Most people know the story of Jonah. At least, they know part of it; they know the part where he gets swallowed by a big fish. But what about the other part of Jonah’s story? Are you familiar with it? Jesus mentions it in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 12.
Jonah was sent to the great city of Nineveh as a sign. He was told by God to go through the city preaching a message of repentance. We see what happens in Jonah 3. The people listen; they recognize the sign that had been given them. So they proclaim a fast and repent. God does not destroy the people because they recognized the sign and acted accordingly.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” He went on, “…and there is something greater than Jonah here.” The people had been given their sign. Jesus came preaching repentance, that the Kingdom of God was at hand. But the people did not like the sign, so they chose to ignore it. Are we much the same? What if God sent you a sign, but it wasn’t a sign you liked? Would you choose to ignore it? After all, that whole “repent” sign can be hard to swallow. It means we have to acknowledge that we are doing wrong in the first place. And then we have to change. Have you seen the sign?
Father, open our eyes and our ears and our hearts, that we may see the sign of Jonah that has been given to us. May we, like the people of Nineveh, repent and turn our hearts back to you. Amen.