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The Sign of the Propeht Jonah

St. Matthew 12.38-42


Wednesday of Lent I
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 For our homilies during these Lenten services, we will be meditating on the Signs of Lent.  Regarding signs, Jesus says in St. Matthew's gospel:

[St. Matthew 16.2-3]

When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.  O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

During the next several weeks, by our Spirit-given faith in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we will not ask for signs from our Lord, but by his grace, we will strive to discern the signs Christ gives, guided by the Word of God. 

2 In today's gospel, Jesus speaks of the sign of the prophet Jonah.  He says:

[St. Matthew 12.40]

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

3 Originally, Jesus points the scribes and Pharisees to the sign of Jonah.  They had come to Christ in hypocrisy and unbelief, asking him for a sign. Today this sign is also given to us who come to Christ in faith.  Regardless of who we are, the lesson of the sign is the same.  Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.  His symbolic death and return to life are the sign of what Christ will do after him.  Christ, in reality, in fact, not just in symbol, spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, dead and buried.  What Jonah symbolizes, Jesus embodies.  What Jonah represents, Jesus fulfills: The resurrection from the dead. 

4 The sign is clear.  Christ indeed has died upon the cross.  Christ's breathless, lifeless body was in fact buried in the heart of the earth in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  And after three days spent in the heart of the earth, he rose again from the deadólife restored, breath re-begun, and glorified beyond our imagination.  The resurrection, the Sign of the Prophet Jonah is the great sign of Christ's divinity.  It is the sign of his triumph over sin, death, the devil, and hell.  It is the sign of our salvation, and the sign of things to come for us who believe in Christ.  For in the sign of Jonah we see our resurrection.  We see our restoration.  And we see our glorification as the saints of God. 

5 And that's not all.  There is also more to this sign.  After his ordeal in the belly of the whale, Jonah preached repentance to the people of Nineveh.  As he entered the city:

[Jonah 3.4b-5, 10]

. . . he cried and he said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.  So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. . . And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

6 Along with pointing us to the Christ's resurrection, the sign of Jonah also encourages us take up repentance.  Jesus says:

[St. Matthew 12.41]

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

For us to fully understand and receive the resurrection, we must repent.  Like the people of Nineveh, we are called, from the greatest to the least, to fast and put on sackcloth.  We are called to turn from our evil way and resist the sin that tempts us every day.  In repentance, in confessing our sins and turning again to righteousness, we take hold of what God promises in the sign of Jonah: our own resurrection from the dead.  God spared the people of Nineveh because they believed his word proclaimed through Jonah.  He will spare us as well through our belief in his word.  And through that very faith, through our faithful reception of his word, we are spared destruction and promised everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.  For Christ, the one greater than Jonah has come that we may have life and have it abundantly.

7 We also hear our Lord say:

[St. Matthew 12.42]

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Christ is greater than Jonah.  And he is greater than Solomon.  His wisdom is greater than all wisdom, for he is wisdom in the flesh.  In Proverbs 8, Christ himself speaks through Solomon and reveals himself as everlasting, heavenly wisdom.  He says:

[Proverbs 8.22-36]

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

8 When we find Christ, we find the wisdom of God, and we find life.  We find that life in the sign of Jonah, fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ our Lord.  We find that life in repentance, worked by the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  We find that life in the Wisdom of God, embodied in Christ our Lord.  As we prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection on Easter, Christ promises us today by this sign that his resurrection is his promise of our resurrection.  He promises us that in our repentance we take hold of the resurrection and make it our own even now.  And he promises us that by heeding his wisdom, and holding it sacred and gladly hearing it and learning it, we find the life he has attained for us: life now that is sustained by his grace, and life everlasting in the blessedness of paradise with the saints, the angels, and with God himself.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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