I don’t know why I’m surprised that I’m always surprised when Jesus surprises me. I guess after a decade and a half of higher education studies in theology and some substantial experience in full-time ministry, I just expect to be an expert… on the basic things, at least. I certainly didn’t expect to be laid out while studying to prepare my umpteenth sermon on the resurrection. But here we are.
This week Evangelical Presbyterian elders from across the globe have convened in Memphis for our annual General Assembly meeting. Since I’m both participating as a commissioner in our business meetings and committees and preaching this week, I thought, “Well, at least I’m covering ‘On the third day He rose again from the dead.'” This is the ABC’s. I’ve even got an acronym for this one. I teach this to 7-year-old communicants. Slam dunk. But then I decided I’d like to maybe explore a fresh angle, so I dove into the texts to maybe grab one of Jesus’ own prophecies about what was to take place after his death as a springboard. I landed in Matthew 12, and that’s where it all went berserk.
Jonah is a great summer story. It’s the Jaws of the Old Testament. I wish we could get our VBS set back so I could preach from the bow of that great boat. But what I had always assumed was kind of a casual image analogy between Jesus’ future and Jonah’s past turns out to be quite a bit more instructive than I imagined. Turns out I had still been thinking about the resurrection through the lens of a rationalistic and humanist tradition I no longer claim. Catechesis is strong, guys. And Jesus did as Jesus does – He spoke across two thousand years directly into my life and called me to repentance. All I wanted was an easy outline so I could go about my week, and He brought me to my knees.
I wonder if it’s something like what the Ninevites felt that day. And yet greater.