Finding Jesus in Jonah
Charisma, now there’s a word that has various meanings, especially in the Church. Yet charisma, the gifts of grace, is how a believer operates in life. Our entire Christian doctrine is based on a correct interpretation of this word: God’s sovereign, undeserved favor given to a person. It’s the Holy Spirit Who disperses these grace gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12, 14; Eph. 4) to strengthen and encourage: not to divide. The spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, planting churches, teaching and preaching God’s Word, delivering a miracle or healing, and many other Spirit-empowered gifts, are given by God and you don’t choose, the Holy Spirit does. His divine plan may include you, it’s surely a privilege, but get over yourself, you have little to do with it.
With that said, let’s look at the prophet Jonah. His assignment from God was unusually specific and no other prophet was given this mission: go and preach, using his spiritual gift, to a foreign nation. For a Jew, that was blasphemy! Iraq? Seriously? Jonah’s answer was seen in he fact that he ran away, got on a ship, was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a big fish. God used Jonah, the lower story, as a foreshadow to what was coming. That’s where we find Jesus.
The theme of this book, even though most people only remember the story of the big fish and his dinner, is that salvation was not to be limited to the Jews. Jesus reminded his followers of Jonah in Matt. 12:39-31 when He compared Jonah’s experience in the fish (3 days/nights) to His own death that was approaching. He would prove His authority over Satan, rise again, and offer grace, charisma, to those who responded to His calling. Jonah’s eventual obedience to preach salvation to a Gentile nation was the lower story; the upper story was that God’s plan of redemption included the Gentiles all along. Jonah was a sign, Jesus said, that mercy and grace would be offered to any repentant heart.
This is clearly seen with Peter in Acts 10. God gave him a supernatural vision to show that Gentiles were no longer to be considered unclean. It caused quite a stir but unlike Jonah, Peter responded immediately; the gift of the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as well. After that revelation the leadership of the newly formed Church agreed that God had ‘granted repentance that leads to life’ (Acts 11:18) for all people: Jew and Gentile alike.
One last point. Jonah’s name means ‘dove’ which is significant since the Spirit of God is likened to a dove at Jesus‘ baptism. The spiritual gifts are necessary to the Church, Paul tells us, or God would not have given them. We are to use them (Rom. 12:6) to live the higher life in Christ until He comes again. Don’t neglect your gifts, unwrap them and allow God to flow through you to help others, hopefully quicker than Jonah!