Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Can you imagine falling asleep during a really bad storm on board a ship? Jonah must have been incredibly tired and a really heavy sleeper. Then, to be woken up with a rebuke – a good solid rebuke is never any fun! But, sometimes we need to be rebuked so we do wake up and start doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Jonah was a man of God, a prophet, and instead of praying he was sleeping. The pagan sailors were the ones praying to their gods, their gods that had no control over the wind or the sea. The one person who could talk to the God who did have control was asleep. I think there are times in life where we are like both of the people in this boat – we are praying to the wrong gods or totally avoiding the One True God who can do something about the storm we are in. Which one are you? Are you hoping a lesser god will answer or are you just avoiding the One who can?
Now, I know no one really likes to be rebuked or called on the carpet when we are doing something wrong. We treat the word accountability like an evil four letter word that we want nothing to do with. But, accountability is a good thing, a healthy thing. Being held responsible for our actions, rebuked when we are wrong, is what keeps us out of the storms and leads us to safety when we find ourselves in one. A rebuke is what Jonah needed. He was no longer interested in listening to God’s Word or to God’s action (the storm) so God forced him to listen to the pagans.
We might not want to hear the rebuke, but we need to hear it. In all of God’s grace and mercy He will make sure we do. Those rebukes can come from other people, can come from storms, and many times will come from the places we least expect it. What we need to learn to do is listen to that rebuke. As hard as it might be, it might just be the only thing that will get us back on track and back into the life God has for us. Jonah jumped off the ship, the storm stopped, and God went to work setting him back on track. Listen to the rebuke, be held accountable – it could be the most loving thing anyone ever does for you.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
Jonah was a prophet of God who was called to a wicked people to proclaim God’s judgment. But, instead of heading the call and being obedient he rebels and runs the opposite direction. Perhaps he was thinking he would just get out of dodge and go live a different life somewhere else. Ever wonder why he would rebel like that? Why run from doing the very thing God had called him to do?
In Jonah chapter 4 he says why he rebelled – because he knew God would be loving and compassionate. He had a feeling God would forgive and redeem them. So, instead of giving them the chance to change he decided he would just run away. No way was he going to give such an evil people a chance to come to God. He would rather die than see them change!
Where do you see yourself in this story? It is easy for us to say that’s messed up – no way would I ever treat someone like that or run away from God like that! But, haven’t there been times when we rebelled against God because our agenda wasn’t being met, God wasn’t doing what we wanted so we took things into our own hands. Has there ever been a time when we rebelled because God wasn’t serving our agenda?
What about those times when God asks you to love your neighbor and your refuse for (fill in the blank)? Jonah had a “us vs. them” attitude. They have killed and butchered us for too long, it is time for them to suffer. This wasn’t an attitude of love but one of anger, bitterness, and vengeance.
The amazing thing – despite the rebellious heart and attitude – God still pursued him. The storm was one of mercy. God cared about him too much to leave him in his rebellion. Know today, that even in your rebellion God, in His mercy, is pursuing you and ready to redeem you too.
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."
Can you put yourself in the disciples sandals that first Easter morning? What must have been going through their heads? The week had been long with lots of exciting moments, but it ended tragically. They just buried their friend, their teacher. Now, Peter and John claim Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb and Mary Magdalene is saying she saw and spoke with Jesus. The room the locked themselves in must have been full of grief, confusion, and a lot of fear. Ever been locked in a room like that?
In the midst of all that fear the testimony of Mary wasn’t enough. They still weren’t sure what was happening. They found themselves paralyzed. Fear can do that to us. We can all relate on some level – words can’t change or fix a situation. We need action. Sometimes even being told God is with us isn’t enough – we need to experience Him for ourselves. We need our own encounter with the risen Jesus.
Thankfully, that is what happened in that room. Jesus showed up. The risen Christ came to them, right in the midst of their fear and all the other emotions and things that were keeping them in hiding, locked away. The risen Christ was there, in the midst of His scared disciples. It is what He promised – to never leave or forsake them (or us). If you are in a room today, locked away in hiding, know that Jesus is there with you. That is what the resurrected Lord does – He shows up.
In that room He offered the disciples exactly what they had been looking for – peace. In fact, He breathed on them and encouraged them to receive the Holy Spirit. To receive was to take hold of, to grasp. Jesus was there, offering them life, all they needed to do was take ahold of it. Right now, Jesus is breathing on you, offering you life, offering you peace, offering you forgiveness, offering you love, or whatever else you might need to get out of that dark room. Will you receive it? Will you grasp Him and let Him lead you out?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.