The Sign of Jonah and the Forty Days of Lent


Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent. Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 51 and Luke 11:29-32

“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” (Jonah 3:4-5) 

The entire book of Jonah is a story of God’s unending faith in humanity. God could have simply destroyed the Ninevites but he gave them a second chance by sending Jonah to them. Jonah tried to escape from God but after spending three days in the belly of the fish, he cried for mercy and God gave him a second chance.

It beats my mind that Jonah didn’t even ask them to repent. He didn’t say “change your evil ways. Be good children of God. Stop sinning, etc.” Jonah just went about the city announcing doom and destruction: “Only forty days from now and Nineveh would be destroyed…”

As we hear the words of Jonah today, let us place ourselves in the position of the Ninevites. If you were told that you have only forty days left to live, what would you do? In the Stations of the Cross, we hear these words: “those you love will part from you, you too will die one day, a day you do not know, are you prepared for it?” How do we prepare? In his special proclamation, the king of Nineveh answers this question:“

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger so that we perish not.” (Jonah 3:7-9).

In our Gospel passage, Jesus is not happy with the crowds who were pressuring Him to work signs and wonders. Like this crowd, many Christians today have reduced their worship of God to the quest for signs and wonders like guests who go to a cinema expecting some exciting magical show.

In the course of His earthly ministry, Jesus never worked any miracle just for the sake of showing off. Note that during his forty-days fasting and prayer in the wilderness, the devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and asked Him to throw Himself down “just for the people to see”. Jesus knew if He had thrown Himself down he would not be hurt but He refused to do anything just to attract public applause.

Jesus also knew there were some who would witness miracles and still remain unrepentant in their hearts. In Matthew 11:21, Jesus said: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

Bear in mind that there were some who went as far as even accusing Jesus of using the power of demons in working His many miracles. (Cf. Matthew 9:34, 12:24, Luke 11:15, Mark 3:22). As such, even if Jesus had responded to their demands for a miracle, many would still not believe that God has come to visit them in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus simply said: “no sign shall be given to [you] except the sign of Jonah.” (Luke 11:29). Now, we may wonder, what is the sign of Jonah? It is the death and resurrection of Jonah, that is, the fact that Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish. (Cf. Jonah 1:17). For Jesus, the only sign that the people needed was His death and resurrection. Truly, this is the miracle of all miracles. It is the ultimate testament that Jesus is God.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, change me completely from inside out. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you.