Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Fast of Jonah

Most Roman Catholics are not aware of this Coptic fast. I believe, it is this Monday and lasts for three days.

Why would Christians have a special fast to remember a figure from the Old Testament? If you ask your average Catholic about Jonah, you would get the answer: "Jonah...the guy in the whale?"

Yes, the guy in the whale: But something much, much more.

Jonah was told by God to take His message to the people of Nineveh. What is unusual is that the City of Nineveh is the ancient capitol of Assyria (So that is the answer to a question in a Monty Python film), and the people are not Jewish. For Jonah, this is unacceptable. The word of God is for the children of Israel. So, Jonah runs.

He boards a ship and tries to get away. One thing leads to another, since you can't run from God, and the crew throws him overboard because they blame him for a storm. He is swallowed by a whale and is there for three days, before accepting Gods' command.

Now, here is the interesting part, Jonah is the most successful prophet in the Old Testament. He converts 120,000 people. He brings Gods' word to the Gentiles. 12 has always been the number of Israel and the number 120,000 shows us that the word would spread to nations beyond Israel. This is not to say the story of Jonah didn't happen, but God filled the historical events with signs for us.

This is why it is so important to us. Jonah pre-figures Christ. The Whale is the tomb, and after three days the word is spread. If God had not done what he did with Jonah, 700 years before Christ, the early Church would have had no theological and historical basis to spread the Word of God beyond the Children of Israel. They would have; of course, it is the will of God. But what had happened to Jonah gave the early Church a sign.

Unlike Jonah, Christ accepts His Father's will. One of the possible meanings for the name Jonah, is dove; also one of the symbols for the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes God makes it pretty easy for us to get the message.

I offer my Prayers to our Coptic brothers and sisters during the fast of Jonah. I will be praying during that time that this story and what it means to all Christians, takes deeper root in our hearts.


Egypeter said...

Thanks David - very nice commentary of one of the many Fasts in our church! God bless.

Deacon John said...

David, it's sure nice to find a person like you who, like myself, really believe in the historical Jonah!!! How many times have I heard it said that this story and many others of the Old Testament were fables or myths! Even Our Lord spoke of Jonah as a fact when He said: "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." (Matt. 12:40).

God Bless+

DavidNic said...

Yes. It is true, alot of people take the Bible as symbolism or myth too far. I can see that argument for some things, but not all. There is a fine edge to walk in that kind of thought. As I say, in some things it may indeed be true that there are parables. But in most cases, such as Jonah,I view the Bible as historically accurate.