Summary: Jesus is less about observation than participation
Sign of Jonah Sermon: “So you want to see a miracle?”
Text: Luke 11:29 - 32
Secondary: Jonah 3:4 - 5, 3:9 - 4:2
FCF: In regards to repentance, one must look beyond the distractions of observation into order to experience the joys of participation.
SO: I want the congregation to participate in Communion, giving themselves up to it, rather than just “observing” it.
I. A Sign (The Perils of Observation)
II. The Sign of Jonah (The Obligations of Emancipation)
III. The One Greater Than Jonah (The Joy of Participation)
I. A Sign
a. Distracts Us
b. (But ultimately) Demands Nothing of Us
c. (And that) Deadens Us
II. The Sign of Jonah
a. Jonah only brusquely demanded repentance, but he got it.
b. Jonah observed repentance, but he despised it.
c. Jonah did not appreciate repentance, until he participated in it.
III. One Greater Than Jonah
a. A miracle delivered Jonah to where he was physically needed, but he remained emotionally detached.
b. Jesus’ mere presence was a miracle, but he eagerly anticipated identifying with us - even in death.
IV. And so we rise up…
Communion: Repentance miraculously removes sin far from us - and this commemoration of the death of Christ is a celebration of how Christ accomplished that in us.
Did you know that the average American spends 29 hours each week watching television? That’s more than the average American spends working, eating, or doing anything other than sleeping. The average pre-schooler will spend 6 to 7 hours each day in front of the television - and trust me when I say that it’s not all Sesame Street. I’ll tell you too that by the time the average television viewer reaches the age of 18, he or she will have vicariously watched more than 200,000 acts of violence. That’s almost 4x the number of men and women who died during the Vietnam War.
I tell you that statistic to make you aware of the culture in which we live. From the time we are placed in front of that box until the time we are placed in a box of our own, we are conditioned to passively take in life. It takes something special to get the sports fanatic out of the chair of observation and participate in the same sport he swears he loves. The culture of the couch potato is engrained in our collective psyches, and it can be a dangerous thing.
Now, even 1950 years BT (that’s Before Television), Jesus was aware of the seductive danger of living only through observation. In the Scripture we just read, Jesus contrasted two types of living - one that merely observes a sign, and one that participates in a miracle. Listen again to what he said. He says:
“A wicked and adulterous generation (and by the way, in greek, that word is scolio - where we get scolosis, so you can imagine the twisted, unheathly nature of those he is addressing.)
“A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign. But I tell you, no sign will be given it, except the Sign of Jonah.”
Now, before we get into this sermon, I need to confess something to you - this sermon took me two months of intense Bible Study. It didn’t come easy, but I finally realized its just part of the process that God wanted me to be engaged in, and I participated in the word, and the word engaged me. My habit of Bible study is just to read until something catches my eye that doesn’t make sense. It’s those things that don’t make sense that God often uses to make me pause, reflect, and engage the text. Sometimes, I think we think the things we don’t understand scare us away, when in fact, I think their an invitation to personalization that is the essence of why we study our bibles.
Two things were contrasted here, and it took me some serious contemplation time to figure out what they were. There was a “sign” and there was a “sign of Jonah.” I’m going to talk more about each of these in a few minutes, but just from the context, you figure out that these are opposites. So, the first thing I did was to figure out, what is this sign of Jonah. Now, I had a really big clue, in that Jonah has his own book, so I went back and I read through that. Everybody remembers the miracle of the Joanh living in the belly of the fish at the beginning, so I’m going to bypass that. The climax of the book comes in Chapter 3, and here’s where the action is:
What you see here is that Jonah is all about repentance. Repentance is, by definition, something you can’t really express - you have to live it to understand what it means to be heading out as far away from Ninevah as you can get, and then be literally turned 180?. If you just watch it, you don’t understand it - it’s something that has to be personal.