Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17 (NIV).
No, this isn’t Pinocchio; no, the ‘big fish’ wasn’t a whale. No, believe it or not, this isn’t some fairy tale or myth or impossible story.
You know what this is? It’s history. Real, live history. If you believe that God created the world, then you believe He did it by speaking everything into being. That’s a miracle. And if you believe in the parting of the Red Sea, that’s a miracle too. And Elijah being fed by ravens. And Jesus rising from the tomb. All miracles, all history as recorded in the Bible.
That includes Jonah spending three days inside a big fish.
Now, “Big Fish” is one of my favorite movies. Maybe you’ve seen it; a Tim Burton movie about a son coming to terms with his father. The father’s tall tales of extraordinary events in his life alienate his son, who doesn’t see how the larger-than-life stories are an important part of who his dad really is. The title of the movie comes from how the dad used his wedding ring to catch a giant catfish. Yet as you watch the movie, you come to see how the big fish isn’t just the catfish: it’s the father himself.
Or maybe it’s the son, my son, specifically. When he was a boy, my son was always full of tall tales. Much like his dad, he would exaggerate things he did or said. And he dreamed big dreams. As a grown man, I couldn’t be prouder to watch how my own big fish swims through the world, working to make those dreams into reality.
And that’s no tall tale. Maybe Jonah needed to think about that. Having just endured a God-sent storm of (literally) Biblical proportions, chilling out inside the belly of a fish may have been the extraordinarily humbling thing Jonah needed most. Or maybe he was passed out. Truth is, we don’t know. All we do know is that Jonah was there, alive, inside the big fish, safe from the raging storm, and safely on his way to Ninevah.
Years later, Jesus, no ordinary fish Himself, used Jonah’s story to give His people a sign that pointed toward His eventual resurrection. Three days Jonah stayed inside the big fish; three days Jesus slept in His tomb. And when he/they came forth, things began to change.
Pinocchio didn’t change things, though life changed Him. And Tim Burton’s movie didn’t change much, though it is poignant and moving. My son is still working through change. But Jonah and Jesus actually, miraculously, historically did, and that’s no big fish story, even though it actually is.
For further reading: Matthew 12:40, Matthew 16:4, Jonah 2:1
All praise to You, Lord, for saving Jonah and us.
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