Jonah and the Gospel

March 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite gospel-centered stories in the Bible is Jonah.

Tullian Tchividjian calls it one of the best books for helping us get a better grip on the gospel.
This Spring I did a two week series at Cru on the book of Jonah (it could easily be taught over 4 weeks instead of 2).

In order to save you some time if you ever wanted to teach this book at your weekly meeting or Bible study, I wanted to share some resources on Jonah:

  • My Talk notes, slides, Sufjan song I used, and the intro and countdown video (all linked to below)
  • Links to help you research Jonah (also listed out below)

Some Key Points from my two talks on Jonah

Week 1 – We are Jonah (see full notes below)

  • Mark Driscoll – There is no way to understand the scriptures apart from these three questions

Who is God?
Who am I?
And what is repentance?

  • Jonah provides amazing insights into all three of these
  • Every year –In Jewish synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – the holiest and most solemn day of the Year for Jews, The book of Jonah is read each year. The congregation responds to the reading with the confession “We are Jonah.”
  • The book of Jonah is a mirror in which we are supposed to see ourselves.
  • We are Jonah.
  • When we ask the question, What kind of people run from God?
  • The answer is people just like us.
  • We are Jonah- being picked up by our shipmates. One guy holding our arms, another our legs, about to toss us over to die for our sin, our running from God, our self-righteousness
  • We are in need of rescue
  • As part of his prayer Jonah says to God: “You cast me into the depths, into the heart of the sea.” (2:4)  – it’s what he deserved
  • But in Yom Kippur, the High Holy day of the Jews, they do something interesting. They tack on a random passage to the end of Jonah – a small section at the end of the Book of Micah that uses almost identical language about our sins: “You will cast their sins into the depths of the sea”  (Micah 7:19)
  • How is that possible for Him to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (instead of us)?
  • Tim Keller connects the dots in his new book King’s Cross (from Mark 4:35):

Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.
In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah.

  • He was willingly thrown into sea in our place so Micah 7:19 might be true.


Week 2 – Revival starts when the good people realize their evil and turn to God (see full notes below)

  • We lack compassion because we don’t understand the gospel
  • God is a gracious God who saves evil people
  • So who are the “evil” people?
  • The word “evil” is used of Jonah just as many times as it is of the Ninevites
  • The gospel is only for sinners
  • Preaching it to ourselves every day reminds us that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace.
  • “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
  • Tim Keller – “Jesus comes and says, I have nothing to say to you unless you understand that you stand in the same place morally before god as the murderer, the rapist”
  • John Wayne Gacy raped and killed 33 young men and was one of the worst Serial Killers in American History
  • Now I bring up Gacy, at risk of creeping many of you out. And let me warn you, the next 5-10 minutes will be VERY heavy.
  • I think Gacy is a modern equivalent of the Ninevites.
  • In order to understand Jonah (and his hatred for evil men like the Ninevites), to understand the Ninevites, to understand ourselves and to understand God, I think it would be instructive to look at the life of John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
  • Jony Wayne Gacy summed up his life to a friend: “”I do a lot of rotten, horrible things, but I do a lot of good things too.”
  • I want you to listen to one of my favorite artists, Sufjan Stephens, sing a song about John Wayne Gacy (lyrics here). Because he connects the dots from Gacy’s life to our life.

And on his best behavior
He’d kill ten thousand people

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

  • So How does Revival Start?
  • When Bad people start flooding out of the bars into churches and Christian meetings?
  • No. It starts when “good people” turn to God in repentance
  • The reason the good news of God’s love hadn’t gone out in the city of Ninevah is the same reason it hasn’t gone out across the campus
  • God’s people don’t like the people that God loves and we are too self-righteous to see ourselves as no better than the people they have been called to bring the gospel to
  • God has sent us out to represent Him to the world – so that the world will be changed by the message of the good news of God’s unconditional love – but also so that we will be changed in the process – by the message of the good news . . .



Books/Articles/Sermons I used in teaching Jonah

Better than Any Fish Story – Tullian Tchividjian on the gospel in Jonah

Five questions with Tullian Tchividjian

  • Jonah video and graphics – great (free!) intro clip, countdown, powerpoint slides from Southeast church
  • John Wayne Gacy, Jr. – haunting song by Sufjan Stevens. Main idea – on our best behavior, there is still unfathomable evil in our hearts

Here’s my full notes and slides for Week 1

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GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings


Here’s my full notes for Week 2 (be forewarned – week 2’s notes are a chaotic mess that I never fully organized into a good flow!)

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GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings



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