Jonah and the New Testament 1

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Reading 1 Jon 1:1–2:1-2, 11
Gospel Lk 10:25-37

Yesterday began the readings from Jonah for the first reading, alongside various new testament gospel readings. This gives an interesting juxtaposition of one well known story of Jonah and the whale, along with equally well known teachings of Christ. What becomes interesting with these readings is that each story can be interpreted through the other. In  the story of Jonah, Jonah is sent by God to preach to the city of Nineveh; and in the first NT reading a scholar asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The scholar responds with the command of love of God and neighbor, but adds “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replies with the story of the Good Samaritan.

A couple of quick similarities are that Nineveh and Samaria are enemies of the Jews. That bitterness towards Nineveh is why Jonah did not wish to preach there. Jonah would have preferred that Nineveh be wiped off the face of the earth. Samaritans too were enemies of Jews as they were considered pagans for not worshiping at the Jerusalem temple. Though they bordered Jerusalem, they were not considered neighbors. One of the morals of the Good Samaritan is that the neighbor is the one who offers help to someone in need. One of the interpretations of Jonah is that it was intended as a commentary against the strong nationalistic movement that was going on in ancient Israel. “And who is my neighbor” is indeed an old question, and sadly it is one that is often answered quite wrongly. On a national scale one only has to look at the battles fought worldwide to understand how wrongly we respond to this question.

By looking at these two stories together we can see Jonah as one who boasts of his God, but does everything possible to avoid following that Gods commands. While Jonah is blatantly defiant, the scholars disobedience is much more subtle. That scholar wishes not to fully follow the great command of love of God and neighbor, but rather justify his interpretation of that command. He wishes to bend it a bit to serve his needs. The scholar wishes to justify his actions, and justification takes priority over Gods commandment. That scholar is remarkably similar to Jonah.

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