I read this book last summer at the beach. I had forgotten about this passage on Jonah and Jesus. It is incredibly encouraging to me! I hope it encourages you today!
Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 57-58:
We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.
Here’s a clue: Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.
In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.
Which doesn’t happen in Mark’s story.
Or does it?
I think Mark is showing that the stories aren’t actually different when you stand back a bit and look at it with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this:
Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves.
I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death.
How can he do that?
He can only do it because when he was on the cross he was thrown—willingly, like Jonah—into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.
Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us—the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed—not until it swept him away.
If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?”
And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what make you think he would abandon you in much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now?
And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.
If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you. You will know he cares. And then you will have the power to handle anything in life with poise:
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.