We recently celebrated the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and I have cause wonder at how applicable the story of Jonah is for that day, today (Anglicans too).
Jonah was a real man who lived in a real place at a specific time in redemptive history. He was a man, a prophet, whose story illustrates for the church in a most graphic way the hard heartedness of the nation of Israel. Israel had in fact become less of a God fearing nation than those around them. Whether it was the men in the boat’s immediate cry to God for help or the near immediate repentance of the men of Nineveh we find that at every turn the pagans out did Jonah. Perhaps Paul would have put it this way “if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcsion be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised judge you who even with your written code and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly but inwardly nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart in the Spirit and not the letter whose praise is from God and not from men”.
Jonah like Israel needed to be circumcised in the heart. Jonah like Israel needed to move on to maturity.
The story of Jonah ends with Jonah pouting under a tree but the story of Israel, and in a sense Jonah, continued on. In a very real way Matthew 12 picks up the story of Jonah with Israel still pouting under the tree waiting for YHWH to destroy the pagan gentiles and that was problematic, at least it was from Christ point of view.
It is no accident that Jesus allusion to Jonah follows shortly after Matthews’s insertion of Isaiah 42.1-4. The Servant who would bring justification to the gentiles was at hand and so was Israel’s maturation. Yet some would not press on to maturity. Some had become so nationalistic and exclusive that the very idea of a God who would include gentiles into His covenant was anathema. For the Pharisees and for much of Israel the house must remain divided. Any one that suggested otherwise could only be motivated by Satan, no matter who He claimed to be. In a very real way new men of Nineveh had captured Jerusalem. The old men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah but would the neocannanites repent at the preaching of one greater? Apparently not; though outwardly the covenant people of God the nation of Israel was pagan to the core. The familial bonds that held them together must be broken. A new age was dawning. Only those that were willing to do “the will of My father in heaven” would be counted as brothers and sisters of the Son of God. The nation of Israel would indeed be resurrected; the valley of dry bones would again breathe the second exodus would happen but it would happen in Christ and happen is such a way that all sorts of men would be saved.
Now back to the reformation and to our day.
It is unfortunate but true that generally speaking the heirs to the great Protestant Reformation (Anglicans too) have become as secular and as theologically nationalistic as Israel had. But the story of Jonah and Jesus words and actions are clear; God hates secularism. How then are we to respond? In light of the Jonah story how do we answer a God who often draws lines in much different ways that we would? How do we to respond to one that demands our house be not divided? When we are faced with those that claim the covenant objectively includes all that have been baptized in the name of the Father and The Son and the Holy Ghost do we pout? When we are asked to include into our fellowship those of different color, social background or theological convictions do we baulk? When we see the church falling under the direct condemnation of God do we pray or are we asleep in the hull or perhaps waiting for God to strike the gentiles?

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