Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the scourge of the ancient Near East, and the ruthlessness of the Assyrians was a byword. The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and deported its inhabitants to Nineveh. Because Nineveh is synonymous with evil, Jonah refuses to preach repentance in the city, and when, contrary to his expectations, the Ninevites hearken to his message and turn from their evil ways, the prophet becomes angry that the great, sinful city is spared from destruction. But God tells him that there are many innocent people in the city of whom he is also concerned.
For Jesus, the “sign of Jonah” refers to the fact that the Ninevites repent upon hearing the warning of the prophet. The Ninevites see Jonah clearly as a prophet sent to warn them. They believe in him even without a spectacular sign (they were not aware of Jonah being swallowed and spewed by a large fish).
As Jonah was to the Ninevites, so Jesus is to his generation. Jesus is greater than Jonah, even Solomon. His invitation to repentance is enough. He will not entertain the crowd with miracles. He has worked miracles, but the “evil generation” has misinterpreted them. More miracles will not change the people’s hardened hearts.
Gospel • LUKE 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.