Third Sunday After Epiphany - Morning Prayer (24 January 2021) John 3:16-21
Updated: Jan 24
Today’s meditation is based on both our Old and New Testament readings from the prophetic book of Jonah chapter 3 and the Gospel according to St. John chapter 3. Prophet Jonah lived during 836-795 BC. He was from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. God sent Jonah as a missionary from Israel to the enemy land Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The people of Nineveh were not Israelites. They were gentiles from other faith. What the people of Nineveh did was not pleasing in the sight of God. So, the Lord said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” But Jonah disobeyed God. Jonah 1:3 says Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of God. He found a ship going to Tarshish and boarded it.
God send a great wind and there was a mighty tempest in the sea. The sailors feared the ship would break and were afraid. They started crying out to their god but Jonah was fast asleep. “The shipmaster said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.” When they cast lots, the lot fell upon Jonah. Jonah accepted he was the reason for the unrest and asked to be cast into the sea. The men tried hard to regain control of the ship, but they could not “they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.” The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah repented, prayed and reconciled with the Lord. The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee”. This time Jonah obeyed and went to Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city of three days’ journey. Jonah entered “into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” “The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” When “word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.” “He caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” The whole city of Nineveh repented and turned to God. When God saw their works and that they had turned from their evil way, He did not destroyed the city.
Jonah was considered as the precursor of Jesus Christ. Let us see some of the correlations between Jonah and Jesus :
- The Lord sent His prophet Jonah to caution the people in Nineveh. When the people of Nineveh listened to his caution and repented, they were saved from death. God gave His Only begotten son Jesus Christ to save the world. When people listen to Him and repent, they are saved from eternal death.
- Jonah was not ready to fulfil the Lord’s commandment to go to Nineveh. Jesus obeyed unto death to fulfill the Almighty Father’s vision.
- They cast lots and found Jonah was the cause of the tempest. After Jesus’s crucifixion, they cast lots for His garment.
- Before throwing Jonah into the sea, the sailors said, “lay not upon us innocent blood”. Before crucifying Jesus, the people shouted and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”
- Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and nights. Jesus was buried for three days.
- Jonah prayed when he was in the fish’s belly and committed himself to obey the Lord. Jesus prayed and committed everything to His Father before crucifixion.
- Jonah came out of the fish’s belly on the third day. Jesus resurrected from the dead on the third day.
- Nineveh was saved by Jonah’s prophecy and caution. The whole world is saved by the blood of the Lamb of God.
Because of these similarities, Jonah is considered as the precursor of Jesus.
Today’s reading passages speak of three key aspects of our Christian life:
2) Repentance and
Throughout the Bible, we see the Word of God plays a very important role. God created everything, except man and woman, with His Word. Noah and his family were protected from death by the Lord’s Words. Through the years, He put His Words in the mouth of prophets which they spoke to the people. In today’s Old Testament reading, we read the Lord’s Word came to prophet Jonah. The Lord sent a tempest in the sea and a fish to swallow Jonah with His Word. The Lord spoke the Word and the fish to vomited Jonah upon the dry land. When Jonah preached the Word, the Word spoke to people’s hearts. The people lifted their eyes unto the LORD God who was the Word. But soon they turned away from God so God the Father sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ as the Word to save the whole world. We read in John 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” When Jonah preached the Words that the Lord gave him, the people of Nineveh were saved. When the Word became flesh and preached the Gospel, the people in darkness saw a great light and were saved from eternal death. The Word of the LORD God came to Jonah to save Nineveh. But the Word Himself came in flesh to save every one of us.
In Jonah 3:2 we read “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” Jonah preached the Word and “and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The people who heard him put on sackcloth and fasted. The king too did the same and sat on ashes. They mourned for their sins. The king published his decree saying “turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” When the people turned from their evil way, the Lord did not destroy the city and the people.
Jesus Christ came into this world as Word and began to preach to fulfil His Father’s will. In Matthew 4:17 we read, “Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus preached that people should repent to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is necessary to receive salvation. 1 John 1:8&9 say, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Proverb 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy”. The first step to repentance is to accept that we are sinners. We must self-examine ourselves and find what is not pleasing in the sight of God. The next step is to confess them and receive forgiveness. We must repent and be washed with the blood of the lamb of God.
When the people of Nineveh fasted and repented of their evil doings, they were saved from death. When we repent and are washed by the blood of Jesus, we receive salvation and are saved from eternal death. Isaiah 53:5 says Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our salvation. Jesus suffered, died and sacrificed His life to deliver our souls from sin and its consequences. To be freed from the consequences of sin, we must repent and reconcile with our Heavenly Father when we fall into sin. After Jesus ascended to heaven, He sent us the Comforter Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”. Holy Spirit guides, convicts and leads us in the right path to live a life pleasing in the sight of God. This guidance and conviction help us to reconcile with God and strengthens us to resist temptation and not fall into sin.
John 3:17 says “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Jesus was sent to save us all and He completed His part so we can receive salvation and inherit eternal life. Let us examine ourselves.
- Have we heard the Word speaking to us? Are we doing what the Word tells us? Let us not be like Jonah who heard the Word but chose to ignore it. Hebrews 3:15 says “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.”
- Today, is the Word reminding us of something that we need to repent of? If yes, like the people of Nineveh we must fast and repent to receive salvation. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. Many times we hear the Holy Spirit’s voice. Is it from within our hearts or from outside our heart?
- Do we have the assurance of salvation? 1 Corinthians 6:2 says “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” When Jonah repented if what he had done, he was given a second chance. We have been given many chances to receive salvation. As the verse says, “now is the day of salvation”.
John 3:19 to 21 say “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” Are we loving darkness or light? Are we hating darkness or light? Are we doing truth or evil? In Revelation, the angel of the Lord commanded the churches to overcome and be faithful unto the end. In Matthew 24:13 Jesus said, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”.
When the people of Nineveh repented, the city was not destroyed that day. But Nineveh was overthrown and destroyed around 622BC when they turned away from God. They did not hold their salvation or endure to the end. Jonah’s prophecy was not fulfilled exactly on the fortieth day but it was fulfilled many years later. The time was prolonged because of the Almighty Father’s grace.
We are expecting the second Advent of Jesus Christ. We see signs all around us. At this time, I pray we listen to the Word speaking in our hearts, repent of what we are convicted of, receive salvation and endure to the end to inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. May the LORD God in His grace and mercy preserve us to meet Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!