To the sceptical Jewish leaders, Jesus declared: “…An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For 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” (Matthew 12:39-40) (ESV).
Engulfed in inexplicable problems, this world holds no hope for humanity. Right in the middle of the Sea, the Tarshish mariners were caught up in similar situation. The ship was about to sink, destroying everyone aboard.
As is common with humanity—when faced with calamitous problems—blame has to be directed at someone—real or imagined. However, there is reality in that: [For a problem to be a problem it has to contain a lie].
There are two forces that govern this universe—namely, truthfulness and falsehood. Truth represents stability. While falsehood is represented in instability—being the source of everything that eventually crumbles to nothingness. Any challenge faced by anyone, regardless of whatever source, such trouble emanates from a condition of falsehood.
Marital problems can be traced to falsehood. The existence and sustenance of government dictators, are a result of falsehood. At the bottom of all calamitous accidents—while blamed on recklessness or drunken driving—resides falsehood. Jesus said only the Truth shall set people free (John 8:32).
Unfortunately, truth is unpopular. In other words, it is falsehood that causes a person to be behind the steering wheel, fully aware of being intoxicated? Though misunderstood by most people—as assumed to be not associated with falsehood—general recklessness itself is a product of falsehood.
The same applies to illnesses and other forms of unexplained tragedies that trouble humanity. Right at the foundation of humanity was adoption and inculcation of falsehood, revealed in Adam and Eve story.
This can be unbelievable to most people. But all problems of humanity spring from Adam’s carelessness—having succumbed to falsehood, instead of truth. This can easily be put on laboratory, on any scale of imagination.
In each individual, resides truth—which humanity treats as unacceptable—although doing so out of ignorance. Falsehood appeals to fallible humanity, due to quickie benefits—attractive to human nature.
What is false is as temporary as misty fog—appearing in the morning—only to disappear in the horizon—as if it never existed. Careful analysis reveals that there is no truth in physical nature. Falsehood is generally peddled across the world—while truth is also known to exist, somehow.
The proclivity to adopt falsehood, is what troubles humanity—desiring stopgap measures to attain quickie solutions—at the expense of long term solutions. This is like taking poisonous tranquilizers to circumvent pain—when failing to appreciate that which permanently addresses causes of such ailments.
One of the most exciting revelations is that all truths—when convincingly factual—come from God. For instance, the truth about gravitational law—or any other form of truth—is constituted in God’s natural laws.
This is as long as such truth is verifiably accepted as standing against any other data of comparable magnitude. But, any person holding truthful data, is exposed to the spotlight of dangerous responsibility.
Such a person’s own survival and that of his/her fellows, depend upon his ability to carry out responsibility—divinely bestowed upon him/her. To the casual minds, a person with truth appears as privileged. But nothing is more sombre than being bestowed with responsibility, constituted in truth alone.
We have to analyse the story of Jonah, to appreciate this reality. The Prophet Jonah’s entire story is narrated in Jonah’s Book, in Old Testament Bible. The Tarshish mariners did not have any problem on their journey—until on that ship was aboard Jonah—whose expedition contained untruthfulness.
On casting lots, the source of their problem pointed at Jonah—and indeed Jonah was the culprit. But that does not take away the fact that in that ship there possibly were other sinners. However, those other sinners could not be cause of any problem, as long as they did not have any relationship with God.
All truths come from God. Like Jonah, those holding truths from God may be the source of all problems that this world is engulfed in. I suppose a person who commits adultery without his conscience telling him that what he does would be wrong, is free. This is just as a person avoiding adultery—fully aware of the consequences of adultery is also free?
This is why all problems threatening the animal kingdom, are not necessarily anything to do with the cannibalistic nature of some of those animals. Also, I suppose if the Bushmen were to be asked to describe the source of their problems, they would probably point at people calling themselves Christians.
You cannot be a Christian and yet do things that are contrary to your Christian calling. This cannot be done without inviting problems—even on other people—like Jonah, towards the Tarshish mariners. Jonah’s story reveals that Christian calling cannot be a casual matter—although most people suppose it to be.
Christianity is as dangerous as possibly being the cause of all tumultuous problems that this world is entangled in. Jonah’s story reveals a man, who obviously was very passionate about God’s laws. It made him feel uncomfortable, seeing people deliberately violating God’s laws.
Jonah’s story shows a man who could not see reason—preaching to people as sinful as those of Nineveh. Whether justified or not, Jonah’s viewpoint went against the Almighty God. Obviously, Jonah knew God to be a God of justice—but awkwardly, failing to appreciate other Godly attributes.
Jonah may have, hitherto, not fully comprehended other Godly attributes, such as mercifulness and slow to anger, for instance. Apparently, this was Jonah’s delusion—bringing unnecessary despair upon himself:
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live’” (Jonah 4:1-3) (ESV).
For God to be gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, towards sinners, could not make sense to the ‘righteous’ Jonah. This is why God’s countenance is unbearable to humanity. This is also why Jesus could not be acceptable to the Jews of His time.
As humanity, we are at home in our physical and sinful nature. But our sinful nature does not represent truth, in that we were created in God’s image. When surviving physically—being called by God cannot be a privilege. Christian calling carries a responsibility that demands self-denial, in order to be led by the All Righteous God.
The reality of this proclamation can be understood when reading the Prophet Jonah’s story. The physical nature of Jonah encouraged him to escape to Tarshish, than confront the sinful people of Nineveh.
Two opposing opinions confronted Jonah; namely human reasoning, as compared with God’s viewpoint. Unfortunately, it was God’s viewpoint that represented truth, rather than Jonah’s viewpoint—as represented in falsehood. This is regardless of how appealing, Jonah’s viewpoint seemed to be?
By succumbing to desiring suicide, Jonah revealed truth in that one cannot commit himself to God when still surviving physically. Jesus clearly proclaimed this reality: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) (ESV).
There is no contradiction in what Jesus said. Indeed, no-one can ever see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20). This is because our physical bodies represent falsehood, while God represents truthfulness. The two forces cannot co-exist—as governed by different laws. The error of all ages, lies in desiring to put significance in physical nature, instead of spiritual nature.
There may indeed be people in sinful bodies, insinuating that they would have seen God. Such people ought to be confronted and asked exactly what they would mean by that. Otherwise, merely declaring having seen God, contradicts the very God that the person proclaims to have seen.
Nevertheless, it has now become possible to remain in physical life, yet having seen God. This was made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus took time to explain this to one of the Jewish leaders, who had visited Him at night.
Unfortunately, while appearing only once in the Bible, this passage of Scripture seems most favourable among most Christians. Yet it is the passage of Scripture that, no doubt, carries the possibility of being most misunderstood:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him. Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8) (ESV).
Jesus was merely repeating what God had said to Moses:
“’You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:20-23) (ESV).
How is God’s back and His glory look like? And what did God mean: “and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:22-23) (ESV)?
Indeed, what is recorded here, appears as being of figurative speech, than real? Although, of all people, it was Moses who spent considerable time conversing with God. Yet the same Moses could not be allowed to see the face of God? Truly, Moses would have had to be born again, to see God and live.
But that could not have been possible before Jesus had died on the cross. The death of Jesus facilitated the possibility of humanity being born again—so as to be able to see God and live. If there is confusion in Christianity—failure to understand this reality is chief—among such trappings.
Jonah—though having been one of the renowned Prophets—could not stand the countenance of God—hence preferring suicide, instead. In human frailty, most people assume privilege in God’s calling—as desired by all and sundry.
The Prophet Jonah would tell such people that they would not know what they would be talking about. God’s countenance is too strong to be faced by ordinary humanity—desiring to live. Those assuming that there is free lunch in Jesus, need to re-read what Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:1-8).
Verse 8 comprises an aspect that most people fail to understand, in that passage: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) (ESV).
A person born anew, is not seen by physical humans. This is why Jesus extolled Peter for having perceived this reality—commonly hidden to ordinary humanity: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17) (ESV).
This was after Peter had accurately identified Jesus as Son of the living God. Interestingly, most of those having seen Jesus, could not see God in Jesus! Peter had managed to see what ordinary people could not see—as typified in wind that blows, but not seen by anyone.
We see, feel and hear the effects of what the wind does, as it blows. But we cannot actually see the wind. This is exactly what Jesus intended to make Nicodemus appreciate, of those born again (John 3:8). The bottom line is that no physical person can see God and live. One has to die, before seeing God.
Jesus seemed to frequently discourage people against following Him. Yet His mission was to save those same people? (Luke 14:25-33). He sought to emphasise to them that death ought to come, before following Him. It is not possible to access abundant living in God, while still in sinful nature. Paul proclaimed beautifully, the only viewpoint substantiating Christianity:
“We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life…But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more hath dominion over him” (Romans. 6:4-9) (ASV).
Baptism is a manifestation of death in Jesus. The greatest decision ever to be made in this life is accepting baptism in Jesus. However, this has got nothing to do with quantifiable achievements in this world—whether educationally or in Business. A born again Christian is a totally different individual—as can actually easily be mistaken for being stupid.
This is when considering the willingness to dispose of all his/her possessions—including rubbishing what could be considered as greatest educational achievements. That person may have even cut relationships with his own family members, only to follow Christ—not seen by physical eyes.
If any person, regarding himself as Christian, considers these sentiments too extreme—the same person might as yet to become a Christian. Unfortunately, the person might be treading on dangerous ground without knowing.
Like Jonah, he/she might be the cause of troubles that those in his/her surrounding are facing. Jonah could not confront the reality of being used by God as a Prophet. I shudder to imagine those calling themselves “Christians” without even considering the consequences of being true Christians?
The reality of such consequences may not be experienced in this life. But the wise may take heed of what Jesus meant—when frequently proclaiming that there would be ‘gnashing of teeth.’ How significant could Jesus’ words, have been to His listeners, as follows? “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) (ESV).
With all that is stated here: How many Christian readers remain to be? Jesus successfully carried the burden of dying for humanity—willingly. This is just as Jonah willingly accepted being thrown into the sea—in order to save the lives of those, possible sinful Tarshish-bound mariners.
The only difference is that Jesus knew everything that He did, yet Jonah did not know—even the reality of his mission. Knowing God is only possible when also having seen God—which is possible only after death. That reality could not be possible for Jonah who had still survived physically.
Hence Jonah yearned for committing suicide, rather than face God’s reality in Jonah’s physical life-time. There was nothing mischievous about Jonah’s desire to die than confront God. Doesn’t all this explain the significance of baptism?
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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