Ember Wednesday in Lent (after Invocabit)
St. Matthew 12:38-42
February 24, 2022 A+D (modified, edited from 2021)
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There were plenty of signs that Jesus was the Messiah. In John’s Gospel, it is clear that the reason they decide that He must die is because He raised Lazarus from the dead. The Jewish leaders believe that Jesus has actually done this. They think that this sign is so convincing that if they don’t do something about Jesus that the whole world will follow Him.
In addition to His miracles that He performed and those around His birth, Jesus lived such a perfectly moral life that no one could find any fault with Him. But so also there was His teaching. He spoke with authority that could not be denied. Though they tried to trick Him, the experts in the Law, could not find any errors in anything that He said.
But they pretended that they needed more. Jesus recognizes this as stubbornness and sophistry. They are just playing games. He isn’t there to amuse them or meet their demands. The only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah. This sign condemns them but it is our salvation.
Jesus is like Jonah in many ways but they are also distinct. Here are some ways they are distinct. Jonah is not God. He is only a man. Jonah doesn’t love the Ninevites but Jesus does. Jonah disobeys God, Jesus doesn’t. Jonah doesn’t actually die when he is swallowed by the great fish but is kept miraculously alive. Jesus actually dies.
The sign that is given to the world is the correspondence between the two. Jonah is thrown into the raging, killing sea and it becomes calm. Jesus’ Body is given to the devil on the cross and there is no one left to accuse us. Jonah is in the fish’s belly for three days and Jesus’ body is in the grave for three days. Jonah’s preaching gives faith to the Ninevites. Jesus’ preaching gives faith to Gentiles.
Many Christians in the early church also thought there were signs of this in nature itself. In the Fall the plants dry up and die, dropping seeds to the ground. In the Spring those seeds come to life. Jesus Himself suggests this when He responds to the Greeks desire to see Him just before His betrayal. He said: “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” He then applies this more broadly. It is not just that Jonah and grain shows the kind of death and resurrection that He will undergo, but it is really the other way. He is the One who gives shape and meaning to the world. We imitate Him.
So Jesus says that we all must die and be born anew, even as He died and rose. He says: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:23–26, NKJV).
St. Paul sees the correspondence in Baptism. He writes: “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The sign of Jonah is more than a sign. Jonah is an example and prototype of both forgiveness and resurrection. We have already been brought into this in Baptism, but there is a greater gift to come.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.