Repentance En Masse

Today’s reading is all about Nineveh repenting of their sin and dressing in sackcloth and ashes. And what better imagery than that to delve into on Lent?

First! The readings of the day, so you can have some context of the enormity of the event!


Jonah 3

1The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you. 3So Jonah set out for Nineveh, in accord with the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an awesomely great city; it took three days to walk through it. 4Jonah began his journey through the city, and when he had gone only a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” 5the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 8Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. 9Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.” 10When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

And…the artwork!

The Repentance of Ninevah, by John Martin, c. 1829. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, England. Via
The Repentance of Ninevah, by John Martin, c. 1829. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, England.

What a grand scene, right? It gives you a sense of the huge scale of this dramatic scene and allows you to really experience it in a new and wonderful way. (Which, by the way, is why religious art can be so powerful!)

At first it merely seems like a sea of gray in the background, until you look closer and realize that it’s an incredibly large amount of people, too numerous to count. Which, frankly, is incredible because that’s a lot of people! And, look at the city! It seems to stretch on forever! What an epic scene to envision — this great city bowing down to God!

Of course, back in Jesus’s day, this particular image would come right away to the mind when one mentioned Nineveh to the Israelites. So, that’s exactly Jesus does! Check out the gospel reading of the day…


Luke 11

29While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. 30Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. 32At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

As Christians, we are called to repent. No, Jonah isn’t going to be coming us and reminding us to repent. But, Jesus has come and called us all to repent and follow Him.

And, as He reminded us in scripture, He is greater. After all, He’s God!


Questions to Ponder:
  • Were Jonah to come through and preach destruction, would you listen? Why or why not?
  • Though this is a large crowd, it is nothing compared with the amount of Christians now! Can you imagine how big the amount of people would be in this image, if it were of all the Christians celebrating Lent?
  • In what ways are you called to repent?


Dear Jesus,

Help us repent and follow You.


Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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