Sermon Audio & Transcript
Easter Sunday Service
I suppose most of you know the story of Jonah. Jonah is called the reluctant prophet and for good reason. See God told Jonah that he was to go to a city called Nineveh. It was one of the major cities in the Assyrian Empire. They were enemies of God’s people Israel. In fact, the Assyrians are said to have invented terrorism. They knew how to intimidate their enemies and the nations that surrounded them. They treated prisoners so cruelly before they killed them. They treated their captive nations with UTTER TERRIBLE, terrible mistreatment. And Jonah was told by God I want you to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them because their wickedness has come up before me. Jonah, the reluctant prophet, was not the only one of God’s prophets who was reluctant to be one. You think back to Moses at the burning bush. When the Lord told Moses go. I am sending you to the Israelites to lead them out of captivity. Do you remember what Moses said? He said oh I’m not very good public speaker. I don’t know how to talk. I stammer. I forget my words. God said I will put the words in your lips. I will send Aaron to be your partner your brother will be a spokesperson for you. Moses said, send someone else, and God said no I want to send you, and Moses went.
Isaia,h in Isaiah 6:4-9 was told by God I’m sending you, and Isaiah said but I’m a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips woe is me for I have seen the Lord God Almighty. God said, you are going to go, and Isaiah went. Then there was Jeremiah. When God called Jeremiah, Jeremiah said, I’m too young to go. I’m only a child. God said, don’t say that you’re only a child. Even before you were conceived in your mother’s womb, I knew you, and I called you. From even ancient times. Don’t say that you’re too young, and Jeremiah went. Jonah didn’t even bother to argue with God or to offer any excuses. The Bible tells us that after God said, Jonah, I’m sending you, then Jonah instead of going East, he turned around and he went west, got onto a boat that was destined for Tarshish, and he set sail. God provided a storm that was meant to call Jonah to repentance, and as the storm raged, Jonah realized what he had done. And Jonah told the sailors the only way to save yourselves is to throw me overboard. The sailors didn’t want to throw overboard the prophet of the Lord God. They had heard about him. He had a reputation, this Lord. So they tried to bail out the waters best they could. They tried to keep their ship afloat, but finally, as the last resort, they throw Jonah overboard. And God provided a great fish that swallowed Jonah. And from the belly of that great fish, that’s where Jonah prayed this prayer. Jonah was in the belly of that great fish for three days. Jesus Christ, when he was demanded from the Pharisees give us a sign. Jesus said I will not give you any sign except for this, the sign of the prophet Jonah. Just as Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, so I will be three days in the belly of the earth. He was predicting his resurrection, the Easter morning miracle.
When we look at many parts of the Bible, some of them are harder to believe that others aren’t they? They’re a little bit more challenging. For instance, many people would say that the story of Jonah and the great fish, and being kept alive for three days, and then being spit out upon dry ground, that has to be a myth. A fable. But if it’s hard to believe that, then it’s gotta be equally hard, more difficult even, to believe that God created the entire universe in six days. If you can believe that Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary. If you can believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, then it should provide no problem for us to believe that Jonah could be preserved in the belly of the fish. This is what I believe. I believe that Jonah was preserved and that during that time in the fish, he was able to pray to God. Because God is a God of miracles.
God still does miracles. Every single time a person was been born of flesh, receives the Holy Spirit, and comes to believe in the Lord, and receive forgiveness through faith, that is a miracle. Every time a person is baptized in the waters of baptism. Every time the water in the word combined with the Holy Spirit’s power to call someone to faith that is a miracle. Every time we receive in the Lord’s Supper, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, that’s a miracle. And who knows how many miracles there are the God does that we don’t even see! Miracles that go undetected. Perhaps you can think of one in your life or your family’s life, where there is no other explanation for a medically unexplained event, where you are loved one survived against all odds! Sometimes we wonder is it medical science, or is it a miracle. We can’t tell very often, but God does intervene in our lives, and God does do miracles. The greatest miracle? If you want to take a poll, I suppose many people would give creation is the greatest miracle. Someone might say that the incarnation of Jesus that the virgin birth. The fact that God, the infinite God, eternal God, became a little baby. That was the greatest miracle. The Bible makes it pretty clear that for us the most important miracle was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And Jesus pointed to the fact of Jonah’s miracle as proof and prediction that he would rise from the dead, great and mighty miracle itself. Another reason that it’s the most important miracle for us is this, without the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, then we would still be in our sins, and then all of the gloom and doom that Jonah saying about in his prayer would have been ours. From the depths of the grave, I called for help. The grave would be a terrible disaster if you and I did not know that our sins were forgiven. You hurled me into the deep into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me. All your waves and breakers swept over me. One of the great fears that many people have is the fear of drowning. We imagine what it would be like and it turns our stomachs, and it sets our hearts into race motion. The terror of sin is so much worse. To know that God should punish us because of our sins is such a terrifying thought. We yell we scream, we pray God help me. We might say words like Jonah. We might say it more like this, this is kind of a modern way. I feel like I’ve been banished from your site. Someone might say I don’t feel God’s presence in my life anymore. I don’t feel that I’m loved. I don’t feel like I’m forgiven. But this is a fact, as soon as we call to God, then God hears us. And we can express with confidence and with joy, I will look again toward your holy temple.
By Jesus death, he worked out the forgiveness of our sins. By his resurrection, God was placing his stamp of approval on his son’s sacrifice, and by his resurrection from the dead Jesus proves to you and me that everything he promised he is able and willing to fulfill. Did Jesus promise as I live you also will live? Did Jesus promise I am the resurrection and the life? He who […] believes in me will never die? Did Jesus promise come to me if you are weak and burdened and I will give you rest? Did Jesus promise that you will be with him forever in paradise? Yes, Jesus did make all of those promises. Yes, through faith in him they are most certainly yours, and yes, you have that good news to share. God brought about forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ even for Jonah. Even for his treachery, for his running away from God. God forgave him. And when God forgives, he also restores. He gives us a new life. He gives us a new purpose. See Jonah was restored to his calling as a prophet. After his prayer, after he repented of his sins after he expressed the joy of forgiveness and the anticipation that he would look toward God’s temple again, God provided that great fish would spit Jonah up on the dry ground. Jonah would be saved. Jonah would live, and the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time; the same thing, go to the city of Nineveh and preach the words that I have given you to preach. Part of Jonah’s reluctance was that this word of God is very powerful. The word might actually work, and Jonah thought what would happen if I going preach judgment to the people and whammy the Holy Spirit works and brings them to repentance? And then hellfire won’t ring down on them all what a terrible tragedy that would be. Oh how mistaken, how wrong thinking Jonah was. He would be corrected.
You can read the rest of the story in the book of the prophet Jonah, and I recommended this week. God provided the plant. God provided the worm to kill the plant, and then God told Jonah, you are so concerned about this plant that I provided, and then I killed. Shouldn’t I be concerned about the great city of Nineveh? Jonah was restored to the office of prophet. You have been restored to be God’s spokesman as well, You whose sins have been forgiven freely, have been given a mission. Jesus tells you in his word, go I am making you witnesses. You will be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and to the ends of the earth. He says go and teach the gospel to all creation. What a mission we have. What a privilege to be part of God’s army. God’s God’s beautiful mission team. And so as we look into the book of Jonah this week, we think to ourselves in what ways have we run away from God? In what ways have we run away from our responsibilities? Know this, no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been running, you are not too far gone. The long arm of God’s grace can still reach you. He can still bring you back, and that’s what he desperately wants to do. He wants to bring you back into his family. In fact, he wants to spend eternity with you. He wants to give you that free gift, the crown of life. We have been restored. Yes God does do amazing.
Easter Sunday Service
SERMON TEXT: Jonah 2:2-9
He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
SECOND LESSON: Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
GOSPEL: Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”