Sermon #77                                                     Luke Sermons


     Title:            A Greater Than Jonah Is Here

     Text:            Luke 11:29, 30, 32

     Subject:       The Sign of Jonah—Unbelief Condemned

     Date:            Sunday Evening – March 31, 2002

     Tape #         W-94a

     Readings:     Rex Bartley – Bobbie Estes



Yesterday I read a report from a man who had observed a portion of a battle taking place in an open field near him. He did not name the battle, the place or even the war. It could have a battle of the Civil War or of the Revolutionary War, or of some other military conflict. That is really unimportant. But what he said is very important.

He saw a cannon fired at a line of men, who, as soon as they heard the shot, fell flat down on the ground, thereby escaping death. The ordnance fired sailed directly over them. What mighty, great, effectual armor they employed to defend themselves!—They fell flat down before the enemy!

That which gave those men notice of imminent danger was the sound of the blast as the powder ignited. What mercy that the blast was heard before the volley reached its target!

Now, listen to me. The Lord God almighty, in like manner, warns before he wounds. He sounds alarm before he assails in wrath. He blows the trumpet before he charges with the sword of his justice. He alarms before he slays. How often you have heard the igniting of his cannon. Oh, be wise! Fall flat down on the ground before the Lord God against whom you have sinned, whose wrath you have provoked, and sue for mercy. Fall down before him that his wrath may pass over you! Fall down before him. You have no other armor. Fall! Fall! Fall down before him now!


As Jonah came into Nineveh, he cried out to the inhabitants of that wicked city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Thus, the Lord God warned the Ninevites of his impending judgment. But those wicked men and women fell on their faces before the Lord God, and judgment was averted. God spared the city. That is the background for our Lord’s instruction here in Luke 11:29, 30, and 32.


(Luke 11:29,30,32)  "And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. (30) For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. … (32) The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."


I. First, our Lord speaks here of the sign of the Prophet Jonah.


(Luke 11:29-30)  "And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. (30) For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation."


Faith believes God Only unbelief seeks, looks for, or depends upon signs and evidences.. Those in our Lord’s day and those like them in our day who make signs, evidences, and proofs, (be such signs matters of science, logic, emotions, or miracles), the basis of faith will perish in unbelief, even if they profess to believe. Faith stands upon the Word of God alone.


I call you this night to repentance and faith in Christ. The basis of my appeal is the Word of God alone. I have no argument with which to persuade you, but the gospel. I have no sign to give you, no miracle to perform, no evidence to convince, nothing but the naked gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Will you hear me? God help you to hear and believe unto the saving of your soul. Oh, Holy Spirit, come now and cause sinners to hear and believe to good news, for Christ’s sake!


·        The wrath of God is upon you!

·        There is righteousness, redemption, grace and salvation for sinners in Christ.

·        God almighty has promised life eternal, free salvation, to every sinner who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ!

·        Outside Christ, without Christ there is no salvation, no grace, no mercy, and no hope.


This is what the sign of Jonah declares. – “Salvation is of the Lord!” I know you are as familiar with those words as I am. How we rejoice to hear them! How we rejoice to proclaim them! But how is Jonah a sign of this blessed gospel?


A. As the Lord God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah (Jonah 1:17), so the Lord God prepared the instrument (crucifixion) of death for his darling Son as our Substitute.


B. As Jonah was cast into the sea by the hands of wicked men and by the pleasure of God (Jonah 1:5, 14), so the Lord Jesus died at Calvary by the hands of wicked men, being delivered into their hands by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23; 4:26-28; 13:27-29). – “It pleased the Lord to bruise him!


C. As Jonah was in the heart of the whale’s belly, in the belly of hell for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17-2:2), with all the waves and billows of God’s wrath passing over him, cast out of God’s sight, so our blessed Savior was cast out of God’s sight, when all the waves and billows of infinite wrath that we deserved passed over him, and he was buried in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights[1].


(Psalms 88:1-7)  “O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: (2) Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; (3) For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. (4) I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: (5) Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. (6) Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. (7) Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah."


D. While suffering the judgment of God as a substitute for the mariners who threw him into the sea, Jonah cried, “Salvation is of the Lord!” Son the Lord Jesus Christ, when he suffered the wrath of God as our great, sin-atoning Substitute declared God’s salvation (Ps. 40:10, 16; 69:29).


·        Father, forgive them!

·        Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise!

·        It is finished!


E. On the third day Jonah came out of the whale’s belly for the salvation of a specific people (Nineveh). So, too, the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day to proclaim the salvation of God’s elect (Rom. 14:9; 4:25-5:1, 10, 11; 1:1-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).


(Romans 14:9)  "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living."


(Romans 4:25)  "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."


(Romans 5:1)  "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."


(Romans 5:10-11)  "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (11) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."


(Romans 1:1-5)  "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (2) (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) (3) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (4) And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (5) By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name."


(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)  "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."


F. As Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, (that is to say, the preaching of Christ) is the only sign God gives to sinners. – This and this alone is the power of God unto salvation. Therefore, we glory in the cross. Therefore we preach Christ!


II. Second, the Lord Jesus declares that grace despised will forever make the fires of hell burn hotter in your soul (v. 32).


If you refuse to hear the gospel, you will hear it forever in hell! Your willful, obstinate unbelief will make hell hotter for you than for any other. The Ninevites will arise in judgment and cry out as witnesses against you at the bar of God.


(Luke 11:32)  "The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."


Like the Jews in our Lord’s day, you have been favored with the great privilege of hearing the gospel. Yet, like them, you harden your heart and cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Are not the men of Nineveh irrefutable witnesses against you? Are they not true witnesses against your soul, condemning your obstinate unbelief? Indeed they are!

A. The men of Nineveh repented, and turned to God, though they only heard one message from one prophet.


·        They had none of the privileges and opportunities we enjoy.

·        Nineveh heard only one prophet; and he not much of one.

·        Nineveh heard that prophet only once; and in that one sermon there was no indication of care, concern, or compassion.

·        Nineveh had heard no word of glad tidings, but only the thunder of the law and the threat of wrath.

·        Yet Nineveh’s obedience to the Word of God was immediate, universal, practical, and acceptable, so that the city was spared.


B. The men of Nineveh repented, and turned to God, though Jonah gave them no reason to hope for mercy.


·        He declared no promise of pardon.

·        He made no mention repentance.

·        He proclaimed no word of grace.

·        He only preached hellfire and brimstone, and seemed to do so with gladness!—"Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown."—His message began and ended with judgment, wrath, and terror.

The difference between the Ninevites and you who believe not is simple. They believed what God said, though there was no grace in what he said to them. Believing God’s Word, they found themselves in desperate need. Therefore, they made the message of doom a message of hope. They took Jonah’s dreadful message as an indication that since God gave them forty days, he might be willing to spare them altogether.

Some of you who hear my voice, on the other hand, hear the glorious gospel of rich, free, full salvation, grace abounding, mercy multiplied, and life eternal, with hardhearted, stubborn rebellion and unbelief.

C. The men of Nineveh repented, and turned to God, though Jonah offered them no hope.


Bro. Jonah did not go to the right seminary. He was anything but a loving, tenderhearted pastor, anxious to gather the lost sheep. Rather than thanking God for the privilege of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles, he pouted and sulked. Not only did he not pray for the conversion of his hearers, he got mad at God when he granted them mercy!—Yet they obeyed his voice, and obtained mercy in their time of need!


D. The men of Nineveh repented, and turned to God, by finding in the message of wrath a door of hope.


(Jonah 3:9)  "Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"


They heard no invitation to seek the Lord. They did not even hear a command to believe him, to repent, or to confess their guilt. Their only hope was formed from what God did not say. He did not say that he would not be merciful. So they deduced that he might! And if he refused, they would lose nothing by seeking it. What great faith! But hear me.—You do not need to deduce a thing. God has promised, “I will be gracious! – I will forgive! – I will save!


Jonah’s mission was but a warning. Yet, the warning implied a degree of mercy. The Ninevites ventured upon that bare hope of mercy, saying, "Who can tell?" We have much more! The gospel proclaims hope for the hopeless, help for the helpless, grace for the guilty, and salvation for the sinner through the merits of Christ. Will you not venture upon him?

III. This is what I want you to see. “Behold, A greater than Jonah is here!” Oh, may God give you eyes to see him.

·        A Greater Man!

·        A Greater Prophet!

·        A Greater Resurrection!

·        A Greater Message!

·        A Greater Mission! – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! – The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost! – I am come that they might have life! – He that believeth on me shall never die!”


“Come, humble sinner, in whose breast

A thousand thoughts revolve,

Come with your guilt and fear oppressed,

And make this last resolve


‘I’ll go to Jesus, though my sin

Hath like a mountain rose;

I know His courts I’ll enter in,

Whatever may oppose.


Prostrate I’ll lie before His throne,

And there my guilt confess;

I’ll tell Him I’m a wretch undone,

Without His sovereign grace.


I’ll to the gracious King approach,

Whose scepter pardon gives;

Perhaps He may command my touch,

And then the suppliant lives!


Perhaps He will admit my plea,

Perhaps will hear my prayer;

But if I perish, I will pray,

And perish only there.


I can but perish if I go,

I am resolved to try;

For if I stay away, I know,

I must forever die.


But, if I die with mercy sought,

When I the King have tried,

This were to die (Delightful thought!)

As sinner never died.’”

                                  Edmund Jones


Who can tell?


I read a story last week, a true story about the conversion of a man ordained of God to be a preacher of the gospel. Let me give you the essence of it.


He was so overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and sin that he concluded his day over and that he must be lost forever. He was certain that hell would be his everlasting portion. He decided therefore, in hopeless despair to commit suicide, reasoning as only suicidal men can reason, that it would be better to put an end to his life than to go on in his course of sin, bring greater wrath upon his head.


Feeling that he deserved to go to hell, and that he was already damned forever, with no way to escape, he reasoned that it would be best to end his life immediately. That evening he went to a river, determined to throw himself off a high cliff into the abyss below. Just as he was about to jump, the words of the Ninevites rang in his soul, '”Who can tell?” It was as though the words had been audibly spoken.


Immediately he was arrested. He sat down on the edge of the cliff he had designed for his doom and found it to the place designed by God for his salvation. He began to go over those three magnificent words in his mind.—“Who can tell?


·        What God will do?

·        If God will be gracious?

·        If I might yet find mercy?

·        What God’s purpose is?

·        If God might be pleased to save me, even me?


By those three words, “Who can tell?” the Lord God graciously broke through the darkness of his soul and gave him grace to through himself into the arms of Christ rather than into the river below. Grace gave him faith Christ, as One able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him!


He became a preacher of the gospel; and drawing from his own experience of the riches of grace, he was greatly used of God for the conversion and comfort of many!


Come now, my friend, poor, despairing soul. Throw yourself into the arms of the Son of God.


(Jonah 3:9)  "Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"


(Isaiah 25:9)  "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."


(Isaiah 33:22)  "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us."


(Isaiah 45:22)  "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."


(Micah 7:18-19)  "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. (19) He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."


(Zephaniah 3:17)  "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."


[1] “That Christ means himself by the ‘son of man’, there is no reason to doubt; and his being laid in a tomb, dug out of a rock, is sufficient to answer this phrase, ‘the heart of the earth’, in distinction from the surface of it; but some difficulty arises about the time of his continuing there, and the prediction here made agreeable to the type: for it was on the sixth day of the week, we commonly call ‘Friday’, towards the close, on the day of the preparation for the sabbath, and when the sabbath drew on, that the body of Christ was laid in the sepulchre; where it lay all the next day, which was the sabbath of the Jews, and what we commonly call ‘Saturday’; and early on the first of the week, usually called ‘Sunday’, or the Lord’s day, he rose from the dead; so that he was but one whole day, and part of two, in the grave. To solve this difficulty, and set the matter in a clear light, let it be observed, that the three days and three nights, mean three natural days, consisting of day and night, or twenty four hours, and are what the Greeks call, ‘night days’; but the Jews have no other way of expressing them, but as here; and with them it is a well known rule, and used on all occasions, as in the computation of their feasts and times of mourning, in the observance of the passover, circumcision, and divers purifications, that wlwkk Mwyh tuqm, ‘a part of a day is as the whole’ and so, whatever was done before sun setting, or after, if but an hour, or ever so small a time, before or after it, it was reckoned as the whole preceding, or following day; and whether this was in the night part, or day part of the night day, or natural day, it mattered not, it was accounted as the whole night day: by this rule, the case here is easily adjusted; Christ was laid in the grave towards the close of the sixth day, a little before sun setting, and this being a part of the night day preceding, is reckoned as the whole; he continued there the whole night day following, being the seventh day; and rose again early on the first day, which being after sun setting, though it might be even before sun rising, yet being a part of the night day following, is to be esteemed as the whole; and thus the son of man was to be, and was three days and three nights in the grave.” (John Gill on Matthew 12:40)