Something More Than Jonah
On one occasion when Jesus expelled a demon, the Pharisees asked him for a sign as proof that the works he did were from God.
“He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.”
– Matthew 12:39-41
The only sign Jesus would give is his message of salvation. As with Jonah, the proof of Jesus’ authority comes from the changes that occur in the hearts of men who listen to him. It is the message, not the miracles, that lead to salvation. And like the Ninevites, all who listened to Jesus and turned to the true God were saved from the calamity that befell Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
In our day, we can surely expect to be saved from calamity if we pay attention to the teachings and the example of the greater Jonah, Christ Jesus. Things like these:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:14-16
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
– Matthew 7:1-2
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 7:12
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
– Matthew 23:8-12
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
– Matthew 25:37-40
This is the lifestyle and attitude that Jesus brought down to earth. Salvation does not come from professing Christianity. Man’s salvation depends on doing God’s will in the way Jesus demonstrated for us:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 7:21
Doing God’s will is not difficult or complicated. Remember Jesus told us:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
Yes, we are told to reach out for perfection, but we do this by doing the best and right thing under the circumstances. This mandate is all encompassing and applies in every situation. By its very nature, this includes selfless and gracious service to our families, our brothers, and our neighbors. When we work at bringing heaven down, we are showing appreciation for the life and ministry of Jesus. He will not have lived and died in vain.
But more than doing the divine will, let us make the divine will our will. When the Father’s will is your law, you are near the kingdom. But when the Father’s will is your will, you are in the kingdom. Let us therefore lift our hearts toward God who is spirit to seek insight through the intelligent discovery of His will by means of Christ Jesus.
Remember that we are faith sons of the Father poised to be adopted into the heavens. We have a living hope. We should not think in terms of a coming end, but rather of our eternal future of being transformed ‘from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18) until we reach the very presence of our Father and can fulfill the divine mandate in absolute perfection. That is the Father’s will for us.
In the next article in this series, we will discuss how to bring heaven down in the home where service to God begins.