It’s too easy for us Christians to underestimate Jesus’ human spiritual struggles because all ends well.
The 40 days in the wilderness, the agony in the Garden, being tortured and the agony of the crucifixion all required remarkable physical stamina and resolute spiritual courage.
Most people think of Jonah as a charming story rather than as a serious prophetic book. But my own fondness for this tiny book has led me to ponder just how much it may have been existentially important to Jesus in his own spiritual life. It certainly provided him with resurrection texts he cites in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels.
I’ve concluded that the Book of Jonah is worthy of much more credit, and I’m very grateful to those who included it in the Hebrew Canon. It’s a book of great wisdom about the cost of being faithful, no matter what.
In its enigmatic final chapter, we have Jonah’s hissy fit and God’s provocative question, “Is it right for you to be angry?”. The book ends with God giving Jonah a sense of proportion: “You’re concerned about your shade bush!…I’m concerned about 120,000 people who don’t know which way is up; not to mention the animals.”
And this is precisely where I think Jesus may have drawn strength and encouragement from this little book. Jesus’ effectiveness brought powerful opposition, but maybe Jonah helped Jesus refocus away from his success and the resulting opposition and other earthly considerations. God’s challenge to Jonah was that faithfulness to God’s call is absolutely all that counts.
For Jesus, steadfast faithfulness was always paramount. Whatever the cost.