Posts Tagged ‘Jonah’

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021


James Tissot: The Pharisees Question Jesus

Three Days

Matthew 15:32 – Jesus feeds thousands who have followed him for three days, hungering for The Word of God. The religious structure collected taxes and burned offerings. The broken-hearted and the displaced were not healed. The marginalized lived at the whim of those with power. There were no social safety nets and little compassion in this ancient society.

Matthew 12:40 – Jesus reminds us that just as Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a huge fish so too will the Son of Man pass three days and nights in the heart of the earth.  There is more safety in Jesus’ promise of salvation than any civil or economic structure.

Matthew 26:57-68 – Jesus stands in silence before the Sanhedrin when he is accused of saying that he will rebuild in three days the destroyed temple that took decades to build. When Jesus finally replies that the Son of Man will be seen sitting at God’s right hand, the high priest rends his clothes.  Disbelief and scorn are typical reactions to the savior’s promise.

Matthew 27:39-40 – Those who pass by the crucified Jesus taunt him saying: You who are going to rebuild the temple in three days, save yourself!  Bullying and violence are too often the response to God’s promise of wholeness and newness in Christ.

Matthew 27:62-66 – A guard is established at Jesus’ tomb in order that his compatriots not steal the body and create a false story. “Take a guard,” Pilate says. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how”.  There is no power on earth that can withstand the force of God’s love.

In three days, Jesus rose from the depths of death just as he had promised.  And the miracle of this event is not only that Jesus has risen, but that he carries each of us with him into this new resurrection and new life. Let us give thanks today and all days. Alleluia!

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Pharisees_Question_Jesus_(Les_pharisiens_questionnent_J%C3%A9sus)_-_James_Tissot.jpg

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Matthew 16:13-19: The Christ

Monday, February 22, 2016you_are_the_christ_son_of_the_living_god

We might well wonder who Jesus is. For centuries scholars and common folk alike have pondered this question. Religious wars are fought; synods and councils are called; church leaders write creeds that lay out who and what this man means to us. Old and New Testaments predict and describe him and while sacred scripture and secular writings alike attempt to define him, Jesus gives us his open arms and willing heart. Jesus both defies and invites definition. Who and what are Jesus?

Jesus asks his disciples: What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?

They reply saying: Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.

Jesus presses them: And how about you? Who do you say I am?

Simon Peter says: You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Jesus then replies: God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.

Testimonies record encounters with the risen Christ and we may also have recorded or passed on our own encounters to those who have open ears and minds and hearts.

Today we hear Jesus ask each of: And how about you? Who do you say I am?

Today we have the opportunity to add our own demonstration of faith in Christ to the countless stories that have been told and are yet to be told. Let us count ourselves among that number as we remember our Lenten practice and . . . Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Human Christ Charlotte AllenCharlotte Allen, a controversial journalist published in the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington, Post, the Washington Times, Insight, City Journal, Washington Monthly, the New Republic and the Atlantic, has written The Human Christ: The Search For The Historical Jesus (ISBN 0-684-82725-5). Her interesting blog can be found at: https://blogstupidgirl.wordpress.com/

For more on the divine Christ, visit the Bible Hub at: http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/adeney/the_divine_christ.htm 

For a Noontime reflection on the connection between Jesus and Jonas, read the Jonah 3:1-3: Setting Out for Nineveh post at: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/03/05/jonah-31-3-setting-out-for-nineveh/

Today we think about the many perspectives on the identity of Jesus. Tomorrow, they preach but they do not practice. 

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Luke 11:29-32: Keeping Our Eyes Open

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ancient Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

We ask for miracles. We beg for outcomes. We can see the plan of our lives laid out in comfort and success, if only we might have control. We ask for perfection while it already lies in our hands. Jesus reminds us of this today.

As the crowd swelled, Jesus took a fresh tack: “The mood of this age is all wrong. Everybody’s looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you’re looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. But the only proof you’re going to get is the Jonah-proof given to the Ninevites, which looks like no proof at all. What Jonah was to Nineveh, the Son of Man is to this age”.

We might picture ourselves in the throngs pressing closer to Jesus, searching for answers we already have; but our mood is all wrong. We are looking for proof and we are looking for the wrong kind. We think we want to peak our curiosity, to satisfy our self-plan, to assure that our lives will run smoothly with no lack of anything. We ignore the Jonah-proof, the astounding fact that the city of Nineveh turns back to God after Jonah preaches its coming destruction. We hear the same word from Jonah and we also ask for signs and miracles . . . while the miracle rests with us in every moment of every day and in every place.

The Son of Man, Jesus, the manifestation of God on earth . . . presents himself to us in the form of the poor, the naked, the lost and forsaken. And we turn away. We have kept our eyes open . . . but what do we see?

For more information about Jonah and the city of Nineveh, visit: http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/nineveh.html.

To learn about how Jonah prefigures Jesus, visit: http://catholicexchange.com/9-ways-jonah-prefigured-jesus  

Today, as we reflect on how we best might keep our eyes open, we remember our Lenten practice for the week: Rather than thinking: “I am misunderstood,” let us think instead, “God is so understanding”.

Tomorrow, the many forms of murder.


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Jonah 3:1-3: Setting Out for Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

March 5, 2015

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you”. So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding.

Nineveh was the capital of the ancient empire of Assyria and it is thought that the word derives from the name Nin, a pagan god closely associated with the Greek god Hercules. Legend tells us that this settlement was begun on the banks of the Tigris River by the ancient leader and king Ninus, or Nimrod. Today the city’s ruins are located opposite Mosul, but at its apogee this enormous metropolis was the largest in the world. As early as the year 1800 B.C.E. the city was the center for the worship of Ishtar, goddess of love, war, sexuality and fertility. In 612 B.C.E. it was sacked by an alliance of Assyria’s former subject nations. We have a great deal to learn from Nineveh.

At the time of Jonah’s ministry (785-775 B.C.E.), Nineveh was a thriving cultural, social and political hub of enormous importance. We can well imagine the prophet’s hesitancy to preach God’s word in this environment; but at this time “Assyria had suffered military reverses, diplomatic setbacks, famine and domestic uprisings”. In addition, two eclipses had taken place in 784 and in 763 B.C. E. It is likely that all this prepared the Ninevites for a foreign prophet who suddenly appeared to bring them news of how they might make a positive change. (Zondervan 1469) Although reluctant, Jonah does as God asks of him and he sets out on the road to Nineveh. We have a great deal to learn from Jonah.

When challenged by corrupt Pharisees, Jesus says: This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30)

Spend time with this story of Jonah and with Jesus’ words as recorded by both Luke and Matthew (12:38-45), and consider the meaning of these verses in our own lives. When we reflect on where our own Nineveh might lie and on who brings us our greatest challenge, let us also consider if we, like the reluctant Jonah, might make ready. Let us consider if we might rely fully on God. Let us decide to put aside our fears and anxieties as we carry the word of God. And let us, like Jonah, set out for the city of Nineveh.

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

For news about the condition and status of ancient Nineveh today, click on the carving image above or visit: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/tragedy-militants-bomb-2700-year-old-nineveh-wall-iraq-002632 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1469. Print.

For more on Nineveh, the wicked city, visit: http://www.mpumc.org/uploads/file/nineveh.pdf or use the other web links above. 

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Friday, December 23, 2011 – Matthew 12 – Confronting Evil

The Pharisees

The Pharisees in today’s reading ask for a sign that Jesus’ healings are from God; Jesus replies that they have the sign of Jonah.  We spent time with the Jonah story on December 20 and 21 and perhaps we better understand that the three days spent in the belly of the whale are an opportunity for conversion, the chance to thank God for the goodness we have received.  Today we have the possibility of understanding the deeper meaning in Jesus’ words and actions, of more fully understanding that we have nothing to fear, of better understanding that our persecutors cannot touch what really matters – our souls.  And we more fully see that God himself has overcome the evil of the world.

The Pharisees try to trip Jesus up by challenging him on the details of the cumbersome Mosaic Law.  When they realize that Jesus is too clever – and too grounded in God – to be caught in a trap of their design, they challenge his very authority.  This is the beginning of their undoing.

How does Jesus defend himself and what lesson can we take from his actions?  Jesus does not waste words of explication but instead asks questions.  What did David do?  What do the Pharisees themselves do?  We might follow this tactic and practice asking questions rather falling into the trap of arguing when we confront evil.

How does Jesus reveal the fallacies in false charges?  Rather than point out the hardness in the Pharisees’ hearts, Jesus describes what happens when people work against one another in a greedy struggle for control.  Again he asks questions.  By whom do your own people drive out demons?  How will a kingdom stand when it is divided against itself?  We might follow this strategy and develop our own skills of looking for the truth rather than focusing on proving others wrong. 

Jesus calls to his listeners using an image of trees bearing good fruit.  Jesus teaches with his healing acts and leads by turning to God and allowing the Spirit to work through him.  The crowds of people know where the evil lies . . . and it is not in the man who heals them even on the holiest day of the week; instead it lies in corrupt leadership, it lies in the collaborators who encourage the corruption to flourish, and it lies in the hearts on anyone who would rather sacrifice the kingdom in order to build a personal power base.  We have so much to learn from Jesus.

Tissot: The Pharisees Confronting Jesus

Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you . . . Are we members of this crowd?

An evil and ungrateful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except for the sign of the prophet Jonah . . . Do we understand Jesus’ words that resurrection follows days of uncertainty and pain in the belly of the whale?

When we see evil we know that we must confront it but we must do so wisely – as Jesus does – lest we empty our house of several small demons only to let in the monster Beelzebub to take up permanent residence in our hearts.   Let us take a lesson from the master and decide that rather than argue with the devil, we will ask questions instead.  Rather than point fallacies and errors to those around us, we will empty ourselves of our well-honed arguments and allow the Spirit to speak instead.  And rather than throw ourselves against barricaded corruption and power in high places, we will turn to the God who knows and sees all, and give thanks to the God of all creation.  In this way we bear fruit for the kingdom . . . and we ask God to confront evil.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, the day when all creation gathers in anticipation of the One who fulfills God’s promise to us.  So let us prepare to receive this most wonderful, most impossible, most loving gift.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011 – Jonah 2  – A Prayer from the Belly of the Whale


Yesterday we reflected on this short but crucial portion of Jonah’s story; why does he offer a prayer of thanksgiving when he finds himself devoured by a whale?  Read the December 20 Noontime and then join Jonah in his prayer . . .

Out of our distress we cry to you . . . the waters swirl about us, threatening our lives . . . the abyss envelops us . . . the soul faints within and we remember the Lord. 

As we near the coming holiday we have much to accomplish.  Some of our chores we do gladly; others weigh heavily on us.  Good and wise God, help us to sort out the trivial from the real as we struggle to balance work and play.

As we approach the festival of joy we continue to be haunted by old angers and anxieties; we might relish this turmoil or we may want to cast it off.  Good and patient God, lead us to the understanding that what looks like death is life, what seems to be the end is a new beginning. 

Carlo Antonio Tavella: Jonah and the Whale

As we move toward the celebration of hope we have sorrows and fears; we may be managing to stay afloat in this sea of turmoil or we may be sinking into its cold depths.  Good and compassionate God, remind us that living for a time in the belly of the whale means that in the end . . . we have the opportunity to draw ever closer to you. 

Our prayer reaches God . . . we give God resounding praise . . . we are delivered by the hands of the Lord. 


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