Jonah and Jesus

Jonah and Jesus are often linked together. And for good reason too… in the gospel, the following exchange takes place:


Matthew 12

38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 40Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. 42At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

In this case, Jesus is talking in abstract terms of his Resurrection: after His Passion and death, He will rise again after three days in the Resurrection. And the Resurrection will be the great sign that we may all turn to as we contemplate the glory of God.

Here, Christ used the metaphor of the story of Jonah to emphasize His point… after all, Jonah was thrown out of a ship and swallowed by a fish. By all appearances, Jonah was dead to everyone who saw him swallowed up. And yet, Jonah was spat out by the fish for the glory of God. And so, Jonah definitely prefigures the Resurrection!

Here is a painting of a coat of arms that emphasizes this relationship in a particularly beautiful way!

Jonah and the Whale, c. 16th century. Coat of Arms for Justus Jonas. Via
Jonah and the Whale, c. 16th century. Coat of Arms for Justus Jonas.

Like many artworks depicting the story of Jonah, there are many parts to this picture. To the right is the ship that is sailing off with Jonah, and it appears that they’ve just thrown Jonah in. Then, to the right on the fish, someone appears to be making a fire — perhaps a sailors making a sacrifice to the Lord, asking for forgiveness of throwing Jonah in. Then, in the front, a giant fish opens his mouth, letting Jonah go onto land safely — albeit, a little unsteadily. Being vomited out of a whale isn’t easy, after all!

But look at the top! To emphasize the connection that Jonah has between Christ, the Resurrected Christ is at the very top, coming out of the tomb gloriously! So, we are reminded not only of the fish and the tomb — which are very good things to meditate during Lent — but also the glorious moment in which death is defeated and there is only life!

So, as we continue through Lent, let us remember that we are an Easter people! So, even as we contemplate the Passion of our Lord, let us look forward to the Resurrection and Easter!


Questions to Ponder:
  • What other ways are Christ and Jonah similar?
  • In what ways were they very different?
  • What do you think is your fish or darkness that you’ll have to stumble out of in order to see the glory of God?


Dear Jesus,

Help us see Your Resurrection clearly when we look at Your Passion.



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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