Ah, Jonah, one of my favorite stories. It reminds me every time I read it that no matter who we are or what we do for God, there is always room for a really selfishly sinful reaction at the end.
Jonah was a prophet, not because he’s ever called one in this story – he’s not – but because you’re a prophet if you bring a message from God to the people. And this is exactly what Jonah is called on to do. And he fails about as badly as you possibly can. After nearly killing a boatload of men, he is nearly drowned and then nearly eaten by a giant fish (cue Jaws music now). He repents (who wouldn’t inside a giant fish? (cue Jaws music now)) and agrees to take on the task. Again, who wouldn’t when the alternative is, well, all of that?
He goes to Nineveh in fear and trepidation, travels nearly half way into the city, and proclaims their doom. They IMMEDIATELY repent as completely as possible (even the animals are forced to a position of repentance) and are spared. Get that? Jonah takes a boat ride, a typhoon, a near drowning, a giant fish (cue Jaws music now) and a projectile vomiting (and you thought being the vomit-er was bad? try being the vomit!) before he repented. The Ninevites, sworn enemies of all things God, take one word from a foreigner they’ve never met before.
And then, AND THEN, Jonah is angry! “How dare you be YOU, God! I knew You would forgive them and that’s why I wouldn’t go. See? I was right!” Jerk.
Jonah is certainly not the hero of his own story. But neither are the Ninevites. Nor the sailors, nor the plant, nor the sackcloth-covered animals. If there’s a hero to this story, it has to be God. And that’s just how it should be.
Unless it’s the fish (cue Jaws music now).