This generation . . . seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. 

When we think of Jonah, what often comes to mind is a childhood tale of a man who spent time in the belly of a whale. Yet we know that this story resonated deeply with Jesus because he refers to Jonah several times in the Gospels, including in today’s passage. So what was it about Jonah that spoke to the heart of Jesus?

Perhaps Jesus saw some similarities in their missions. Like Jonah, Jesus was sent by the Father to invite people to repentance. In this way, both men were prophets. And like Jonah, Jesus would spend time in the darkness of a place that should have swallowed him up. For Jonah, it was the stomach of a great fish. For Jesus, it would be the darkness of death, which he would overcome on the third day.

Yet Jesus was also well aware that his mission went beyond that of a prophet. Jonah, or any prophet, points outside himself to God. Jesus pointed to himself as the Messiah. No more sin offerings to make some partial reparation with God were needed. No more sackcloth, as the Ninevites wore to signify their repentance. Now, repentance meant turning to Jesus, believing in him, and accepting his invitation to be reconciled to his Father.

Neither did Jesus ever try to run away from his calling the way Jonah did (Jonah 1:3). Rather, he loved and fully embraced the will of his Father by inviting us to receive God’s forgiveness and mercy. That was, and still is, his mission—to call each of us, God’s beloved children, to turn back to the Father.

That’s what Jesus meant by the “sign of Jonah” (Luke 11:29): God himself, in the midst of his people, calling them to return to him. The sign isn’t just the miracles of healing or the multiplication of fish and loaves. It’s not even people being raised from the dead. All those point us to Jesus, the perfect sign of the Father’s love. Just as he did for that crowd all those years ago, he is inviting you to turn to him, be forgiven, and receive him as your Lord.

“Jesus, I accept your invitation! I want to receive your mercy and forgiveness today.”

Romans 1:1-7
Psalm 98:1-4
Luke 11:29-32


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