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The Sign of Jonah: Swallowed in Death, Raised in Life (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:38


While the world went looking for Easter eggs and basketball games this weekend, the church of Jesus Christ remembered the resurrection of our Lord. More valuable than anything an egg can offer, and more reliable than any team we cheer, the resurrected Christ offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who turn from sin to trust him.

This is what we celebrated on Sunday (and every Sunday). And at our church, the focus was on the sign of Jesus, as found in Jonah 1:17.  Amazingly, some eight centuries before Christ’s death and resurrection, we learn that the God of Israel took the rebellious actions of Jonah and turned them in a “sign” pointing forward to Jesus. As Jesus himself says in Matthew 12:38–41, Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the fish foreshadowed his own death and resurrection.

You can listen to the sermon online. You can find discussion questions and further resources below.  

Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:38–41

17 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.

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Discussion Questions

  1. When did you first hear Jonah’s story? Have you ever had a hard time believing it? What makes the Bible and its supernatural events hard or easy to believe? (cf. Hebrews 11:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10–16)
  2. What do you learn about God in the events leading up to Jonah’s ‘death’ in the sea? What do you learn about God in ‘appointing’ a fish to save Jonah? Cf. Jonah 4:6–8.
  3. What do you learn about salvation in Jonah 1:17? What is the significance of the third day? See the resources below.
  4. What do you learn about Jesus in Jonah 1:17? What does Jesus teach us about reading the Old Testament? (See also Luke 24:27, 44–49; John 5:39; Acts 13:32–33; Galatians 3:8)
  5. What is the sign of Jonah? Why does Jesus answer the scribes and Pharisees like he does?
  6. What is your response to the sign of Jonah? What is your response to Jesus’ death and resurrection? How does understaning the sign of Jonah help you understand Jesus death and resurrection?
  7. Read Romans 6:1–6; Matthew 16:24–28; 28:18–20; Galatians 3:26–29. How do we appropriate / participate in the salvation provided by Christ? Why is (our own) death and resurrection so important for our salvation / discipleship?  What role does water baptism play in this discipleship / union with Christ?
  8. What else did you learn from Jonah 1:17? Or, what questions remain?

Further Resources

Soli Deo Gloria, ds