What happens when we die? This question is one of the deepest and most basic human concerns, and it finds an answer in the story of Jesus. During Jesus’ three-year public ministry He traveled throughout Israel teaching and preaching the good news that forgiveness of sins and eternal life was available through faith in Him. However, there were doubters and naysayers, and in Matthew 12, some religious leaders came to Him seeking a “sign” (12:38), whereby they could authenticate the wild claims this man was making. Jesus refused to give them a sign on their terms, but promised that they would soon see the sign of the Prophet Jonah.
This, of course, is a reference to the Old Testament prophet named Jonah, who received God’s call to go preach to the city of Nineveh, but rebelled by sailing in the opposite direction of God’s call. During the voyage a large storm hit his ship, and Jonah was thrown into the sea where he was swallowed by a whale. But, miraculously, he was spit up on dry land three days later, having survived certain death (Jonah 2:10). Death by a large fish was not the end of Jonah’s story, and death by a Roman cross was not going to be the end of Jesus’ story.
Defeating death and rising to new life after three days was the greatest miracle—or sign—that Jesus performed. Death was not the end for Jesus, and death is not the end of your story if you believe in Him. Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who not only escaped certain death Himself, but also offers eternal life to everyone who trusts in Him.
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:40-41)