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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 21, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Epiphany

Passage: Jonah 3:1–3:5, 10

†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Date: January 21st, 2018; Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Series B

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


In our Old Testament reading we heard, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’”

The first time the Word of the Lord came to Jonah he hopped on a boat and headed in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go - anything was better than Nineveh.

Nineveh was a great city. A world-class city. One of the largest cities at that time. It was the Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles of the ancient world.

It was founded by a man named Nimrod, a bloody and brutal man who had a legendary reputation as a hunter and warrior - and the city lived up to its founder’s reputation.

It was a violent and cruel city and much evil transpired inside of its boundaries.

The Ninevites were the enemy of a Hebrew like Jonah. There is no way that he would want to go give them God’s message.

And so Jonah headed in the opposite direction to Tarshish.

But just as Adam and Eve couldn’t run and hide from God in the Garden of Eden, so Jonah couldn’t flee from God on a boat.

The Lord kicked up a great storm on the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship that Jonah was on was threatened and the other sailors on the boat all turned to their false gods for help.

They threw cargo overboard to lighten the load, hoping that might help to keep them safe.

While all of this was going on, Jonah lay below deck, sleeping.

The captain of the ship went down and shook Jonah awake and told him to pray to his God for help.

Sailors in those days were a religiously superstitious bunch.

Bad weather meant that someone onboard was to blame.

So they cast lots (which was kind of like drawing straws) to see who was responsible for this storm that threatened their lives.

And the lot fell on Jonah.

So, Jonah was thrown overboard into the sea by the sailors.

What happens next to Jonah is the story most of us are familiar with.

He’s swallowed by an enormous fish and he spent three days inside of this creature.

After the three days - the big fish vomits Jonah up on the shore.

And while Jonah is cleaning the fish’s vomit off of himself, God asks him a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

This time Jonah wisely decided to listen to God’s calling - and he makes his way to Nineveh.

He made his way to Nineveh and proclaimed boldly to the people that unless they turned from their evil ways and repented of their sin – God would destroy them.

Not a friendly or likeable message to say the least.

This is not a good way to make friends.

But even more amazing than Jonah spending three days in a fish is the fact that the people of Nineveh listened! They repented! Even the king repented!

In fact they were so repentant that they fasted and put on sackcloth as visible signs of their repentance and mourning.

All sin is turning from God to go our own way.

Like Jonah, when we sin, we flee in the opposite direction of where God wants us to go.

We go in the opposite direction when we neglect God and abuse the gifts that he has promised to us through his Son.

We go in the opposite direction when we neglect our neighbours and selfishly focus only on getting what we want.

We go in the opposite direction when we think evil thoughts and behave in all kinds of deplorable ways.

Like Jonah, we too stubbornly and sinfully turn from God and flee in the opposite direction of his will.

But how blessed we are that God is also stubborn.

How blessed we are that God is stubborn in his love and forgiveness for us.

God is so stubborn in his desire to save you from your sin and death that he sent Christ Jesus into this world to save you.

Yes, we are stubborn in our sin. We are stubborn in fleeing from God and going our own way.

Yet God is even more persistent in calling us back to himself that we may be reconciled with him. That we may receive his gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

God sent his servant Jonah to pursue the people of Nineveh, to call them to turn from their evil ways and receive his mercy - and they miraculously did!

God’s Word accomplished what he sent it to do for the people of Nineveh.

God’s Word accomplishes what he sends it to do for you.

God combined water with his Word of promise in your baptism when he claimed you and promised you eternal life.

Through your baptism God accomplished his promise to you that, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

God’s Word does what it says.

When you hear and receive God’s Word of forgiveness for all of your sin – you are forgiven.

You are completely cleansed of your sin. God’s Word of forgiveness makes you holy and righteous. It accomplishes what he sent it to do.

God’s Word does what it says.

When Christ Jesus says, “take and eat my true body, take a drink my true blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins” you are forgiven. You are given the gift of salvation. Eternal life is yours.

God’s Word does what it says.

When God’s Word of blessing is spoken to you, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace” it accomplishes what it says.

God’s blessing is bestowed on you.

God keeps you as his beloved child. You are kept.

God’s light and life shines on you - even in the midst of all of the difficulties, and stress, and challenges in life - his light shines on you. He is gracious to you.

You have God’s favour. He has provided you with everything you need for this life and for the next.

Having been fed and nourished by God through his Word and Sacraments, you have been given God’s peace.

God’s Word does what it says.

God’s Word, Jesus Christ, took on our flesh to defeat our sin and death that we may live with him - and all of our faithful loved ones - eternally.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

God’s Word does what it says. Thanks be to God! Amen.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

More in Epiphany

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord

February 4, 2018

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

January 28, 2018

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany