The Missed Connection: Parallel Storms and Jesus' Prophetic Sign

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The Missed Connection

Parallel Storms and Jesus' Prophetic Sign

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The Gospel of Mark comes close to making this connection in telling the story of a great storm at sea, then skips over it. But enough clues are left for us to connect the stories of Jonah and Jesus and the calming of the seas.

The parallels are remarkable, but only when we consider one particular verse does the awesome prophetic significance of these two miraculous events become clear.

The parallel storms

Mark begins his story of a terrible storm at sea with Jesus saying to His disciples, "Let us cross over to the other side" (Mark 4:35 Mark 4:35And the same day, when the even was come, he said to them, Let us pass over to the other side.
American King James Version×
). They were leaving Jewish territory and going to the gentiles, similar to what Jonah did when he set sail, although Jonah left in defiance of God's instruction (Jonah 1:3 Jonah 1:3But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
American King James Version×

In the story of Jonah, as in the story of Jesus, the central character is asleep, blissfully unaware of the raging wind and water. In both stories the terrified sailors awaken Jonah and Jesus as waves threaten to smash their boats to pieces and hurl their bodies down into the deep. In both cases the waves are miraculously calmed! This happens so suddenly, the sailors are filled with great dread, for who but God could exercise such stupendous power?

There is a great difference between Jonah and Jesus, of course. Jesus, although a flesh-and-blood man, was also the Son of God.

Both men sacrificed themselves

When Jonah saw what was happening, he realized that the storm was his fault for refusing to go and warn the people of Nineveh. The ship's crew did not deserve to die with him. "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he said, "then the sea will become calm for you." When they reluctantly did what he requested, the storm ceased (Jonah 1:12 Jonah 1:12And he said to them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm to you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is on you.
American King James Version×
, 15).

When the disciples awoke Jesus, on the other hand, He said, "'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39 Mark 4:39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
American King James Version×
)—from raging storm to windless, glassy sea in a moment. The apostles were filled with awe.

But the connection between these two accounts is not made in Mark's account, so we must go back to the story of Jonah. After being thrown overboard, the Bible says he was swallowed by a big fish. "And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17 Jonah 1:17Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
American King James Version×

Our Savior's only sign?

This is the all-important connection, and it is an absolute article of faith for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It's amazing that for all the wonderful things that He did, Jesus gave only this comparison of Himself with Jonah as the sign of His ultimate authority.

Jesus said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40 Matthew 12:39-40 [39] But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: [40] For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×

The account of Jonah is one of the most ridiculed stories in the Bible. But if you cannot believe that God used a big fish to swallow Jonah, how can you believe in all the other mighty miracles of God? How can you believe in Jesus Christ as the Word of God? God will not accept a watered-down, compromising faith!

On the other hand, is it logical to try to count three days and three nights from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning? Isn't that just one day and two nights? But the Bible literally means three days of 24 hours each; three normal nighttimes and three normal daytimes.

Jesus told the people who heard Him that day, about 800 years after Jonah, that the men of Nineveh will someday be resurrected and witness to the fact of these things. After the Lord returns in glory, no one will question that His only sign was fulfilled when He was resurrected after 72 hours in the tomb, exactly as prophesied!

If Jonah's sign cannot be fulfilled with the traditional Good Friday/Easter Sunday chronology, then how does the Bible describe the events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection? For more information about this vital connection, be sure to read our Good News magazine article, "The Son of Man Will Be Three Days and Three Nights in the Heart of the Earth." It's a connection not to be missed!