

“Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

Top 10 from Genesis 1

Reading Genesis again? Take the following ten short ideas as a draft for your personal in-depth study of Genesis 1.

1. The Bible begins with God. Introducing the Creation, it reflects toward intelligent design.


2. God made the light first, and the Sun later (on the fourth day). Where did that first light come from?


3. All Creation days are reckoned as beginning at sunset, and ending at sunset.  Remember the Sabbath?


4. First three days of Creation introduce the framework: space, sea, land. Next three days see the inhabiting of these spaces with celestial bodies and living creatures.


5. Did Adam have a belly button 😊? Most probably not. He was created as a mature being. The same for the stars, being made to appear for terrestrial view on the fourth day.


6. Other worlds and beings were created before us. Details in Job 38:4-7.


7. While for all things created God said: “let there be…”, for humans He said: “Let us make…” That’s a different order and relationship.


8. Man was created in the image of God. Forget about the apes…


9. Noticed the plural in God’s first talk about the humans (“let us make”, “in our image”. To whom was He speaking?


10. Everything made by God was good. By the end of the first week it was all very good. That’s perfection.


Got questions?

If you have questions about Genesis 1, use the Comments section below. We’ll try to answer, bringing some lights on!

Did God really speak through Caiaphas, the high priest?

I have a question about Caiaphas. I understand he spoke the truth of what was to come, that Jesus was to die for His people, so that the whole nation should not perish. However, I don’t understand why would God speak this through this high priest. The Pharisees already wanted to kill Jesus, now more than ever, and were already evil and hated and rejected the truth, so why would God try and do what seems like a last minute chance to reach out to them? Or what is the purpose of this prophecy?

Continue reading “Did God really speak through Caiaphas, the high priest?”

10 key Bible texts about baptism

You’ve been wondering what baptism is… Simple and complex in the same time, take the concept of baptism as a sign or a symbol of a new birth. That’s it. Not a physical birth, of course, but a spiritual one, a renewal of your inner being. Check here some of the key Bible texts on the important topic of baptism.

1. Baptism = certificate of spiritual birth
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. […] Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3,5)

2. Baptism = step to a new life
“Now, when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them: ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’.” (Acts 2:37-38)

3. Real role of baptism (symbol)
“Baptism, which corresponds to this [salvation of Noah through the Flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” (1 Peter 4:21)

4. An important public testimony
“O man of God […] Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

5. To get baptized or not? (does it matter)
“When all the people heard this and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” (Luke 7:29-30)

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
(Mark 16:16)
Jesus Christ
The Son of God

6. Following Christ in death and resurrection
“Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

7. A seal/sign for all Christians
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

8. A personal search into your own life
“[Philip] told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said: ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:35-36)

9. Why wait?
“The God of our fathers appointed you [Paul] to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:14-16)

10. Baptism with more than water (your future faithlife)
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I […] He will baptize you with the Holy spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11)