Reading Jonah

When one sits down to read through Jonah, an activity I do recommend, a sense of the extreme creeps in. Just let your mind process the following:

  • Nineveh is a great city. (1:2)
  • Jonah flees in the opposite direction by ship.
  • A great wind and fierce storm arise. (1:4)
  • The sailors seem to understand more about God than Jonah does. They have great terror in the storm and then great fear of the Lord. (1:10-16)
  • A great fish has been prepared.
  • Jonah is in the fish three days and nights praying!
  • Jonah travels for three days across the great city of Nineveh. (3:3)
  • The king of Nineveh refers to God’s fierce anger. (3:9)
  • All of Nineveh fasts and repents – from the greatest to the least.
  • Jonah expresses great displeasure. (4:1)
  • Jonah derives great pleasure from a plant. (4:6)
  • When the plant withers, Jonah says, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
  • At the end, God asks Jonah a question but what about the answer?

Do I believe Jonah is true?

The hardest to believe part of this story is the three days and nights Jonah spends in the belly of the whale. It is exactly this that Jesus refers to in Matthew 12:38-41. The scribes and Pharisees ask for a sign and Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah. “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.” We know that Jesus was buried and rose again the third day. Jesus speaks of Jonah’s experience as if it is fact – so I believe it!

Jesus continues his teaching in the same “great” theme as the story of Jonah. “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.

Great city, great fish, great emotions, great sign and yet, something greater is here! This certainly must be part of our message.

 

Cofradia 2013 – Hard to Believe

Hi all!

A team of women is busily preparing to return to Cofradia once again in January, 2013. This year’s trip is scheduled for January 5 – 12, 2013.

The theme for this year’s teaching and events is “Hard to Believe Bible Stories.” Yes, there are sure a lot of stories in the Bible that are hard to believe. We have chosen just a few:

  • Jonah. The whole story of Jonah is hard to believe. Jonah, a prophet (the vessel of God’s voice) of Israel, is sent to Israel’s enemy with a word of judgment and a call to repentance. When Jonah runs in the opposite direction, God send a great storm and prepares a great fish to swallow Jonah and later spit him up on the shore of his destination. Of all the possible reactions, Jonah is greatly distressed by Nineveh’s repentance!
  • Elijah and the Altars on Mt. Carmel. Elijah has prophesied judgment on the king, the land, and the people for worshiping idols. A contest is held on Mt. Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of God. It is hard to believe how the prophets of Baal acted to call for the idol’s attention; it is hard to believe what Elijah did to prove God’s authority; it is hard to believe that some still won’t believe.
  • Jesus on Mt. Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Hard to believe that God would enter into the time and space of a human body and live with us. Not only to live with us and for us, but to die for our sins. Then, after this apparent failure, some women witness the empty tomb and hear of a Living One! Others did not believe their testimony but what came after that event has changed lives into eternity.
  • We are hosting a catered banquet as a special event for the local ladies. They and their friends may come free of cost to enjoy a meal, decorated tables, learn to know some of the women of the Bible, and hear of an invitation to a greater banquet.

What makes each of these stories hard to believe? How do we even know they are true? If they are true, what do they tell us about God? Who is He? What has He done? What is He doing? What will He do? Can we know why God sent Jonah; why God’s fire came from heaven; why God’s Son come to earth; why a home and banquet are prepared for us? How do these old stories affect us? Where do we fit in?

Ah….

What are some of your “Hard to Believe Stories?” What do they tell you?

“Who is Jesus?” John 2:1-12

A Sign: Water into Wine

John 1 took us to existence before creation, to the activity of creation, and to the promises of a coming Messiah.  After this grand scale prologue, John 2 takes place in a decidedly more focused setting.  We are shown Jesus in one of the most intimate of settings as he attends a wedding with his mother and disciples.  This wedding is a family and community event, a joyous celebration of the connections in community, the establishment of a new family.

The narrative is very matter-of-fact.  “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.””(3)  We could speculate as to why Jesus’ mother might have come to him with this particular embarrassment.  Had He performed miracles at home?  Did they run out of milk or bread?  Why would she think Jesus needed to be told that they had no wine?  I really don’t want to speculate.  I do find Mary’s next comment to the servants very interesting, “Whatever He say to you, do it.” (5)

The servants heed her admonition and follow Jesus’ instructions.  Six large stone waterpots, set out for the Jewish custom of purification, are filled with water which is then served as good wine.  John writes that this was the beginning of Jesus’ signs, and by them He “manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (11)

Have you ever stopped to list, draw, or plan the natural process necessary to produce wine from water?  Let’s start with water provided by rain.  The falling raindrops are caught at one point in the infinite hydrological cycle.  They moisten the earth enough to soften the outer shell of a grape seed hidden in the soil.  The seed begins to do what it was made to do – grow into a green vine.  As it grows, the vine thickens and strengthens, nourished by elements in the soil.  Time passes: more rain falls.  Time passes: grapes grow.  Time passes: harvest arrives.  Time passes: juice ferments.  In the natural process, it could be years before a drop of water becomes a drop of wine.

Who is Jesus?  Jesus is Creator God with power over all of nature.  The natural process of water into wine is compressed into a moment following the command of Jesus and the obedience of the servants.   A super-natural provision for a small village wedding is a sign to point the way to the ultimate wedding feast of the Bride and Lamb of God.  The transformation of the water into wine, compressed into a fraction of a moment, is an assurance of what we hope for in faith.

If we asked the servants at the wedding, “Who is Jesus,” they would say that He was the One who turned water into wine.   As each one answers this question, Mary’s comment to the servants grows in significance –

“Whatever He says to you, do it.”