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18. Bible and Qur'an Series
BOOKLET 2 - What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?
(A reply to Ahmad Deedat's Booklet: What was the Sign of Jonah?)

6. The Ultimate Significance of the Sign of Jonah

Now it becomes clear why Jesus gave the Jews this one sign, the Sign of the prophet Jonah. His death, burial and resurrection from the dead would surely prove to them that he was the Messiah.

We have seen already that the Jews sought a sign from heaven, a greater feat than that performed by any other prophet in history to prove his claims; and as one looks at the miracles of the former prophets one sees all the more the significance of the Sign of Jonah. As mentioned earlier, prior to the trial and arrest of Jesus his greatest sign was to raise Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead for four days. But this did not persuade the Jews (John 12:9-11). Such things had been done during the time of the prophet Elisha.

But what greater feat can a man perform than to raise a dead man to life again? Only one possibly greater sign can be done. If that man after dying is able to raise himself from the dead and live again, this will surely be a greater sign and this sign was performed by no prophet before Jesus.

Living prophets had raised the dead, but the sign Jesus was promising them was that the Messiah would raise himself from the dead. This is the Sign of Jonah. The Jews had stood at the foot of the cross mocking Jesus, “You who would destroy the Temple of God in three days”, but they did not know that, after expiring a few hours later, Jesus would raise himself from the dead on the third day in overwhelming proof that he was indeed the Messiah and the ultimate temple of God, the one in whom the living God of all creation fully dwelt. As Jonah had come back from the stomach of a fish in the very depths of the sea to yet live on the earth, so Jesus was to die, be buried, only to raise himself to life on the third day. On one occasion Jesus made this quite plain to the Jews, saying:

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

Not only did Jesus make it plain that he would raise himself from the dead on the third day, but he also often showed that he was greater than all the prophets who had gone before him. When the Jews asked him, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” (John 8:53), Jesus made it plain that he was, saying that Abraham had looked forward to his day (John 8:56) and added, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) In the same way a Samaritan woman said to him: “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (John 4:12) to which Jesus replied that, whereas Jacob had left a well in the land of Samaria from which people could drink, only to thirst again, he could put within people a well of living water from which no one would ever thirst (John 4:14).

He showed that he was greater than Moses, for Moses had written of him (John 5:46). He was greater than David, for David, he said, “inspired by the Spirit, calls the Messiah Lord” (Matthew 22:43). He openly stated that he was greater than the prophets Solomon and Jonah (Luke 11:31.32) and that he was even greater than the very Temple of God (Matthew 12:6), for the Temple contained only a manifestation of God's presence but in him the whole fullness of God dwelt bodily.

No man had ever had greater wisdom than Solomon, but Jesus is the very wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jonah became a source of reprieve for the people of Nineveh, but Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). Although there had been many prophets, there was to be only one Messiah. And whereas the prophets had performed many signs, the Messiah reserved to himself the greatest sign of all. As Jonah's ordeal in the stomach of the fish in many ways foreshadowed this sign, namely the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Jesus therefore set forth this sign alone as a proof that he was indeed the Messiah.

This leads us to consider in closing another statement made by Deedat in another booklet he once wrote, to the effect that there is no clearer statement of Jesus throughout the Gospels about his pending crucifixion than the Sign of Jonah (Deedat, Was Christ Crucified?, page 33). He made this remark during an attempt, similar to the one we have already considered in his booklet ‘What was the Sign of Jonah?’, to prove that Jesus came down alive from the cross, recuperated in his tomb, and somehow or other recovered his health.

Now if Jesus was taken down from the cross alive and survived only because he was so close to death that the Roman soldiers presumed he was dead, and managed through clandestine meetings with his disciples and various disguises to gradually recover (as Deedat claims), we may indeed ask, what sort of sign is this? If we are to take Deedat's contentions seriously, we must conclude that Jesus escaped death entirely by chance and recovered according to a natural process. This would not have been a miracle at all, let alone a sign greater than all the signs done by the prophets before him. Deedat's analysis of the Sign of Jonah thus leaves us without a sign at all!

On the other hand, if we take the narratives of the crucifixion in the Bible at face value and accept that Jesus died on the cross, only to raise himself from the dead on the third day, then we have indeed a sure sign and manifest proof that all his claims were true. Other living prophets had raised dead men to life but Jesus alone raised himself from the dead, and that to eternal life, for he ascended to heaven and has been there for nearly twenty centuries. It is in this alone that we find the true meaning of the Sign of Jonah and are able to perceive why Jesus singled it out as the only sign he was prepared to give to the Jews.

We see, therefore, that Deedat's final argument in favor of the theory that Jesus survived the cross is actually the very strongest evidence one can find against it. Although his booklets are thus easy to refute, the matter cannot be left here, for the sign Jesus gave has implications for all men in all ages. As Jonah's sojourn in the stomach of a fish in the depths of the sea for three days authenticated his word to Nineveh, so the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ put the stamp of authenticity on his mission of salvation to all men in all ages. If you miss the import of this sign, Jesus gives you no other. No further proof that he is the Savior of all men need be given to those who refuse to believe in him as their Lord and Savior.

Nevertheless we have a wonderful assurance for those who perceive the meaning of this sign and who are prepared to believe in Jesus and follow him all their days as Savior and Lord: just as no soul in repenting Nineveh perished, so neither will yours, if you will commit your whole life to Jesus, who died for you and rose from the dead on the third day that you too might live with him forever in the kingdom of heaven to be revealed when he returns to earth.

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