We just finished hearing about the challenges and ministry of Jonah this past week. Jonah, called to preach repentance to the Ninevites, finds that he would rather not, and so attempts to get away from God. That, of course, doesn’t work because there is no where that God is not, so he ends up in the belly of a big fish for three days and nights, and is eventually disgorged in Nineveh to do the work he was called to do. This he does, begrudgingly, and the people of Nineveh repent, to the praise and glory of God.
And today we hear that no sign will be given to the people of Jesus’ time except this sign of Jonah. And that is true. Jesus is called to preach repentance just like Jonah was, although, praise God, he does it willingly. Jesus too will be covered over for three days and three nights, but this time in the tomb and not a fish. He then is disgorged in the glory of the Resurrection to give the way to repentance, which some have done, to the praise and glory of God. This is the only sign we need.
But Jesus berates the people because while the evil people of Nineveh repented, the Jews of Jesus’ day not so much. The people of Nineveh didn’t have anything near as great a prophet as Jesus is, and they repented, but the people of Jesus’ time did not. And so history and eternity will be kinder to the Ninevites than to these people.
The Psalmist today sings that the Lord has made known his salvation. This he has done, to the Ninevites, to the people of Jesus’ time, and to us. Today we pray for the softening of our hearts so that we might repent of our wickedness in the way that the Ninevites did, and so have eternal life.