The Sign of Jonah

by Andrew Forrest

Some years back, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (TX) put on an exhibition called “Picturing the Bible: the Earliest Christian Art.” I went and still remember being struck by one particular theme that emerged over and over in the artwork: Jonah!

Why Jonah? The early Church saw Jonah as a symbol for Christ:

  • Jonah was in the belly of the fish for 3 days;
  • Jesus was in the belly of the earth for 3 days.
  • Jonah was vomited up from death to life;
  • Jesus was vomited up from death to life.
  • Etc.

Here is an example of the Jonah theme from the Roman Catacombs:

Jonah being vomited up [credit].

In today’s passage, Jesus for the 2nd time in Matthew’s Gospel refers to the “sign of Jonah.” The Pharisees ask him for a sign, and this is what he says:

“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”

Matthew 16:2-4

“The Sign of Jonah.” Of all the images he could have pulled from the Old Testament as a way of explaining his ministry, I would never have predicted that Jesus would pull from Jonah!

But Jesus is endlessly surprising, which is one of the things I really like about him.

How might Jesus surprise you today?


Today’s Scripture

Matthew 16:1-12


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