There can hardly be a more familiar story in the Bible than that of Jonah, can there? Yet the teaching series my church is in at the moment has really revealed some things to me that I’d never seen before.
I hadn’t noticed that the sailors at first refused to do what Jonah told them. It reminds me of the stories in the New Testament when people come to Jesus and ask ‘What must I do to be saved?’ He tells them, and they go away sad, because that seems too hard.
The sailors here ask ‘What must we do?’ They are given the answer, but they decide to keep rowing instead – they had given up all hope – rowing wasn’t helping, in fact, the storm had even got rougher since they had originally given up hope of a human solution (see v11) – but they decided to give it one last try anyway.
That’s fair enough when the ‘remedy’ is that you’re going to have to kill someone in cold blood (though the sermon pointed out that actually Jonah could have jumped into the sea himself – there’s no reason he had to make the sailors do it), but it’s worth pondering that so often when we ask God what to do, he tells us, and we still keep trying it in our own strength anyway.
And of course, Jonah could have just repented, asked God’s forgiveness and gone back to what he was supposed to be doing – but then we wouldn’t have had such a neat prefiguring of Jesus…
(There’s lots more good stuff in the sermon too. Well worth a listen.)