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The Condition of Unconditional Love

Jonah 3:1-5,10

Pastor Dale Critchley

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Delaware, IA

view DOC file

Sun, Jan 22, 2006
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Standard LW 3-year Readings:
First: Jonah 3:1-5,10
Epistle: 1 Cor. 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Psalm: Psalm 62:5-12


The text below is correctly formatted in the DOC file (see above left). The DOC file is easier to read, but the text is included below to allow for searching.

Children's Sermon

Catechetical point: Does your family love you? Why?

Message: Your family loves you because you're part of that family. God loves you because you're His, and no matter what you do, He'll still love you. How do you know He loves you? †

The Condition of Unconditional Love

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Text: (Jonah 3:1-5) Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

(Jonah 3:10) When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

This is the Word of our Lord. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I. Introduction

A. Have you ever had to be nice to someone that you didn't want to?

1. When you were a child, how many times did your parents say, "Now say you're sorry!"

2. And in a barely heard whisper, you scowled and mumbled, "I'm sorry."

B. Jesus said that, because He has loved us, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves

1. But some people are just hard to love

2. And as long as you look at a person's virtues to determine how lovable that person is, you'll continue to have a hard time loving that person

3. Remember, Jesus never said, "You will like your neighbor."

4. Love is not a good feeling toward someone: that's affection

5. Love is not, "Can't stand to be apart"—that's infatuation

6. Love is sacrifice—giving of yourself for another, regardless how you feel about that person

a) When you get married, you promise to love your spouse

b) That doesn't mean you promise to have certain feelings for your spouse

c) It means you promise to set yourself aside for the needs of your spouse

7. You can definitely love someone without liking that person

C. And Jonah was called on by God to love the people of Nineveh, even though he didn't like them

1. He didn't want to go out of his way

2. He didn't want to confront people in their sin—who likes confronting peoples' sin?

3. And he didn't want them to be his brothers and sisters in Christ—he was quite happy to keep them as enemies.

D. The first time God called on Jonah to bring the Gospel of repentance to Nineveh,

1. Jonah loved himself more than his neighbors

2. He had a lot in common—more than he'd ever admit

3. He and the Ninevites were both impenitent sinners

4. So Jonah benefited from this call as much as the Ninevites

5. And so it is when God calls on us to do things we don't want to do—it's to our benefit

6. So thanks to a swim and a familiarity with the mouth of a big fish, Jonah was brought to repentance

7. Thankfully, Nineveh didn't require such extremes to come to faith

II. And it happened that the Word of Yahweh came to Jonah the second time, saying,

A. Now, it's easy to look down on Jonah for not listening to the Word of God the first time

1. You read it and say, "Jonah, if God spoke to you, how could you not listen?

2. This isn't E.F. Hutton here

3. This is the God of the universe, the maker of heaven and earth

4. When he talks, you'd better listen!

B. But God has spoken to you, too, and have you even read His message?

1. Only about 10% of our congregation attends a Bible class

2. How many of you could write your name in the dust on your Bibles? Does the binding still crack when you open it?

3. Suddenly, it's pretty easy to identify with Jonah instead of condemning him, isn't it?

C. And Jonah was told to share the message with people he didn't like

1. You have a hard time talking about God with your friends

2. What would it take to get you to share God's love with your enemies?

3. It's easier to gossip about them, isn't it?

4. So either Jonah isn't so bad, or you're not so good

5. If you're not sure which, just make note of the wake-up call God used for Jonah—you don't have to practically drown a guy if he's "not so bad"

III. "Arise. Go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to her the proclamation that I will speak to you."

A. Now this must've been a very scary city to approach

1. Nineveh was actually a collection of cities the way modern cities tend to have one large city surrounded by smaller cities

2. So imagine approaching a city with 100' high walls that are so high that 3 chariots can drive side-by-side on their tops and 1500 towers, each 200' high

3. And your message is, "God is going to destroy this city."

B. Nineveh was located near the modern city Mosul in Iraq, not a friendly place

1. So imagine going to Nineveh today, unarmed, and telling its inhabitants they need to repent and believe in the true God

2. If you're hesitant to sign up for that missions trip, you have some idea why Jonah didn't want to go

C. And yet God knew what He was doing

1. He had a reason for sending Jonah to this metropolis

2. And He has a reason for sending you where He does

a) It's natural to be afraid and want to run away

b) But it's not necessary, because God is greater than anything you might be afraid of

IV. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the Word of the Lord. And Nineveh was a great city to God, a three days' walk.

A. How can one man transform an entire city?

B. How could God expect Jonah to get the entire pagan metropolis to change their lives?

C. Simple answer: He didn't.

1. There's no way Jonah could've done anything to their faith

2. God alone can bring life to the dead

3. And that includes the spiritually dead

4. But God works through means to create faith

a) And the means He usually uses is His Word

b) This is the gift He gave Jonah: the Word of God

c) The Word of God is more powerful than any man-made weapon

d) But instead of killing, it gives life

e) And that's the life giving weapon God used on the Ninevites through Jonah

V. And Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk, and he cried out and said, "Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown!"

A. Jonah must've sounded ridiculous

B. And his heart wasn't in it

1. God wants us to serve him out of joy because of His love for us, not out of compulsion

2. But because of sin, we don't respond with joy and constantly ask God what our neighbors' needs are so we may serve them

VI. And the men of Nineveh believed in God and called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

A. Amazing grace

B. It's by grace alone that God brings sinful men to faith and repentance

C. And by God's grace, just like Jonah and just like the people of Nineveh, God has given you faith

D. And one of the first fruits of faith is repentance

E. Repentance is turning away from sin, rejecting sin for the poison it is

F. And God alone is able to turn sinful people away from their sin to faith in Him

God alone could bring such a transformation, just as He does in each of us.

VII. When God saw their deeds, that they had turned from their evil ways, then God relented from the calamity that He had declared the He would do to them and did not do it.

A. Repentance is a confession of God-given faith

B. The people of Nineveh didn't earn their salvation from the destruction of the city

C. God saved them based on His own merits, not theirs

D. And He did the same for you in the same way

1. He saved the Ninevites by His own work of creating faith in their hearts through Jonah's message

2. He saved you by His own work of creating faith in your hearts by His Word and sacraments

3. And He did so not for your sake, but for the sake of His Son

a) When Jesus went to the cross, he took the sins of the entire metropolis of Nineveh on Himself

b) Not to mention the sins of Jonah, you, and me

c) By His own payment, God has forgiven the debt of your sin

E. God loves you

1. Not because you're such a nice person

2. Not because you're so likable or have a winning personality or an infectious laugh

3. He loves you just because you're His

4. And He loved you by sending Jesus to the cross in your place

5. And He loves you enough to give you eternal life in Jesus' name. Amen.

Now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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