Drowning. This racist man is not only metaphorically sinking down because of the weight of his guilt, but literally submerged by the torrent of the sea. His soul gasps for grace while his body gasps for air. All pretension and posturing of ethnic pride is washed away by the certainty of death which makes every man of every race equal. Any gain or prosperity he enjoyed is as worthless to him as another gulp of water. And, the plans he made for tomorrow die with him today.
Conveniently, he cries in repentance at this moment when all is lost; all breath, all life, and all hopes smothered up in the depths of the ocean. Hear the pain in his prayer:
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of the ocean I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the rocks. I went down to the bed of the ocean whose bars closed upon me forever…”
Do you know this story? Familiarity can disconnect us from a story if we allow it. Due to the endless Sunday School lessons on Jonah, we are in danger of losing the drama of death that occurs in this moment. When Jonah was tossed in the sea he knew nothing of a fish and nothing in God’s character required Him to save Jonah’s life. No, at this moment all was lost and Jonah was drowning.
The reality of death forces us to lose our pretentions, our prosperity and our plans. All relationships are appraised. All values are reassessed. All dreams are questioned. Facing death causes to release and grip onto life in Christ.
Jesus knew this. In Matthew 16:24-25 He says “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (literally ‘crucify himself’) and follow me. For whoever would save his life must lose it…”
The formula for abundant life is found in death. Picking up on this Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ, and so it’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me…”
We cumbersomely hold on to worthless things giving us no capacity for grasping the worth of Christ. And so, we must put to death those worthless things. We must nail every worthless thing, even our very selves, to the cross for the worth of knowing Christ. For it is in that relationship with Christ we are given worth. Like a worthless trinket sold for millions because of its relationship to the celebrity who owned it, we find worth because Christ owns us. To realize this worth, we must lose ourselves and be found in Christ. We need a Jonah moment when all is lost.
So, my questions is this: have you died today? Is Christ worth releasing all your pretentions, prosperity, and plans? Have you allowed yourself to meet that moment of when all is lost?
What are the things that you need to release?
Pretension – things that you believe make you higher or better than another human
Prosperity – things that you believe give you or your life value/meaning
Plans – things that you believe you can/should do
What would it look like for you to grip onto Christ and make a relationship with Him the most valuable thing in your life?