The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’
‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’
Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.’
Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
Evangelising is a funny business.
We perhaps think of it as something for other people to do. Perhaps people who are more holy than us. Possibly people who are more charismatic or better trained in religious matters.
You might expect Jonah to be rather good at evangelising. After all, he is one of God’s prophets. Marching on to a busy ship, you could imagine him sizing up the crew with relative ease. Perhaps he might trot out a few verses of Scripture, before providing a bit of home-spun wisdom as he wins yet more converts to God’s cause.
Yet strangely enough, he does none of these things.
He willfully disobeys God, before promptly falling asleep on the job. He is no beacon of hope; more a man contorted by fear. He does not even talk about God until pressed. You might feel you are getting things wrong or that you are unworthy, but I doubt you are messing up on the same scale as Jonah. Yet Jonah somehow manages to transform how this crew of hardened faithless sailors understand God. Once he is finished, they know that this is the only deity to offer praise to.
Jonah does not do this through pious displays of faith or browbeating the crew into submission with homilies. He captures their hearts by revealing himself at his most broken, frightened, and human. Indeed, that is where we are most likely to experience this God: those fragile moments between people when we let our guard down and say, “Peace be with you.”
Could I surrender myself into the arms of strangers to be heaved over-board in order to illuminate God’s love? Maybe Jonah is a better prophet than I was giving him credit for…