April 12, 2020
Pastor John Hering
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish. 2 He said the following: In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried out, and you heard my voice. 3 You threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas. The currents swept around me. All your breakers and your waves swept over me. 4 I said, “I have been driven away from your sight. Nevertheless, I will once again look toward your holy temple.”
5 Waters engulfed me so that I was near death. The deep surrounded me. Seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down. The earth locked me behind its bars forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord, my God. 7 When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord. My prayer came to you, to your holy temple.
8 Those who cling to worthless idols forsake the mercy that is theirs. 9 But I, with a shout of thanksgiving, will indeed sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will certainly pay in full. Salvation belongs to the Lord! 10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.Jonah 2:1-10
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Oh wait! Maybe we shouldn’t start the sermon this way because it might be a spoiler alert to those who don’t know what happened to Jesus on Easter! LOL! After all, don’t you like surprises? After all we love hearing the account of the women at the tomb, like watching our favorite movie over and over again, sobbing as they wonder what happened to Jesus’ body. And the angels wait in the back corner of the dark tomb with their party hats on until just at the right moment to shout, “Surprise! 6 He is not here. He has risen” (Matt 28:6). Aren’t we all looking forward to the great surprise! You know, right now every challenge of health, every trouble, guilty feeling hangs over us like a dark cloud. But, on the Last Day the angels will come with Jesus from behind the clouds, popping out from heaven with exploding shouts, “Surprise! God is here to save you!”
Oh, the joy that will be ours when we join the multitudes around the throne of God wearing our white robes and holding palm branches of victory in our hands. They aren’t living in suspense, but they are doing the shouting, “Salvation belongs to our God” (Rev 7:10). Compare the victory of life to Jonah who had some time to think while living in the confines of that big fish. Imagine waiting for the big surprise—when the fish vomits/explodes Jonah onto dry land! But, we don’t have to wait until heaven to be “surprised” by salvation. Right now, in the middle of stress, health crisis, and trouble in this world, we rejoice on this Easter Day because
After 3 Days Salvation Exploded!
Salvation Exploded With Power
All Christians know that when you’re in deep trouble you turn to the Lord. All Christians know that’s what salvation is all about. All through the Bible the lesson is taught over and over: The Lord is the only escape plan that works no matter the danger. Was it wandering through the desert? Only the Lord could powerfully provide daily manna and quail. Was it high walls of an enemy city? Only the Lord could powerfully destroy the walls of Jericho with shouts and trumpets. Was it blindness, the crippled or the even the dead? Only the Lord could powerfully heal and restore. When troubles, threats and the fires of life surrounds us the Lord is the powerful exit and we are the ones standing at the door shouting, “This is the way out!” This was Jonah’s job—to tell the people of Nineveh about the Lord’s powerful deliverance!
But what did Jonah do? He turned his back on the emergency exit and ran the other way. Jonah knew he was in big trouble. He was called by God to do some mission work Ninevites. But, they were the enemy and Jonah didn’t want to go. Jonah determined that the Lord’s powerful salvation was for everyone BUT the Ninevites, and grabbed the next ship heading in the opposite direction.
What if you don’t like someone? Do you block their way out? Do you bully? Do you throw angry statements at them through Facebook, Twitter or Tic Toc? After all, they’ve hurt you or made you angry so now it’s time to run the other way and leave them in the dark? Jonah tried that. However, God did something surprising. Jonah was running in the opposite direction, but the Lord ran after him, like a lifeguard leaping from his power with his life-preserver ready to go. Not hunting him down as an enemy of salvation, but as the object of his powerful salvation.
While aboard the ship God sent a powerful storm that shook the crew and Jonah until he confessed the storm was his fault and if they would throw Jonah into the sea they would live. They threw Jonah overboard into the raging seas that calmed as he hit the water. It’s quiet underwater, isn’t it?
How long can you hold your breath? Pause with Jonah in the deep and look into the mirror of your life, every sin, every selfish act, anger, envy, greed and guilt. “3 You threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas. The currents swept around me. All your breakers and your waves swept over me. 4 I said, “I have been driven away from your sight….. 5 Waters engulfed me so that I was near death. The deep surrounded me. Seaweed was wrapped around my head.” His feelings are no different than yours. God knows it all. There is no escape. We join Jonah sinking down. For all the rebellion against our holy God—giving glory to things over God: foul entertainment, cursing and potty mouth, despising God’s Word by placing worldly pleasures, entertainment, sports and family above God. The loss, layoff, laziness, lust and lures of the world wrap around our heads and bring us to the same conclusion: “I deserve it.”
Are you there yet? The so called “helpers” like technology, medicine, wealth and health, the wit of James Bond or the tricks of Houdini can’t get you out. “6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down. The earth locked me behind its bars forever.” In the next breath Jonah will be entombed. “17 Then the Lord provided a large fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). It was from the belly of this fish where we hear Jonah’s powerful prayer for help. “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish. 2 He said the following: In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” Just when you thought Jonah didn’t have a prayer, he did, from inside a great fish! It was the great power of the Lord! Salvation exploded from the sea and salvation was brought to Jonah! This all pictures what Jesus did for us. After being in the tomb on the 3rd day Jesus exploded from the empty tomb. Proclaimed his victory over Satan and came to comfort his followers
Salvation Exploded With a Promise!
The surprise of a lifetime for Jonah. The Lord provided that fish and saved Jonah for three days on the inside! As the fish swam for shore, Jonah had time to confess his sin and pray for God’s mercy. “But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord, my God. 7 When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord. My prayer came to you, to your holy temple.” Jonah realized his fish-miracle and now was ready to place his trust in God’s promises. His prayer was spoken as if he had already received his blessing of salvation from the Lord! That’s because God’s promises are as good as done. The Lord would provide a way out for Jonah by opening up the door of salvation for him. “10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” After 3 days in the belly of the fish Jonah exploded onto the dry land. He was saved.
This was only possible because God swallowed up his own Son by having him nailed to the cross in order to die. On the cross Jesus was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down into the pit of hell to endure the wrath of God’s punishment. There was no fish sent to save Jesus. That’s the big difference between Jesus and Jonah, between Jesus and us. On the cross Jesus perfect life paid the price our sins deserved. On the cross Jesus powerful blood paid the penalty of all our sins to erase our sins and guilt before God. There Jesus saved the World! How do we know? Because Jesus died and was buried. Then after 3 Days Jesus Exploded from the Tomb! The work he came to do on the cross was perfectly fulfilled and his resurrection proved it.
Jesus rose from the dead! This proves Jesus’ word is true, for he had spoken of his death and resurrection. It proves God’s Word is true, for hundreds of years before Jesus lived on this earth, the prophets spoke of the events of Jesus’ life and death. It proves Jesus has all power over death, because he rose from the dead. And because Jesus rose from the dead, he has the power to raise us from the dead, too. After three days in the tomb, Jesus’ salvation explodes to the world!
This life experience for Jonah changed his life. “8 Those who cling to worthless idols forsake the mercy that is theirs. 9 But I, with a shout of thanksgiving, will indeed sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will certainly pay in full. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning against them for worshipping worthless idols and the disaster God would bring if they did not repent. But, they did. They repented of their sins and trusted in the Lord for his forgiveness. God spared them.
Dear friends, Jesus exploded from the grave with his gifts of forgiveness, hope and power over death. It has changed you! Certainly you’ve thought about your life this past month, the things that seemed important to you a month ago, maybe you’ve come to realize they weren’t all that important. Maybe the idols of materialism, friends, family, work, sport, entertainment that used to be so important in your life you’ve come to realize are things that don’t last. Maybe you’ve been forced to recall that which does matter, that which does last forever—Jesus who after 3 days exploded with salvation. Now is our time to cling to his promises. Now is the time for us to offer our hearts and lives of thanksgiving and offer our sacrifices of praise. Now is the time for us to shout, “Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed!” for we don’t want anyone to be surprised! For all who cling to the resurrected Lord Jesus, there will be no surprises, but only his promises fulfilled. By the way, there will be one more explosion. That will happen when we close our eyes in death and explode onto the shores of heaven and be with Jesus. Amen!