Summary: Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, yet we are like Jonah who was called to preach to the people of Ninevah -- we run away as fast as we can!
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-- a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
My roommate in college wanted to be a missionary.
He wanted to go to some distant and exotic part of the world and preach the Gospel.
We both had met missionaries and had heard them tell their stories.
My roommate and I had become good friends with a missionary to Pakistan. We corresponded frequently with a missionary to Brazil. One of our own classmates had gone to Peru.
And my roommate had been inspired by these missionaries and had decided to go on the mission field and share the Gospel.
So my roommate packed his bags after graduation and traveled to the distant land of
Hawaii? I couldn’t believe it. “What kind of mission field was that,” I asked him.
“Well,” he said, “somebody has got to do it.” It might as well be him.
Poor old Jonah finds out that the Lord is calling him to the mission field. But it is not sunny Hawaii. It’s Ninevah.
Folks, going to Ninevah is like going to Bagdad in Iraq.
That is not the place a tourist would go. It is not the place that any person in their right mind would go. But it is the place where God calls Jonah to go.
The book of Jonah opens with the Lord speaking to Jonah, saying "Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it, for its wickedness has come up before me.
Jonah, being both a man of devout faith and of devout reason, does the reasonable thing. Ninevah is in the East. Jonah therefore takes the Westbound train.
He heads for the sea and tries to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh.
You see Nineveh was not the kind of place that would welcome a stranger. Especially a stranger who was going to tell them to change their ways. This was a cruel city in a cruel nation. At one point in their history, the Assyrians would decapitate their enemies and mount the heads on poles at the city gates as a warning to anyone who entered the city.
What as bazaar welcome sign!
Now who wants to go visit a city like that?
Jonah doesn’ t. So he runs and goes the other way.
Of course, what happens is that while he is at sea Jonah’s boat is caught up in a storm! Jonah is thrown overboard and a giant sea creature is sent by God to swallow Jonah.
This fellow’s having a bad time of it. First he is told by God to go to the worst place or, earth and tell the meanest people on earth to repent of their sins. Then he is caught up in a terrible storm at sea and now he is stuck in the belly of a fish.