Taking it In
At this point in the story Jonah finally knuckles under after the sailors ask what to do about all this that Jonah wrought upon them. It is hard to detect his mood here, though, when he answers them. Is he resigned? Or is he determined to die rather than go and preach to Nineveh, especially seeing how the sailors are responding so appropriately it seems? Jonah is about to make a giant “splash” (pun intended) but it is unclear whether or not the splash is caused by a leap of faith or one of hard-headed desperation. It is interesting that Jonah instructs his shipmates to throw him overboard, instead of just jumping in himself. It could either be that he is secretly wanting them to throw him overboard to abdicate him of his responsibility, or, that he is linking their fates. In other words, Jonah could be uniting them under the classic line that “we’re all in this together.” It could very well be that this is a gesture of solidarity and Jonah is getting some courage saying he is with them, just as they are with him and they won’t enter the sea alone but with one another. If that’s the case, perhaps he knows they won’t drown but that Yahweh has unfinished business and will inevitably rescue them. It’s hard to say, but then again, it could be a bit of both. The crisis could be taking a toll on Jonah’s mind and clouding it with a bunch of intense emotion amidst a chaotic scene.
Working it Out
Two things can come out of this. The first is that we all have a “Nineveh.” We all have “those people” whom we’d just as soon rather drown that have to teach the love and grace of God. That will be a theme developed as we continue deeper into the story. But the second thing we can take from this section is that there are, many times, people to whom our choices affect greatly, particularly when those choices are not good ones. In the times that we run from God, or worse, project on God something that is not even close to God’s heart or character. Those consequences may not be as drastic as they are on the deck of a ship being pummeled by waves during a storm, but they can still be significant and lingering. Sin never affects just one individual, it is a communal thing. It can affect our friends, our families, our church, our coworkers, and other environments we interact with on a daily basis. We need not throw ourselves overboard, however. Awareness can lead to repentance, repentance to action, and action to redemption. Truly, we’re all in this together.