Summary: A look at whether Jonah died in the whale as well as what the specific significance of the "sign of Jonah" is.

WWHAT IS THE SIGN OF JONAH? Is the point that Jonah was in the whale or that Jonah was dead?

- Matthew 12:38-40.

- The point of the miracle is less the miracle of being in a whale or the specific time frame (“three days and three nights”) and more the miracle of resurrection.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED TO JONAH? Many of the details of Jonah’s prayer point to him having died.

- Jonah 2:2-9.

- Details from the prayer that point toward Jonah’s death:

a. v. 2 – “From the depths of the grace I called for help”

b. v. 3 – “all your waves and breakers swept over me”

c. v. 5 – “engulfing waters threatened me”

d. v. 5 – “seaweed was wrapped around my head”

e. v. 6 – “To the roots of the mountain I sank down”

f. v. 6 – “the earth beneath barred me forever”

g. v. 6 – “But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.”

h. v. 7 – “When my life was ebbing away”

- All of this makes a pretty strong case that Jonah died in the water or died in the whale and then was resurrected by God after a few days.

- The end of v. 6 points in the direction of Jonah praying this prayer after he had died.

- In that case, it means that Jonah was so stubborn that it took three days in the afterlife to get him to finally be willing to obey God. Talk about stubborn!


1. There is no greater hopelessness than the hopelessness that comes with death.

- As we think of the moments of life when we are hopeless, no moment compares the moment of death.

- As long as your sick spouse is alive, there’s always a chance that a cure will be found or a miracle occur that will bring them back to health. But once they’re dead, we all know: it’s all over. We quit praying for healing. We concede defeat and begin the process of planning the funeral.

- There are moments of depression and defeat in this life, but there is no moment of hopelessness that compares to the hopelessness of death. We know: death is the end. Game over. Call in the dogs. Call it a day.

- Because of that, it makes sense that that the one sign that Jesus would give would point to that greatest of all problems.

- It’s the question that, unless answered, renders all the other questions unimportant.

2. Someone could argue that Jesus’ other miracles were tricks, but this miracle was a definitive proof of the power of God.

- If you didn’t want to believe in Jesus as He walked around doing miracles, you could argue that He was just doing tricks and illusions, deceiving people into thinking He was a man of God. But after He was dead (and not just dead, but beaten, bloody, lacerated, crucified dead), He no longer had any control over doing his “tricks.” If something happened at that point, it would clearly have to be something bigger than just Him.

- That’s one big reason why the resurrection is the definitive proof of Jesus as Messiah. With Jesus dead and powerless to do a miracle, the power of God worked in His body to bring Him back to life. It’s definitive proof.

- This is why Jesus points to “the sign of Jonah” as the only sign that He will give them. It’s the most important sign. It’s the one thing that most strongly proves Jesus’ claims. If you are unwilling to believe that sign, you wouldn’t believe a hundred other signs (and they didn’t believe the other miracles He did).

- One of the most powerful arguments in favor of the truth of the resurrection is the changed behavior of the disciples.

- Compare John 20:19 to Acts 2:14, 4:8-10.

- In John 20, we see them (by their own admission, since John is writing this) huddled and afraid of the Jews. In Acts, we see them boldly preaching to crowds at the Temple with no fear of the Jews. What changed in between the two times? The remainder of John 20:19 tells us that they saw the resurrected Christ. That made the difference.

- The fact that these (admittedly) timid disciples were transformed into bold witnesses speaks volumes. Further, that none of them ever later denied what they’d seen speaks even more to the truth of the resurrection.

THE DIFFERENCE THIS MAKES FOR US: We tend to take resurrection as a given rather than a gift.

- Philippians 3:10-11.

- There is no greater miracle than the miracle of resurrection. There is no greater gift than the gift of eternal life.

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