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.