Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jonah 1:1-17; Wednesday Lenten Service; March 11, 2009;

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose 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 the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:1-17, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Consider Fallon, Nevada. The EPA has found that Fallon’s water system delivers more arsenic to its customers than any other large town water system in America. Folks there even joke about it: “Arsenic? It only bothers you if you’re not used to it.” Tim Miller, who has lived in Fallon all his life, jests, “Arsenic is no biggie. I’ll die of something. It’s called life. Once you’re born, you start dying.” The arsenic levels remain high, not because people like drinking arsenic, but because they don’t want to pay for the solution, a $10 million treatment plant. One local official said, “This is Nevada. They don’t want to feel government is intruding in their lives.” Talk about being obstinate! These people would rather serve arsenic-laced water to their children than allow the government to “intrude” into their lives with a water treatment plant. Their stubborn, ridiculous choice to dig in their heels is repeated time and again by humans across the country and throughout the globe.

Jonah is a stubborn soul. He doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. He does everything in his power to avoid it. He runs away from home. Imagine the picture of the 4 year old. “Mommy, if you don’t by me that toy I’m going to run away from home.” Or the five year old sulking in her room. “No body loves me; Everybody hates me; Sitting in the garden eating worms.” It’s the same attitude. Jonah runs to the shore. “No matter what, I’m not going to go to Nineveh!” He spends the money necessary to get a ship to get as far away from what God has told him to do as possible. He actually thinks if he runs away from home, he’s running away from God. If he runs away from God, he won’t have to do what he’s been told to do. Stubborn Jonah gets on the ship and heads out to sea. But God provides…

Yep, that’s what I said, “God provides… He provides a great wind.” And the wind blew up a great storm. Our God is a providing God. He provides what we need not what we want. God provides the storm for Jonah. But Jonah is stubborn. He goes down into the bottom of the boat and goes to sleep. “God, I’m sleeping don’t bother me. I know its 6:30. I know its time to get up and get ready for school. But the time change is unfair. I’m not getting up!” “God you can’t make me go to Nineveh!” Jonah is snoozing away in his stubborn sin. His shipmates are suffering, facing the storm. Finally, the skipper has enough. “If you don’t get up I’m going to throw a bucket of water on you. Get up pray for us! We are going to die!”

Stubborn Jonah wakes up but he sits in silent stubborn sin. He doesn’t say a word. The sailors decide enough is enough. They cast lots to decide whose fault it is. But they already know. I imagine Jonah sitting in the corner wrapped up in his blanket stubbornly refusing to participate. Still, when everyone has selected a straw, Jonah gets the only one left. It’s the short straw. “Ok, ok I’m up. But I’m not going to be happy.” “Ok, God I admit it. It’s my fault, but God… Jonah deflects the blame. “I’m sinful but God is to blame for the storm. I worship him. He did it.” It’s typical of stubborn sinners. “I can’t help being homosexual. I was born that way. My childhood was bad because God gave me parents who didn’t care about me. I know gossip is wrong. But I just can’t keep this story quiet. It’s the way God made my brain to work. I can’t help it. The boss God gave me doesn’t have clue. He’s such a dweeb. He doesn’t deserve respect.” Jonah refuses to take responsibility for the problems he’s caused. The sailors accuse him, “what have you done to us!” The sailors are afraid and rightly so. The God of the universe is not to be trifled with. But Jonah is stubborn he won’t relent. “I’m not going to Nineveh! Throw me overboard. If I’m dead I can’t go! I won’t go!”

There’s a lot of Jonah in you. Your reaction to sin and God’s law is the same. “That was a great sermon pastor. You really nailed them with the law. Too bad the people who really need to hear it are at home in bed.” Or “That’s not sinful.” “I’m not doing anything wrong.” “It’s not my fault.” “I’m better than he/she is.” The truth is we’d rather die than give up our sin. We’ll give up what’s on the surface. We want to look good. But we think that God doesn’t really see our heart. We actually think we can hide our sin there. “God do anything but don’t take my sin away.” Picture yourself. Sitting in the stormy boat wrapped up in your blanket, clutching onto your stinking sin. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but… did you hear about….” “I was sitting here minding my own business, searching on Google when those pictures just popped up.” “I’ll never forgive my ex for what she said about me.” “I don’t hold a grudge. I get even.” You don’t want to change. You won’t change. You can’t change. “Throw me overboard!”

“Throw me overboard! It’s the one thing the sailors don’t want to do. Talk about rowing upstream. The more stubbornly they row the more God sends the storm against them. Finally they give up and do what Jonah wants. And suddenly the storm stops. And stubborn Jonah sinks. “Now try to get me to Nineveh!”

“And God provided a great fish to swallow stubborn Jonah.” It looks like judgment doesn’t it? It looks like torture. He’d rather die than give in. The storm wasn’t enough for Jonah so down the gullet he goes. But the torture is really treatment. The fish is there to save Jonah. The fish is God’s SOS. He is God’s Law in fish flesh, to Show us Our Sin. Jonah refuses to throw his sin overboard. He’s willing to die instead. So into the water he goes. Jonah is lost. But God saves him from death. God provides a fish. He is Jonah’s savior. After three days in the fish it vomits him up on the shore and Jonah has a change of heart (or does he?).

The fish is still God’s SOS. The fish Shows us Our Savior. Jesus told his enemies that all the sign the needed was in Jonah’s fish. God saves us from our stubborn sin. We’d rather commit suicide. We’d rather die than give up our sin. And that’s what happens. It is no accident that the ancient church used the fish for a sign of Jesus. It is the sign of Jonah. The fish takes Jonah to his death. Deep into the water. For three days Jonah is good as dead in the stomach of the fish, in the deep, deep darkness of the sea. But he is safe. Saved by the fish. Saved from his stubborn sin. And spit up on the shore again.

The Greek word for fish is IXTHUS. It is an anagram for Jesus. In Greek the first letter of each of the words Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior spells IXTHUS, fish. Our Jesus, our fish saves us from our sin. Saint Paul says,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:54b-56, ESV)

God provides the law to push us to Jesus. It is our SOS. It shows us our sin. Jesus takes our sin and swallows it up in victory. It’s not the victory we think it is. There’s no hoopla, at least not at first. Jesus carries our sin in his body to the cross. The law accuses him and he, even though he is not guilty, is declared to be guilty. We die to sin with Christ on the cross. He protects us from death by taking our death into himself. And then for thee days Jesus lies in the deep, deep, darkness of the belly of death. But you see, He can’t stay there. Only our sin, and our punishment stay there. Death can’t help but vomit Jesus out. That’s because Jesus is life. He is perfect life, perfectly lived, and perfectly sacrificed. He wins the victory over death. He takes out the stinger. We rise with Jesus, too.

Listen to Paul describe it in Colossians:

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:12-14, ESV)

Sounds like Jonah and the fish doesn’t it!

So tonight I say to you. Give up your stubborn sin. Let Jesus drown it here at the font. Jump into the water with both feet. Die with Christ, your IXTHUS, your Fish, your Savior. And rise again with him. He does it all. He does it for you and to you. He’ll spit you up on the shore safe again. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I must apprreciate for such a profitable blog. It seems its written for me. I was praying and praying and praying for what to say during lent days as I am suppose to speak from 6 April throug Good Friday(2 churches) & Easter Sunday (two churches).
Point is, I wanted something special different so got it. Congregation listen every year almost same messages. God gave me to speak on Jonah 2:12d says, 'the greatest tempest is because of me'. Yes, the pain, agony Jesus went through just because of me. I wanted more explanation so I found. You have put it right way. THANK YOU.
Please keep on sending note to my email: Rev. Philip Malakar. I have church planting ministry-churches and cell groups in several villages in India. PRAY for PROTECTION.