Paul views Jesus in Jonah-like terms, one who is both a true Israelite and true Israel himself, and in whom even the godless and uncircumcised Gentiles can find reconciliation. What was there in God’s call to Jonah was only a dimly-lit picture, a veiled foreshadowing of something greater – it was, in the Biblical sense, a true mystery. But this account of Jonah certainly pointed forward to what Paul says was the unfurled “mystery that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6; see also Col. 1:26-27).
Of all the Minor Prophets, perhaps Jonah is the most read and beloved, and certainly not for its brevity but for its extraordinary story – a story of a prophet running from God, of being thrown overboard in the midst of a storm, of being swallowed alive by a whale of a fish, and upon being spit out three days later, the account of the revival of the heathen and godless Ninevites. And when it comes to the Christo-telic thrust of Jonah, we have a clear reference that Jesus himself makes in Matthew 12:40 – “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.” It’s divinely established typology.
But even beyond this clear typological connection, Jonah provides a wealth of Gospel connections that both foreshadow the person and ministry of Jesus Christ but also the inbreaking of Christ’s world-wide Kingdom. And it is this latter focus which is of special interest. In one sense, Jonah himself serves as a representative of Israel. He, like Israel in his day, had forgotten and forsaken the role they were to have to the wider world. Genesis 12:2-3 is a clear statement of what God wanted his people, the Jews, to be: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Likewise, Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Their role to the world is clear, but it’s also clear that both Israel, and Jonah himself, have forgotten that role.
Hugh Martin makes this point beautifully, that Israel drifted into the wrong conclusion, “that the heathen nations, as to their moral and spiritual interests, were, among Israel, objects of simple contempt and neglect, and were dealt with as if Jehovah, the God of Israel, utterly neglected them also.”