“The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.”
To even be mentioned by Jesus, let alone be compared to Him, qualifies Jonah as being among the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. He is similar to Jesus in that he was God’s chosen messenger. The Lord also drew another, staggering parallel: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). In today’s verse passage, we read that the men of Nineveh will condemn those who witnessed Christ’s earthly ministry and yet rejected His message. They will do so through their conduct; they repented at the preaching of Jonah, who was infinitely inferior to the Lord Jesus in every way. Jonah was a foreigner to the people he preached to, whereas Christ was not only a countryman to the Jews, but was prophesied about in their Scriptures! Jonah was a few days in Nineveh whereas Jesus spent 3 ½ years in public ministry in Israel. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, but was miraculously restored. Jesus on the other hand is the Designer, Creator, and Controller of the fish; it was He Who commanded the fish to swallow and then release Jonah. Jonah did no miracle among the people of Nineveh, but Christ’s ministry was super-saturated with the miraculous. Whereas Jonah came with a message of condemnation for Nineveh, Jesus came with a message of salvation for the whole world. Both men proclaimed God’s truth to the lost and guilty. Jonah, however, did so with a heart full of hate for those he preached to. Jesus on the other hand, loved even those He knew would reject Him. Jonah was commissioned to preach God’s message. Jesus Christ just is God’s message. We may say that Christ our Lord is both the ultimate Messenger and the greatest message ever preached; Jonah gave the word of God, Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Jonah was prepared to rejoice over the destruction of Nineveh, whereas the Lord Jesus takes no pleasure in the death of him who dies (Ezekiel 18:32). In fact, the Lord declared that there is much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents and finds salvation (Luke 15:7, 10). Finally, Jonah’s preaching brought about a temporary change in Ninevite attitude. Immediate judgment was averted but this turned out to be short-lived. Jesus, however, completely changes hearts. He makes people new creatures who are confirmed in holiness, forever free of condemnation (John 5:24; Romans 8:1). May we rejoice in the precious ministry of the One who is far greater than Jonah!