3. The Mission of Easter
Easter is not a destination but a sendoff celebration!
Every year, as spring emerges from winter and new growth blossoms around us, we celebrate Christ’s coming forth from the grave after three days in a tomb. But just as we might grow apathetic towards Spring after years of its dependable arrival, so we often lose our sense of wonder at the resurrection.
In our coolness, the pages of Scripture hold out third-day stories paralleled to Christ’s resurrection, casting light on the significance of Easter and warming our affections to its realities.
One of these third-day stories is found in the book of Jonah. In Jonah 1:17-2:4, we read:
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’”
God calls the Israelite prophet Jonah to go and preach to the nation of Nineveh. At the time, Nineveh was an enemy of Israel, and their culture was one of horrible brutality and violence. Jonah knows that God is full of compassion and that the Ninevites will be forgiven if they repent and believe. Lacking in mercy and full of spiritual pride, Jonah doesn’t want to even give Nineveh the opportunity for salvation.
Jonah runs away from God and this assignment by boarding a boat in the opposite direction; but, through his tries, Jonah cannot outrun God or hinder his mission to pursue the lost. God allows a violent storm to occur while Jonah is on the boat. Accepting that the storm is from God, Jonah informs the sailors that they must sacrifice him for the storm to stop. Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a giant fish sent by God.
Jonah spends 3 days inside the fish until he is spit out onto dry land. In obedience to God, Jonah then goes and preaches to the Ninevites. Miraculously, the people repent, and God forgives them!
In the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus draw a parallel between Jonah and himself, saying, “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 (Matthew 12:40).”
How does Jonah’s third-day story parallel Jesus's death and resurrection?
Just as Jonah was sent to bring God’s message of mercy to lost people, so Jesus was sent by his Father to save people from their sins. But unlike Jonah’s reluctant and arrogant spirit, Jesus’s heart was willing and humble.
As judgment for his sin, Jonah spent three days in the dark tomb of the insides of a giant fish. Likewise, Jesus spent three days in a garden grave. But he was consumed by death, not because of his own sin, but because of ours.
And just as Jonah emerged from the fish after three days to preach the good news of God’s mercy, so Jesus rose from the grave on the third day to offer salvation.
Because those who trust in Jesus share in his death and resurrection, they also share in his mission of salvation. Easter is not a destination but a sendoff celebration! We are called to share God’s saving power with others in compassionate love, even to our enemies.
How might the mission of Easter direct your path today?