Summary: What the story of Jonah teaches us about God’s love and how we should love even our enemies.
X-men video clip: Jean Gray in front of the senate to Magneto’s comments while walking away from Prof. X.
OK, so mutants don’t exist, but the attitudes are real. There are no cases of people being persecuted for being able to walk through walls or having adamantium claws that project through hands, mainly because they don’t exist. But there are other groups that are treated in similar ways. The treatment of mutants in the X-Men films is based on the real life treatment of Jews under the Nazi occupation and those accused of being Communists in America in the 50s and 60s. Most of us have learned the lessons of treating people of different coloured skin differently, but have we just replaced them with asylum seekers or Muslims. There is simply no excuse for this treatment of anyone from anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but that is not really want I want to talk to you about tonight. X-Men is not about the way normals treat mutants that’s almost a given. It’s about the way the mutants react to that persecution. And that is what is the story of Jonah is all about.
The funny thing is that not many people seem to know this. For many people its all about whether a human can be swallowed by a whale and survive. Its not, actually I don’t care whether a human can survive 3 days inside a fish or a whale, so don’t come to me with magazine clippings about someone being swallowed by a whale and surviving in modern times. You’re missing the point. The story is not about that. If it isn’t just a parable like that of the Good Samaritan and it actually happened then the context makes it clear that it was a miracle not natural. But anyway here am I getting side tracked where I said I didn’t want to be. So what is the story of Jonah.
God loves everybody and so should you. That’s it. Simple stuff. In actual fact it is making exactly the same point as the parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament and you can almost see it being told in the same setting as well. An Old Testament prophet standing up and preaching at the people, God loves everybody and so should you. And some bright spark in the audience stands up and says what do yo mean by everybody, you mean all Jews, don’t you? “No”, the prophet replied, “let me tell you the story of Jonah to explain.”
Jonah was a prophet and God spoke to him . We don’t know how, it might have been an audible voice, it could have been a dream, it might have been an angelic visitor, we don’t know. What we do know is that God called Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that they were going to be destroyed for their wickedness. And Jonah refused. He ran away. And thanks to the wonders on semi-modern technology we can show you . Jonah came from a place called Gath-hepher in Israel, which you can see here. Nineveh was over here and Jonah went this way , to Tarshish on the Spanish coast. Why? He was the prophet of God, why was he disobeying God?
Well its time for a little background information. Nineveh was the capital of a big empire called the Assyrian Empire. Here it is at its largest extent which was about 50 years after this story took place. It was a big bad empire, they were known for their excessive cruelty for the torture of captives and conquered people, think Saddam Hussein and you’ll not be too far from the truth. To quote that masterpiece of the modern cinema, the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, ‘The worst of the worst, the most hated and cursed’, that was the Assyrians. And here was wee Israel where Jonah came from, tiny and already on the receiving end of some Assyrian brutality. Not to mention that Assyrian was on the verge of invading Israel and wiping them out totally. They were the enemy, with a capital T and E. Now you might think that Jonah would relish the opportunity to go and tell them they were going to be destroyed but no Jonah refused. Why? Because he thought the Assyrians weren’t really all that bad and God was being a bit harsh in wiping them out. Not a bit of it, Jonah didn’t want to go because he thought that if he warned them, they might repent and avoid the coming judgement and he wanted them to burn. So he ran away.
So God sent a storm to stop him. Jonah knows he the reason for the storm and gets the Pagan sailors to throw him over the side. Although somewhat reluctant to kill him, they eventually agree and when the storm is stilled they all worship the one true God. Jonah however, does not die as God graciously sends a large fish to save Jonah. In the belly of the fish, Jonah has a change of heart and repents to God, who gets the whale to be sick on a beach and so Jonah is puked up on the beach. God speaks to Jonah again and tells him to go and warn the people of Nineveh. This time Jonah agrees, he preaches, the people repent and turn to the one true God. Jonah leaves the city and sits on a hill overlooking the city waiting for God to destroy it. When God forgives the people of Nineveh and doesn’t send a judgement he complains bitterly to God who reminds Jonah that he cares for everyone, not just Jonah.