Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jonah and Jesus (4)

A Creature made Sick; or Creation Saved

One of the most obvious parallels between Jonah and Jesus is the sojourn of three days, one in the belly of the fish, and the other in the bowels of the earth. On the third day, the fish’s digestive system was sick of Jonah, , and God’s wrath was satisfied with Jesus, , so that they both emerged from their cages.

1A. Concerning Jonah:
“So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” (Jonah 1:15 ESV)

1B. Concerning Jesus:
“And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:31 ESV)

But still there are differences, many more than I will mention. The sailors tossed Jonah as a last resort. The soldiers nailed Jesus with delight and a sense of entertainment. The sailors are seeking to appease an angry God. , The soldiers are seeking to please the maddening crowd , of religious leaders.

2A. Concerning Jonah:
“Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16 ESV)

2B. Concerning Jesus:
“And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”” (Mark 15:39 ESV)

In the wake of Jonah being thrown overboard, and Jesus being crucified, there is an awareness of a sea change, so to speak. The storm ceases, the veil is torn; the sun comes out, and the sky grows dark. The sailors, all of them, , in the calm after the storm, worship God. And the truth dawns on the centurion, all alone, in the darkness, as he witnesses the death of the Lord of glory.

3A. Concerning Jonah:
“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17 ESV)

3B. Concerning Jesus:
“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.” (Matthew 12:40 ESV)

God “appointed” a fish for Jonah, a place of prayer, if not confession. And God prepared a tomb for Jesus. I confess I do not understand all that Jesus accomplished during his time in the tomb. Peter alludes to testimony given to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), perhaps announcing the justice and righteousness of God in condemning sin and forgiving sinners. Jonah’s isolation found its focus in an individual humbling that failed to reach the standard of real repentance. Jesus’ burial sealed the successful sacrifice necessary for eternal salvation. Jonah’s emergence from the fish awarded him , a second chance. , Jesus’ appearance from the grave announced , a new creation. ,

So the Book of Jonah confronts us with a recalcitrant prophet, but also makes us think of the redeeming servant. And though we will never be redeemers, we may, by God’s grace, seek to be more like Jesus than like Jonah.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jonah and Jesus (3)

Creating Confusion, not Clarity

(Jonah 1:11 ESV) “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?”

Jonah figures heavily into the predicament of the sailors (cf. Jonah and Jesus, 2). The sailors grasp something of this, but Jonah’s role contributes not to clarity of understanding, but rather confusion.

The are confused about their predicament, and they were also confused about the identity of the solution. As we clearly know from Scripture and from the teaching of Jesus, and what the sailors should have known from the prophet Jonah had he spoken for God as he should, their primary predicament was not a weather event, but the wrath of God. And the solution to the propitiation of the wrath of God was not something that they themselves could do, but something that must be done for them.

Jesus, contrary to Jonah, was clear, not confusing about the predicament in which mankind stands. One of his many sayings is: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24 ESV)

(Jonah 1:12 ESV) “for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

Jonah was aware that his rebellious conduct was bringing its ugly consequences upon the sailors. At this point, Jonah could hardly stand in greater contrast to Jesus, since it is because of us (sinful humanity) that this great tempest came upon him (Jesus). We implicate others with the stench and stain of our sin. The consequences of our sin rarely, if ever, affect only our own selves. And our sins have had grave effects on the Servant of God, even as Jonah’s sins put the sailors in grave danger.

The sad fact of this story is that Jonah missed the opportunity to bring clarity, and instead brought confusion. The sailors thought that if they got rid of Jonah, they would get rid of their problems, as did those who crucified Jesus (“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”” (John 11:47-48 ESV). In limited scope, they were correct. But they needed to be pointed to the Messenger of God who, in faithfulness to his mission, would bear away their sins. Instead they were confronted by a rebellious messenger who imported the consequences of his sin on them, and they could only throw him away to avoid destruction.

(Jonah 1:14 ESV) “let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood,”

Just about all the words of these phrases need to be reversed in order to come to clarity rather than confusion. Yes, there is the concern that we not perish (John 3:16), but not for “this man’s life,” but rather for our own sin. Innocent blood is not held against us, but rather, guilty blood was attributed to Christ (“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;” Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Due to the unfaithfulness of Jonah, many of the Gospel concepts and categories were present, but were hopelessly confused rather than clarified.

And so, when I am more like unfaithful Jonah than faithful Jesus, I also contribute to the confusion of those who are perishing. They will remain confused about the true nature of the problem, the true identity of the solution, and the way to find enduring calm in the eschatological tempest. If we would be more like Jesus than Jonah, then perhaps God would be pleased to use us to rescue the perishing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jonah and Jesus (2)

Aloof, or Alongside in the Storm

I am writing, once again, about Jonah and Jesus, not because they are so much alike, but rather, because they are so different. Let me say again that this study is convicting to me personally, not because I am so much like Jesus, but rather, because I am so much like Jonah.

Jonah is fleeing the mission of the God, and boards a ship to Tarshish. The Lord “hurled” a storm upon him (Jonah) and them (the captain and crew) that threatened to break up the ship. The crew resorted to desperate measures, even throwing the cargo overboard, in order to stay afloat. “But Jonah had gone below in the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep” (Jonah 1:5)

Jesus is fulfilling the mission of God, traversing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples when a “fierce gale” arises upon them. “The waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mk 4:37-38).

Jonah is himself the troublesome cargo, untouched by the sailors, and seemingly, himself untouched by their predicament. The sailors “touched” everything else, throwing it overboard, but it is not until later that the one final piece of cargo, Jonah, is thrown over, when they will find relief. At this point in the story, he is untouched by the sailors, and he himself is untouched by their problem, even as he is untouched by the peril threatening the sinful city, Nineveh. Jesus, on the other hand, is subject to the rising water in the boat. The detail in the text “the boat was already filling up” makes this conclusion reasonable. He is, indeed, touched by the rising water, even as he is touched by the needs of a sinful world. He is not the source of the problem, but rather of the solution, and he is not aloof, but alongside them in their predicament.

Jesus is so different from Jonah. The following trilogy of verses from Matthew highlights his compassion for people, even as the story of Jonah highlights his lack of compassion for such people. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 ESV). “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 ESV) “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” (Matthew 15:32 ESV). We must ask ourselves if we are touched by the physical and spiritual needs of people, as Jesus is, or untouched, as was Jonah.

The sailors approach Jonah and say, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish” (Jonah 1:6). Similarly, the disciples awaken Jesus and say, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). Ironically, the sailors approach the unconcerned prophet who is on the run from God, appealing to him to seek the concern of his god. The disciples approach their trusted teacher, who is himself God, and whose very presence is the signal of the concern of God, and accuse him of lack of concern. The contrast plays out as Jonah identies himself as a worshipper of “the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” Jesus, himself the creator of heaven, sea and dry land, simply speaks the words “Hush, be still,” and the storm abates. The disciples are afraid as they exclaim, “who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”

When we operate in Jonah-like fashion, we do not fear whom we say we fear. We do not serve whom we say we serve. God’s love and compassion do not properly and adequately infect and motivate us. We are terrible witnesses to the reality of God. If we were follow the “mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5), our perspectives and ministries would be much different. Our regard for God would be accompanied by our presence among the very people that Jesus intends to save. We would be not aloof, but alongside. We would be not the source of their troubles, but an instrument in the solution. We would be willing to be immersed in their predicament, resting by faith in the persistent presence of our Lord who is able to simply speak the word and change the shape of the world.

Concerning Jesus, the author of Hebrews says the following: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). Both Jonah and Jesus were asleep in their respective boats, but with amazingly different approaches to people, the one aloof, the other, alongside.

Jonah makes me think about Jesus, not because they are so much alike, but because they are so different.

What Is Baptism?

What is Baptism?

Baptism generally denotes the external, visible rite that demonstrates the spiritual reality of a believer’s identification with the Person and Work of Christ. Therefore, we often refer to “water baptism” to designate that which is external and visible. This helps to differentiate from “Spirit baptism,” which is the internal, invisible operation of the Spirit of God when He takes up residence in the believer’s life and incorporates him/her into the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3,4).

Who can or should be baptized?

Since water baptism points to a spiritual reality, only those who have experienced “Spirit baptism” should be baptized with water. Spirit baptism occurs in conjunction with a person’s spiritual birth, or regeneration, and in the experience of that person, is marked by repentance (turning from other saviors) and faith (turning to Jesus Christ as the only sufficient Savior). Therefore, only those who have placed personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and are willing to certify that faith publicly, will be baptized. Obviously then, in our understanding, it is improper to baptize infants, who have not placed personal faith in Christ, much less rejected other saviors in repentance.

How is baptism to be performed?

Bible scholars and theologians have argued about the mode of baptism for centuries. While there is good linguistic evidence for “to baptize” to mean “to dip, immerse,” I think the stronger argument has to do with what the external rite is intended to picture. Spirit baptism involves the new believer being “swallowed up” by the Spirit, taken over, in a large sense, and immersed in the Body of Christ. In a sense, the new believer is understood to be “wet all over, inside and out” with the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:13). Therefore, baptism by immersion best pictures the invisible, spiritual operation. This picture also fits well with what we are trying to say in baptism, that the new believer is identifying with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. When baptized by immersion, the new believer stands and affirms his/her faith in Christ in his death, is “buried” in the water, and rises again to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Also, since baptism is the visible testimony of a spiritual reality, baptism should be done publicly, as a testimony to a local body of believers, if possible (the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 being an exception), and comprises part of the “confession with the mouth” of the new believer (Romans 10:9,10).

What results from baptism?

Water baptism results in a believer being identified and accepted by a local congregation of believers, even as he/she has been identified and accepted by Christ by virtue of Spirit baptism. It is an early step of obedience that should lead to many other steps of obedience in the believer’s life, and serves as a reminder that, though we have no need to baptized over and over again, we do stand in need of continued association with, dependence upon, and filling with the Spirit as opposed to life lived in the flesh.