Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to experience? I remember my dad telling a story about my grandpa being away from home – probably visiting a church since he was a preacher too. Times were hard, and their family had to charge for more groceries at the local store than they liked. When he got home, my grandma asked him to go to the store. Knowing they owed a lot already, he dreaded going. But when he got there, with his head down, and asked for more credit, saying he knew he owed so much already, the grocer informed him that the debt had been paid while he was away. Grandma had found a way to pay it off. His dread turned into joy.
Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the good Samaritan who had compassion for a man who was robbed and beaten on the side of the road. He bound up his wounds and took him to an inn where he cared for him. When he had to leave, he gave the innkeeper enough money to care for him and said he would check when he came back to see if he owed any more (Luke 10:34-35, ESV). He did not do this expecting to be paid back; he did it out of love and compassion.
Jesus came to free us from sin’s bondage because we could not free ourselves. He canceled our debt by nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14, ESV). God’s justice demanded an answer for sin, but His love supplied the answer in His Son so that our dread could turn into joy.
The Old Testament covenants had conditions attached. They were foreshadowing the coming of Christ, but Jesus was a new and better covenant because He is a covenant of grace instead of works. God made an irrevocable promise for salvation (Rom. 11:29), fulfilled in Christ. Jesus elevates Himself and the message of the kingdom to be greater than, and the fulfillment of, the three most important institutions in Israel – priest, prophet, and king, when He shows how Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish as a foreshadowing of Himself spending three days in the earth (Matt. 12: 38-42; Luke 11:29-32, ESV).
Jonah was grateful for his salvation but wanted to keep the prophetic message private from the people of Nineveh. He knew God’s character and that if they repented, God would change His mind about destroying them. He finally shared the message with the people by shouting to the crowds when he entered the city – “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4, ESV, emphasis mine). The people understood what that meant. He used the same verb as when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.19:21-25, ESV).
The story of Jonah shows us how determined God is to get His message to the nations and the need for repentance from sin. It also shows us God’s character and assures us that He “will relent when people repent” (Jonah 3:9, ESV Study Bible notes).
In reading the OT, sometimes it is difficult to understand all the laws, restrictions, and sacrifices God put in place. But it took a lot of sacrifices and rules to do what Jesus Christ did on the cross—nothing we can do ourselves covers that many sins. Our sin was so great that it required Someone much greater to appease the wrath of God. The burdens are lifted, and the laws of Moses are no longer needed because of Jesus Christ!
The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18, ESV). Jesus Christ defeated death. He has risen (Matt. 28:6, ESV)! The love inside us because of Jesus can overflow into the lives of others. We are free because of Christ. He erased our debt. Let us not keep that message to ourselves like Jonah, unwilling to share it with anyone we believe doesn’t deserve to hear it. If you have the hope of Christ in your heart, you were still sinners when God showed His love for you (Rom. 5:8, ESV).
When Jesus was persecuted for dining with the tax collectors and sinners, He told them that those who are well don’t need a doctor; sick people do (Matt. 9:12-13). I want everyone to experience this freedom so they, too, can feel the joy it brings. But that does not mean everything goes and our sins are acceptable before God. We are still called to repentance and obedience as we live for God as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17-21, ESV).