The story of Jonah is propelled forward, we learn, because Calamity looms over Nineveh. We don’t know what kind of calamity it would look like, all we know is that there is pending consequences for the Assyrian empire.
And Jonah is told by God to walk headlong into this situation, “to go and proclaim to, rather than against, the city” about what is about to happen.
This is significant. It is also significant, I think, that the first and only time a biblical prophet is asked by God to go into a non-Jewish city and give it a message from the Lord.
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.”
(Jonah 1:1–3 NRSV)
Jonah is an old story, and it is even an over-told one. We so used to it being told from the perspective of Jonah as a vegetable, or other children’s stories that it seems too simplistic to be of use to us. Either that or we are caught in debates about whether it is a factual story or who are the wicked “Ninevites that need to be evangelized that” it can be difficult to find where Jonah fits for us today. But the story of Jonah – I like to think of it like a parable similar to a parable of Jesus’ – is something that is neither simple nor about evangelism, at least not in the way we have tended to think of it.
I want to start with an image from the natural world, that symbolizes the marks of transformation is the metamorphosis of the butterfly.
How many of you have had the opportunity to watch a chrysalis transform before your very eyes into a butterfly? I find the metamorphosis of a butterfly captivating and beautiful. But, as with anything kind of change that takes place, it must happen carefully and in its own time. Each stage of metamorphosis is essential in the process of the butterfly becoming its “true self.”
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16–20 NRSV)
The Great Commission
This text is known to many who grew up in the church as the “Great Commission.” So let’s think for a moment about what a commission is in this context?
an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people
a group of people officially charged with a particular function
Maybe that’s what Jesus is up to here, give a command and laying out the duty of every single person who wishes to be his disciple.
“So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:24–26)
The Story is not rigged
One of the ways we have heard these last events taught is that it all had to happen this way, but I want to raise the possibility that the game wasn’t rigged for Jesus. That these final events weren’t “destiny” as we often suppose, but rather the outworking of certain mechanism within human society that Jesus sought to unmask.** Continue reading Palm Sunday: Rivalry Encased in Death (Matthew 26:20-27:26)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
(Matthew 6:25–29 NRSV)
We have a tendency when we hear Jesus’ teachings to do one of two things:
We Over-Spiritualize what he says and take it extremely literally.
So if I am in this camp and I read this text then quite honestly it becomes an excuse to be irresponsible, “Hey, I know we don’t have enough to take care of the bills, but we always squeak through some way. I know we don’t really have the money for it but doesn’t it say that God takes care of us, let’s just do it and trust that God will helps us out.” Continue reading Death By Bread & Clothes Alone (Matthew 6:25-34)