This is the sermon for The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day. The sermon text is Jonah 2:2-9. The sermon theme is: Jesus has delivered us from the death we deserve. Here is the Written Sermon.
Jesus Delivers Us From The Death We Deserve.
Children are stubborn. Have you ever noticed this fact? Picture in your brains a mom and a dad with a little two or three year old toddler. Oh, but there’s one more member of their family. They have a kitty. And that little toddler loves more than anything to grab the big kitty’s fur and jank on it. And time and time again the mom and dad say, “We pet the kitty. We don’t pull on his fur.” But what happens? That little boy or girl pulls on the fur. And eventually what happens? The cat bites the child on the arm. And then the child first has this look of shock on their little face. Then the tears start, as if the world is unjustly punishing the child for crimes they didn’t commit. Children can be stubborn. But what if it’s not children who are stubborn? What if grown adults are stubborn? What is our response then? In the book of Jonah we meet a stubborn man. The Lord told Jonah to go way up to the Northeast and share God’s word with the Ninevites. But instead, Jonah got on a ship heading the opposite direction. He got on a ship bound for Tarshish. Tarshish is somewhere around Spain. You see, it’s not only children who can be stubborn. Adults can be stubborn too.
Finally then, Jonah’s stubbornness caught up with him. And the Lord had had enough. So the Lord had him thrown overboard, off the boat he was on. And then the Lord provided a large fish-like creature to swallow Jonah up.1 And when he was in that fish or whale, that is where we pick up the words we have before us this morning. In Jonah, chapter two, we read: “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.” (Jonah 2:1 NIV)
So, from inside of the big fish Jonah prays to the Lord. Now, anyway you look at this it is a miracle. Things inside of fish and whales tend to die. But the Lord provided this fish in a miraculous way to preserve Jonah. And then, as Jonah is in this fish he tells us what the whole experience was like for him. We read: “3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.” (Jonah 2:3-4 NIV)
What we see here in these words is time. Jonah was in the big fish for three days. And he had time to ponder his ways. But he had even more time than that, didn’t he? I remember when I was young and in Sunday School we learned about Jonah and the whale. And I had this picture in my brain that when the sailors threw him overboard it was kind of like fishing. You throw that fly or that bobber over the water and it lands. And shortly after it lands the fish gets it. That was my picture of Jonah. I had this picture that pretty much as soon as he hit the water the fish swallowed him. But that’s not what we read here. There was time involved. The Lord performed another miracle didn’t he? Before the fish swallowed him there was time to sink. Jonah sank so far that all the light vanished. He sank so far that the deep sea currents whirled all around him. But he sank even further still. We read: “5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.” (Jonah 2:5-6 NIV)
He sank so far that the seaweed on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea wrapped around his legs and his head. And finally, he sank so far that he sank into the mud and and finally hit the foundation.
Think of the time it took. Was it minutes? Was it hours for him to drift into the deep? And in all of that time his stubbornness finally caught up with him. And could say to himself, “I deserve this. The Lord gave me a clear command. And in my stubbornness I ran as far and as fast as I possibly could the other way.” And so he came face to face with what he deserved because of his stubborn sin. He deserved the darkness of death. He deserved to have an icy grave where no one could find his body. He deserved to endure the darkness of hell forever because of his stubbornness.
Jonah could say, “This is what I deserve.” But can say the same, can’t we? We too can say “This is what I deserve.” How many clear commands Has your Lord given to you and you have run as far and as fast in the opposite direction? Just walk through the ten commandments and see your stubbornness. God commands us to love him above all else. And so very often we love all else above him. He commands us to honor his name, and instead we use his name to curse. He commands us to read his word and study it with joy in our hearts. Instead we read other books and find our joy in them. He commands us to obey those in authority and respect them. Instead we complain against them. All this stubbornness we see and we haven’t even gotten half way through the commandments.
And this stubbornness has a consequence, doesn’t it? God is angry with our stubbornness. He is angry at all the times he gave us clear commands for our good and we went as far and as fast as we could in the opposite direction. Truly, if died and wen to hell we could say in all honesty, “This is what I deserve.”
But look and learn from Jonah. The Lord didn’t give him what he deserved. Jonah tells us in verse 7: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7 NIV)
Out of love for Jonah, the Lord had him come face to face with his sin-both with how wrong his stubbornness was and where it led to: an icy death and eternal destruction. And through his word the Lord moved him to repent. And with that repentance came remembering. Jonah remembered dozens of promises the Lord gave to him through his word.
The Lord delivered Jonah from what he deserved. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us. We clearly and honestly confess that we deserve a strangled, watery death because of our stubbornness. We deserve enduring destruction in hell because of our rebellion. But Jesus has promised to us forgiveness instead. And how did this forgiveness come about? Jesus tells us: “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt 12:40 NIV)
We deserved the icy death and darkness of hell. But Jesus is the one who endured death and hell in our place. And not only did he die. He also came to life again. He rose from the dead. And the fact that Jesus rose from the dead changes our lives. We see this in Jonah, don’t we? In verse 8 we read: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8 NIV)
As Martin Luther reminds us, idols are those things we cling to when times are bad and where we go to make ourselves feel good. Jonah no longer felt smug and comfortable in his stubbornness. No, he hated it. He realized that it was an idol that threatened to drown out his faith. And the same is true with us. Each of us is stubborn. We so stubbornly put other things and other people above the Lord. We stubbornly use God’s name to curse and do not use his name to pray. We stubbornly find more joy in our habits and hobbies than in word and worship. And when we see that Jesus emerged from the belly of the earth with all our sins forgiven through the power of God’s word we too are changed. We too hate our idols in our hearts and cling to God alone.
But that leaves us with one final question this morning. Who will deliver us from these idols not just today on this glorious resurrection Sunday, but also in the days of darkness ahead? Take to heart what Jonah tells you: “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.”” (Jonah 2:9 NIV)
Salvation belongs to the Lord. Think about that fact. This salvation that Jesus won for you on Easter Sunday hundreds of years ago is there for you every day. It is there for you as you remember those waters of baptism where Jesus washed away your sin. It is there in God’s word where, promise after promise, he forgives your sin and strengthens your faith. He is there in his Holy Supper where he gives you the very body that died and is now living for you-to take away your sins.
And with all of this Jesus delivers us from the death we deserve. The stubbornness is forgiven. The punishment of death is paid for. And now, whether we live or die, we have the promise that just as he lives, we too will live. So then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, sing. Just as Jonah sang to the Lord in his holy temple, sing to your risen Christ in heaven. Sing, because Jesus has delivered you from the death you deserved. Amen.
1 מִמְּעֵי הַדָּגָה