To What Lengths Would God Go?

There’s an irony in Jonah that has a way of making me smile. For example, Jonah self-identifies as a “a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven” (1:9). Yet, when told by the God of heaven he “fears” to go east, Jonah goes west. On the other hand, his pagan cruise mates who are open to calling out to any god who might benefit them, when they hear of Jonah’s God, they “feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows” (1:16). Funny . . . not ha ha, but weird. Kind of ironic.

And then there’s Jonah’s pouting. After having exited Tarshish Cruise Lines and being redirected to Nineveh via Big Fish Excursions; and after obeying God’s command to call the wicked Ninevites to repentance; and after seeing them actually repent; Jonah’s bummed because he thought they deserved judgment. And here’s the other make-me-smile part:

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

(Jonah 4:1-2 ESV)

“I knew it!” says a spitting mad Jonah. “I just knew that if I obeyed, and they believed, then You’d relent. That’s just the sort of thing You’d do because You are gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Aaargghh! I just knew it!” Funny. Maybe even “ha ha” funny. Definitely weird funny. Kind of ironic.

You pause and noodle for a minute after reading Jonah and you can’t help but think, to what lengths will a gracious, merciful, abounding in love God go to so that He might rescue a people in need of rescuing?

And then I turned to my reading in John’s gospel and realized I hadn’t seen anything yet.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered Him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When He had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how You answer the high priest?”

(John 18:19-22 ESV)

One of the officers standing by Jesus struck Him.

What was it for the Father to see that dust ball strike His eternal Son? Did the crack of that man’s hand on the Creator’s face reverberate into heaven? Did it require the hand of God to restrain the holy angels from instinctively swooping down and exacting some justified tit-for-tat? On earth the Savior’s face started to welt. But in heaven did they begin to weep?

To what lengths would a gracious and merciful God go to in order to redeem people of darkness? How far would a slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love God allow Himself to be pushed so that He could rescue enemies enslaved in the bondage of sin?

The Son was struck by a sinner. The King of kings was mocked by a mob. He for whom the crown was destined, first endured the cross. The Lord of heaven was birthed into our world to be the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.

Nothing funny about that. But only that which invokes awe and adoration.

Jesus, the greater Jonah. Perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. Heralding good news. Despising the shame for the joy that many would believe. Even if it meant being in the heart of the earth for three days (Matt. 12:39-41).

Jesus, the personification of the lengths to which God would go to show mercy and grace. His last hours before the cross declaring what it looks like for God to be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Oh come let us adore Him!

Because of grace. For His glory.

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