Author - Jon Paul Dennison
We always hear the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” More often than not, the question itself reveals our misunderstanding of the human condition. “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) “No one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12) A more accurate question is the inverse: “why do good things happen to bad people?”
Jonah knew the answer to this question: “for I knew that you are a gracious God…” (4:2) But for Jonah, God’s grace was the reason he didn’t want to go to Ninevah. He didn’t want good things to happen to bad people. He actually admits it in verse 2.
How does it make you feel when good things happen to bad people? Have you ever been mad that God was gracious to others? Nineveh was an evil nation by God’s own admission (1:2), but God wanted to extend grace to them. Jonah knew this and didn’t want it. He wanted to keep God’s favor all to Israel rather than being a blessing to the nations.
But God superseded Jonah’s will and used him to accomplish His purposes anyway by means of a fish and a really short sermon. Nineveh responds rightly in repentance and Jonah pouts that God is gracious to them. As he sits outside the city waiting to see if it might still be destroyed, God teaches Jonah to love those who don’t benefit him, as God himself did.
We have so many foreshadowings of the New Testament in the book of Jonah: the gospel to the world (taking God's word to a nation outside Israel), the sign of the resurrection (3 days and nights in the belly of the fish), and now here we even see the foreshadowing of Jesus’ command to love your enemies.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” … “But who do you say that I am?”
Who is Jesus? The crowds by and large don’t know, as they didn’t in Jesus days on earth. Most seem to be heading in the right direction on the surface when they compare Jesus to someone spiritual or when they ascribe spiritual attributes to him: "a risen prophet,” in this case. Some compare him to contemporaries and some to men of old, but all fall short in doing so.
When Peter confesses Jesus as THE Christ (the anointed ONE), he rightly distinguishes Jesus uniquely as THE Messiah. We read Jesus response in Matthew’s gospel: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18)
Jesus tells Peter that this understanding didn’t come from the world around him, but from God Himself. Jesus says the same in John 6:45: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” It is this confession and faith that is a mark of true believers and it is upon this believing confession that Jesus builds his church.