The Sign of Jonas - Baptism, resurrection, repentance and obedience.
5th Wednesday after Pentecost
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I wanted to speak for just a moment about this reading on the Fifth Wednesday after Pentecost, about the time that the Lord was asked by the Pharisees to give a sign. He said that,
“An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. And there shall be no sign given to it except the sign of Jonas.”
Everyone knows the sign of Jonas. He was three days in the fish, and then he came out. It’s a type of the Resurrection.
But the Lord shows from the context that the sign of Jonas is much more than the Resurrection.
The Resurrection, out of context, gives life to no one. Only if the Resurrection is lived, only if the Commandments are followed, does the Resurrection give life.
So the sign of Jonas is about life, (that is, how to live) not just about that the Lord was going to be resurrected.
It speaks of our resurrection and also our baptism because, after all, Jonas came out of the water - so it’s a type of baptism also.
The Lord judged those people of that generation because they were not going to listen to this sign. They already were judging Him, trying to put Him to death. Many of them, after the Resurrection, would make up false stories about it.
The sign of Jonas is the Resurrection, and also repentance and obedience, because, He says,
“The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas. And behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”
Now, what happened in the life of Jonas, if you want to summarize it really quickly? He was disobedient. He was told to do something by the Lord. He didn’t want to do it, and he saw that it was dangerous to not do the Lord’s will. He fell into great peril, and was saved by the Lord. Then He repented.
What happened afterwards is as important as the resurrection - that is - Jonas obeyed. Now, as we see in the story, he obeyed although he still had his rough spots. He still was not perfect in his obedience -- We don’t call him the doubting prophet for nothing. But he obeyed.
Obedience is a process.
It is not something that happens instantaneously. It’s not something we do perfectly and completely every single day. It’s something that we strive for and make an effort towards. So Jonas obeyed after he was resurrected -- or, shall we say, since he was in the water -- after he was baptized.
Now, the Lord makes it very clear that He is talking about baptism when He speaks about the demon. He says,
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.”
He is cast out by baptism. And what happens? The house of the man is garnished and swept. But the demon, after being out for a while, says: I’m going to return to the house from whence I came out. When he comes, he finds it empty, swept and garnished.
Swept and garnished is a good thing. Baptism should clean us and baptism should make us beautiful. But if our soul is empty, the demon will come back in; the passions will come back in.
So the sign of Jonas is not just Resurrection. It is baptism and it is repentance after baptism. It is changing our way of life after baptism.
And the Jews that were listening to the Lord, many of them were not about to change their way of life. And that is why the Lord said, this is the sign that you will get, the sign of Jonas. Not just that He is pointing to the Resurrection, but also pointing to what we should do after baptism, which is our resurrection, isn’t it? Isn’t it what makes us capable of being resurrected?
So what we should do after our baptism, our resurrection, is live a life of repentance. That’s the sign of Jonas.
May God help us to live according to this sign of Jonas. Since we have been baptized, let us take care that our soul remains swept and garnished but never empty. Our soul should always be filled with the Holy Spirit and then the evil spirit, when he comes anywhere near us, will be filled with fear and will not be able to enter us. Amen.
Transcribed by the hand of Helen
Matthew 12:38-45 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2008.
This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:
· Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070
· Rectory Phone: 972/658-5433
· Email: email@example.com
· Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net
· Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/
This homily is at:
Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture
Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons
To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.
Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.
All rights reserved. Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.